And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Castle and ramparts, medieval city. Carcassonne, France

Ever since the Bronze Age, people have banded together and erected barriers to protect themselves against invasion by dangerous “others.” This was especially true in Europe during the Middle Ages. Because of constant wars, dense population centers surrounded themselves with elaborate fortifications including walls, gates, observation towers and deep ditches. Some were built around castles. Others extended beyond citadels.

The Great Wall of China was erected for protection against the Mongols and other nomadic tribes. Hadrian’s Wall in northern England was meant to thwart barbarians and keep them from invading this outpost of the Roman Empire. These walls also served to collect customs fees.

Soon however, as cities expanded and flourished, the walls became an obstacle to commerce and contributed to isolation. They began to come down. Fortunately many have survived.

I have always been fascinated by the still existing walled towns and have tried to visit many of them in my travels.

Carcassonne, high on a hilltop in the center of France, is the largest former fortress in Europe. It is a medieval fortified town, restored in the 19th century. Its massive walls, dating from antiquity, encircle a gothic cathedral. There is also a castle complete with drawbridge. The view is superb everywhere you walk.

Saint Malo, a walled port city in Britany, was almost totally destroyed in 1944 by Americans. They believed a great number of Germans were hiding there (they weren’t). It too was completely rebuilt. You can walk on the cobbled streets of the ramparts and see the ocean on all sides. It is often grey and windy which adds to the overall somber effect. It is in Saint Malo that I have seen the highest and fastest tides in the world. Climbing to the top of the walls they seem to be propelled by giant forces.

Dubrovnik in Croatia was founded in the 7th century on a rocky island. Its thick creamy walls, turrets and towers are bathed in radiant sun. The vermillion rooftops, with views to the azure and glistening sea, give it the look of a jewel. You can walk and enjoy it for a long time.

Quebec City is the only walled city on the North American Continent. Its cobbled streets overlook the St. Lawrence seaway. A castle (Chateau Frontenac), cannons, churches and bell towers add to the fortress effect.

The Berlin Wall (1962-1989) was conceived as an anti- fascist bulwark meant to keep Western “fascists” from entering Eastern Germany and undermining its moral purity. Its real purpose, however, was to imprison the East Germans. It was to keep insiders inside.

It finally exploded from within in 1989, releasing all its prisoners. And the walls came tumbling down.

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  1. Why have I always associated the Berlin Wall with the 38th Parallel (Demilitarized Zone) in the Korean Peninsula? Perhaps because both divided one into two. The Berlin Wall built in 1962 by the Eastern Germans, and Korean DMZ right after the Second World War.

  2. It doesn’t stop does it….the Wall separating Israel and Palestine, the “wall” protecting the US southern border and so it goes. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

  3. Carcassonne is not in the center of France…
    it is less than an hour from the Mediterranean Sea.
    (Since I live near Carcassonne, I must admit it is nice to look at…)

    If only politicians would look at history… walls don’t work. Never have, never will.

    But these are only stone… the mental walls in the brain are even more difficult to get rid of.

  4. There is a HUGE difference between walls.
    A wall serving as a jail – like the iron curtain is NOT the same as a wall serving as a protection of your property.

  5. A world without walls. That is one end hidden behind the principles of Globalization.

    People have always moved from backward countrysides to the cities. And from the world’s ‘countrysides’ to the world’s ‘cities. They are the tendencies of people – to migrate, war or no war.

    I guess this is made acute by wars – people trying to go away from war taking with them people trying to run away from economic poverty who in normal times found it hard to migrate.

    If migration is not regulated it could swarm. It could swamp host countries. If we take an electric battery for an example, negative electrons will flow from high potential to low potential if a line is placed and a gate is opened. It would be hot and it could burn unless the flow is regulated.

    Sure, if a highway from Syria to UK or to Germany is wide and strong enough, maybe Syria will soon be depleted of people who will want to migrate. Sure it is hot. But like an electric battery it will be spent up in time. 🙂

  6. Actually others have learned many things which it seems that you prefer to ignore. There are walls to keep threats out while there are other walls to keep people in. Some walls are necessary since most of us see that the simplistic idea of “why can’t everyone just get along” is not realistic. Why do you lock your car doors when you leave your car, your house front door, your desk drawer in your office? These are all ‘walls’ on a more individual level and are a recognition that with human nature what it is those are just good ideas to do. Why would a farmer bother with the hard work he had to do to raise a crop if any of his neighbors who didn’t bother to plant can walk over and pick his crops when they want? Why would a shepherd do the work he has to do raising sheep and protecting them from wolves if any other person can just come and take one of his sheep when they wish? The same corollary is true with countries, why take the time to educate your citizens, build infrastructure and build an economy if anyone who has not bothered to do the same can walk in and overstress this infrastructure? You whine about the USA’s Southern border but fail to ask yourself why the same thing is not required on the Northern border. Sorry, but in many cases walls make good sense and will remain necessary as long as human nature is what it is.

  7. I reread the blog to find where I was whining about the USA’s southern border and could not find it.
    Also I did not say that walls were always a bad thing. Only pointed out where and why they existed.

  8. Globalization is the mark of the Marxist, the George Soros communistic approach to all mankind – a world without borders. Walls and borders exist for a reason. They keep YOU out. They protect ME within. The wall in Israel does it’s job correctly. A wall on the American Southwest border will do its job correctly if constructed correctly and monitored correctly. The Berlin Wall did it’s job correctly, for the Communists, anyway. Walls keep the French French, the Swiss Swiss, the Catholics Catholic, and the Muslims prisoner. That’s their job – close the inside from the outside. When the walls come down the Germans will no longer own Germany, the Mullahs will. Heaven forfend!

    We might as well stop locking criminals up behind walls – let’em roam free! No borders! Wonderful – until they kick in YOUR door.

    Walls work, people – whether at home, at the micro level, or between countries, at the macro level. A legal wall is supposed to exist between the church and the state – the fact that the Americans invented that but can’t figure it out doesn’t mean the French shouldn’t adopt it and protect it. Secular nations are free nations. Build more walls!

    Or go to the forests and play in the snow and rain, if that’s your idea of a life without walls.

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