Unveiling the Hidden Gem of Besançon: A City of History, Culture, and Literary Legacy

  People are no stranger to the famous French writer Victor Hugo, and many people have read his “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Les Misérables”. But when it comes to Besançon, where he was born, I am afraid not many people know about it.
  Besançon is located on the edge of the Jura Mountains in eastern France, 325 kilometers away from Paris, bordering Switzerland in the east and Italy in the south. It is a famous historical and cultural city and was once the center of the French watch industry, known as the “City of Time”. The old city is located in a horseshoe-shaped turning of the Du River, surrounded by water on three sides, and there is a 100-meter-high hill at the end of the horseshoe, which is like a lock. Due to the dangerous terrain and strategic location, it has been a battleground for military strategists since ancient times.
  In 1500 BC, it was inhabited by the Sequani tribe of Gaul. In Gaul, “Sequani” means water dwellers. In 58 BC, Caesar the Great of ancient Rome led his army to conquer Gaul. When he passed by here, he coveted the city. He wrote in “Gallu Wars”: “What a different city it is. May I succeed in conquering this mighty and rich town as I wish!” After conquering the city, Caesar described it as “the jewel in my crown”.
  From the ancient Roman era to the Middle Ages, many disputes left a rich historical heritage for the old city. In the era of the “Sun King”, the First Battle of Besançon became an important turning point in the Franco-Dutch War. General Vauban, Louis XIV’s most important military engineer, designed and built the famous Besancon Castle on the basis of the ruins of the ancient Roman castle. This is one of the most outstanding city defense projects in the 17th century. It was listed by UNESCO in 2008. into the World Cultural Heritage List.
  Entering Besançon, the first thing that catches the eye is the Besançon Castle on the hill of Saint-Etienne. After centuries of wind and rain, the fortress still stands majestically, with the momentum of one man guarding the gate and one man guarding the gate. It takes more than half an hour to climb along the stone steps to reach the gate of the castle.
  During World War II, the Nazis occupied the castle and executed more than 100 resistance fighters here. At that time, there was a detention camp in Besançon, where nearly 4,000 British citizens were imprisoned under very harsh conditions. After World War II, Besançon was rebuilt, and the dilapidated castle was fully restored to restore its former grandeur. Today, the castle is the most representative building of Besançon, not only the acropolis of the city, but also the soul of the city.
  The castle of Besançon is about 100 meters above the ground. Standing on the city wall and overlooking, the mountains are undulating, the forest is vast, and the rippling Du River is like a jade belt. There are ancient stone bridges and modern bridges on the river. On both sides of the Du River, the houses are well arranged, with white walls, red tiles and steeple roofs, which are particularly pleasing to the eye against the blue sky and white clouds. Looking at this picturesque scenery, thinking of the gold and iron horses and bloody winds back then is very emotional. War is a mirror that allows people to better understand the preciousness of peace. Peace is as warm as the sun and as nourishing as the rain. With sunshine and rain, all things can thrive. With peace and stability, human beings can better realize their dreams.

  Besancon Castle silently tells the vicissitudes of history.
  There are many history museums in the castle, such as the Resistance Movement Museum, which show the history of the local people’s struggle against the Nazis in an all-round way through various media such as text, pictures and videos.
  The zoo in the castle is very popular. It not only raises and exhibits various animals, but also regards the protection of endangered animals as its own duty. Japanese macaques, Siberian tigers, South American gibbons, marmosets and other animals have found their homes here.
  From the castle, you will arrive at the old town of Besançon. There is a magnificent stone city gate at the entrance, named the Black Gate. It was built in 175 AD as a triumphal arch built to celebrate the triumph of King Marc Oles. After more than 1800 years of wind and dust, the black gate is still standing upright, and the carvings on the gateposts and lintels are still exquisite.
  Not far from Heimen is a garden in the center of the street, which contains the remains of ancient Roman columns, showing a vicissitudes of beauty under the cover of whirling leaves.
  Walking on the streets of the old town of Besançon is like walking in the long river of history. The streets paved with stones shine brightly under the baptism of time. The buildings on both sides of the streets are simple and elegant, with different styles. From ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to modern times, the city has left the imprint of the times in the form of architecture. The walls of the old buildings in the city are made of gray-blue or white ocher limestone, shining beautifully in the sun, showing a style very different from the industrial age.
  The French writer Stendhal, known as the “father of modern fiction”, wrote the famous novel “The Red and the Black” with Besançon as the background. The work tells the protagonist Julien’s personal struggle and ultimate failure experience, reflecting the political and social life of France in the early 19th century. The novel describes Besançon as follows: “Besançon is not only one of the most beautiful cities in France, but also has so many enthusiastic and thoughtful people.”
  The 19th and 20th centuries were the era when various ideas in French society were converging and agitating, and artistic activities were extremely active. Besançon celebrities emerged in large numbers and stars were shining. Many of the thinkers, writers, painters, and scientists who were born or lived in this land became famous all over the world and made great contributions to the progress of human society. Fourier, the founder of utopian socialism, Proudhon, the founder of economist, anarchism, and social reformist theory, and the brothers Lumière, inventor of film, were all born here. The well-known painter Courbet, the poet Mallarmé, and the genius scientist Pasteur lived here for a long time in the 19th century.
  Of all the luminaries, the one who brought Besançon the greatest glory was undoubtedly Victor Hugo. On February 26, 1802, Hugo was born in a small three-story building at 140 Tongqu Street in the city. His ancestry was not from Besançon, or even from Franche-Comté, and it was by chance that he was born in Besançon. Hugo’s father was a general under Napoleon. When he was stationed in Besançon, little Hugo came to the world. Six weeks after Hugo was born, his father was transferred to Marseille, and the infant Hugo left Besançon with his parents and two older brothers. Hugo lived to be 83 years old, but he never returned to Besançon throughout his life. However, in his poetry collections, novels, and plays, he mentioned the beautiful city of Besançon more than once to express his nostalgia and tribute to his hometown.

  As the birthplace of the great French writer, Besançon is proud of Hugo. Hugo’s former residence was designated as a historical building by the local government in 1942 and became a museum in 2013. There are a large number of image materials introducing Hugo’s life in the museum, as well as furniture used by Hugo and his autographed letters. In the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Hugo’s birth, Besançon can be described as a scene that has even attracted the envy of other cities. They questioned Besançon’s “dominance” of Hugo, because the great writer only stayed in Besançon for 6 short weeks before his death. However, the people of Besançon don’t care about these doubts, because they have a piece of ironclad evidence in their hands-the birth record of Hugo in 1802 kept in the Besançon City Museum.
  Entering the Hugo House Museum, walking through the promenade, you can see the portraits of Hugo in different periods. The publication year of Hugo’s works is marked on the steps – “Onani” in 1830, “Notre Dame de Paris” in 1831… … Walking up the steps one by one, looking at the portraits, it seems that I have also gone through Hugo’s life.
  The humorous French like to use cartoons to present an era, and Hugo’s former residence is no exception. From the cartoons of different ages, we can see the clothes of the residents, the means of transportation, and the complicated streets at that time, as if they have entered Hugo’s novels. There are also well-designed dialogues on the colorful comics, so that visitors will not feel bored at all. As a patriotic poet, playwright, novelist, politician and literary theorist, as well as the leader of the French romantic literary movement, Hugo created a large number of poems, comedies and novels. His works criticized and exposed various evils in the society at that time. Describing the suffering life of the working people had a huge impact on French literature throughout the 19th century.

  Chinese readers know Hugo because of novels such as “Notre Dame de Paris”, “Les Miserables” and “93” on the one hand, and on the other hand because of his famous “Letter to Captain Butler”. In 1860, the British and French allied forces invaded Beijing and burned the Old Summer Palace. In 1861, Hugo wrote a letter to a French captain who showed off his military exploits to him, angrily denouncing the atrocities committed by the British and French allied forces: “One day, two robbers broke into the Old Summer Palace. One robber plundered wantonly, and the other set fire to it. The unprecedented looting of the Old Summer Palace began, and the two conquerors divided the loot equally. In the face of history, one of the two robbers was called France and the other was called England. France got half of the loot from this victory, and now it is as naive as it is Like the real owner, I exhibited the splendid plunder of the Old Summer Palace. I hope that one day France can get rid of its burden, cleanse its sins, and return these treasures to China that was looted.” Walking out of Hugo’s Former Residence Museum, it was getting late
  . My mind was rolling, imagining the scene when Hugo wrote “Letter to Captain Butler” at that time. After more than a century, has Hugo’s righteous voice of civilized people caused the West to reflect and repent? Just look at how difficult the process of retrieving historical relics is now, and it is easy to find the answer.
  Those who fall behind will be beaten, and only development can lead to self-improvement. After the Opium War, Western powers acted recklessly on the land of China, and China gradually became a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. The country was humiliated, the people suffered, and civilization was dusted. What can comfort our ancestors is that the era when the Chinese nation was slaughtered and bullied is gone forever. Today’s China has become a great country with the strong ability to defend the people’s peaceful life, and it is closer than any period in history. , more confident, and more capable of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

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