Briancon, France



For centuries upon centuries the snail eating French and the anchovy gulping Italians have been invading each other. In 1691 the French king dispatched military engineer Vauban to fortify the city of Briancon. Situated near the French/Italian border in the Alps, Briancon occupied a strategic location. So, imagine what it must have been like being a traveler or Italian soldier back in the 1700's. You would have spent days making your way through the mountainous terrain from Turin, Italy and after trudging up the steep and narrow mountain pass by foot or horseback the city of Briancon comes into view. Situated on plateau, walled-in Briancon with its layers of fortifications and castle atop the town must have looked impressive. But, what would have really made jaws drop were the imposing forts (a half-dozen!) situated next to and above Briancon with three forts stacked almost atop one another. Fort Janus stands guard 4,000 feet above the town! (remember a mile equals 5,280 feet). I bet the first two words out of travelers mouths upon seeing the formidable defenses would have been "Momma Mia!" and the first two words out of the soldiers mouths being "Holy Crappa!" In one of the attached photos you can see an arched bridge connecting the town to Fort des Tetes (this massive fort is bigger than Briancon). It's amazing to gaze over the landscape and marvel how these magnificent structures were built so long ago without modern equipment. There are still no roads (only dirt trails) leading up to the various forts. Briancon, population 10,000 and elevation 1,350 meters, is (after the ski resort of Davos, Switzerland) the second highest city in Europe.