Burgundy is a considerable region more or less in the center of France, Burgundy is known by remarkably few people.
It's wines may be well recognized, and tend to stay within the comparatively little wine-producing areas, while those who travel the motorway or freeway are by and large on their way to somewhere else.
Consequently, there are large areas of Burgundy that hardly see visitors and many of it's quiet by-ways and ancient, unspoilt villages become renowned to only a handful of visitors.
Burgundy's unstable past has been a key influence on the shape of it's villages, many of which had their origins as fortified places.
During the Hundred years war, the Wars of Religion, the Revolution and countless other lesser skirmishes, such villages came into their own, often providing shelter for people living in outlying farming communities.
While considerable numbers of these fortifications have been lost over the years through either war or devastation, many others have survived more or less intact retaining their strongly medieval character.
Some are perched on hilltops complete with their castles, others nestle in peaceful river valleys, an age away from their troubled pasts.
If war played a substantial part in shaping the history of Burgundy, so did religion, for in the Middle Ages the province became one of the major centres of Christianity in Europe.
Abbeys,Priories and churches sprang up all over the region, and although many later suffered terrible destructions, mainly during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution.
Many others survived or have been restored to their earlier glory.
That Burgundy is full of attractive corners there can be no doubt: any drive along a little-used by-way is almost certain to reveal something special.
Isolated churches and chapels - some out of sight, others in more exposed positions but difficult to reach - are everywhere not surprisingly in such ecclesiastical region.
It is not short of famous natural sights either, and there are many lesser known ones that are just as beautiful in their own ways.
The Wines Of Burgundy
The Cote d'Or, or 'gold hillside' between Dijon and Beaune is ideal terrain for vineyards.
Facing the morning sun, the soil is protected from cold and frost by the hills above, and enriched minerals washed down in the watercourses that break up the hills.
No one knows for sure when these conditions initially encouraged wine-making, but monks from Beze were cultivating Gevrey-Chambertin grapes by the 7th century, and the cistercians began developing the Clos de Vougeot in the 12th century.
Subsequently, the Cote vineyards have survived to attain a status that makes tiny places like Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee or Aloxe-Corton internationally famous. This is not Burgundy's great wine region.
South of Beaune are the chalonnais and the Maconnais.
The lands around Auxerre are famous for Chablis, but should also be explored for the local wines - and don't miss the wines of Tannay and Vezelay.
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