Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lost in Oppidum

An oppidum is A Roman provincial town built often on high ground which is fortified and walled. Hérault's most impressive oppidum is at Ensérune but there's another one at Murviel-les-Montpellier, one which I've been wanting to visit for years but never got round to although I've been through the village many times.

Yesterday I found myself with a couple of hours to spare in Murviel. My first thought was 'coffee' and I went in search of a café in the tiny medieval quarter of the village. The stone houses all nestled together were charming, and there was many a cat dozing picturesquely or out on the razzle, but café there was none.

That was when I remembered the oppidum, and, thrilled that I had at last the opportunity to see it, and remembered before it was too late, I followed a signpost that indicated the direction. Little did I know but that would be one of a total of two useful signs.

I was starting to wonder at the distinct lack of directions when I met a man, who turned out to be a local Brit, and was very helpful and told me that all paths lead to the oppidum. I just had to climb to the top of the hill, turn right, and I'd be overlooking it in all its splendour.

The path was steep and rocky, and promised to provide quite enough exercise for the day without me needing to go to the gym too.

Steep path up
A couple of faint blue lines on a rock indicated a circuit of some sort, but without a sign of any sort, it was impossible to know whether it was going to the oppidum or not. Still, I followed it, and turned right at the T junction at the top where I saw a 'useful' sign.
'Useful' sign
Don't try and search for information on it, there is none. There probably had been, once, but now it was just a post with a white board on it. I couldn't see through the trees either to overlook the alleged oppidum. Maybe it was there, maybe it wasn't...

After walking through a tiny olive grove in the middle of nowhere (it seemed), I found some ruins.

Roman ruins
Was this the oppidum? Was there an information panel to tell me? They were pretty underwhelming as far as Roman ruins go, and, in the absence of a useful signpost, I decided that I probably was not looking at the oppidum.
Thick Roman wall which may or may not be part of the oppidum.
I was enjoying my walk in lovely undulating countryside, with garrigue plants and trees and delicious smells of herbs and pine despite not knowing where I was. Another signpost did nothing to help, and I could see I wasn't the only one to experience mounting frustration, because someone had expressed his/her annoyance with a clear message on the blank panel: Information NULLE !! Justifiably so.

Disgruntled visitor message: 'Information NULLE !!'
The faint blue lines had also long since disappeared, so it was with interest that I finally came across something clear and precise. Almost.
Clear signpost with a fatal flaw
A map! At last! A lovely map showing all sorts of useful bits of information. Except one. The 'YOU ARE HERE' spot. What a tease. I was obviously not the only person to spot the fatal flaw because someone had written on it: 'On est où ?' - Where are we? The mystery continued.

Bushy 'access-friendly' path
I continued taking random directions, and noted the different types of vegetation along the various paths. They were solid proof of the diversity dream.

At one junction, I met a jogger who optimistically asked me the direction to the village. He was lost too. He had been following the faint blue paint marks until they petered out. We struck up a matey chat of fellow lost-ees until I cracked and got my phone out to consult Google Maps. The jogger decided to try one direction and, while I was still waiting for my return itinerary to load, he came back to try another as the one he took just stopped.

Tree-lined stony path
Thanks to Google Maps, I discovered I was a mere 15 minutes from my point of departure despite having been walking for almost an hour going up and down and along. No sign of the oppidum, natch, although I thought this immaculate olive grove very impressive.

Immaculate and very posh olive grove
I didn't quite follow the directions correctly (and got reprimanded by The Voice), but did discover an abandoned home with a well nearby, which brought up images of a wizened old farmer's wife trekking down the hill in the depths of winter to draw water.
Abandoned well 50 m from abandoned house
I got back on the right path to The Voice's relief (it was palpable).
Another picturesque path
I never did find the oppidum. I suppose it's there somewhere, and next time I have a couple of hours to spare there I'll try again, this time having printed off directions and a map, because I know you get no help once there!

This is what I didn't see (to some lovely music):


  1. Replies
    1. Yes!! I don't know how I missed it, but missed it I did. It looks quite big from the video!


Comments are bienvenue.