Sunday, July 22, 2018

It's about time in Besançon

Clocks and all things related to time keeping are on display at the Musée de Temps
in Besançon.

Victor Hugo's birthplace and an extraordinary museum dedicated to time are some of the highlights of Besançon, the first of two stops on our way home from Strasbourg.

The Doubs River makes a loop around the historical center of Besançon.

In pre-Roman times, Besançon was capital of the area known as Sequania. When Julius Caesar came calling, he called this newly conquered area the jewel in his crown. Today, Besançon is a thriving university town and popular destination due to its well-preserved historical center surrounded by the Doubs River. The city of around 117,000 is the capital of the Bourgogne-French-Comté region.

Porte Noire in Besançon was erected in 175 A.D. in honor of the
emperor Marcus Aurelius. 

Besançon contains several unusual fountains such as this.

The first thing that attracted me to Besançon, was the sheer number of famous people who were born here. In addition to Hugo (1802-1885), literary and cultural native sons include writer Charles Nodier (1780-1844), playwright Jean Mairet (1604-1686), journalist/humorist/lawyer Tristan Bernard (1866-1947) and cinematography pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière (1862–1954) and (1864–1948).

A first edition of Les Misérables is on display at Maison Victor Hugo in Besançon.

Our visit coincides with the first Sunday of the month, and admission to Maison Victor Hugo is free (admission is only 2.50€ on other days). This house is not a traditional museum; it is a contemporary space dedicated to the causes for which Victor Hugo fought: freedom of expression, human dignity, children's rights and the freedom of peoples.

Maison Victor Hugo in Besançon honors the writer's commitment to
freedom and human dignity.

Later in the day, Ken chooses to rest, and I set off on my own to Musée de Temps — a museum dedicated to all things time, including sundials, calendars, clocks and watches.

Besançon's Musée de Temps is located in Palais Granvelle.

Musée de Temps is located in Palais Granvelle, built in the 16th century and one of the first French buildings to be classified as a historical monument. Admission is also free today (normally 5€) and includes a hefty and well-written 40-page guide in English. During my two-hour visit here, I pass through the Salle de la Chiminée (Fireplace Room), Galerie de la Mesure du Temps (Gallery of the Measurement of Time), Cabinet de Curiosités (Curio Den), and Salle de la Tenture (Tapestry Room) before heading upstairs to explore Trois Siécles d'Evolution Horlogére (Three Centuries in the Evolution of Clockmaking). Who knew there was so much to learn about telling time, and who knew that the subject would so successfully hold my attention?

This heliocentric astronomical sphere at the Musée du Temps in Besançon heralds
the future achievements of Antide Janvier, an astronomical clock specialist.

This painting at the Musée du Temps in Besançon contains a real working clock.

Exquisite time pieces such as this are on display at the Musée du Temps in Besançon.

The third floor contains a Foucault Pendulum. I am transfixed as I watch the world turn and am inspired to climb an extra steep staircase to view the pendulum from the tower above. Here I am also treated to views of the Besançon rooftops. When I return to the third floor, I check out the huge relief map of the city.

The pendulum, invented in 1851 by physicist Leon Foucault, illustrates the Earth's
rotation. It oscillates at the Musée du Temps in Besançon. 
Besançon's skyline can be seen from the tower of Palais Granvelle,
which houses the Musée du Temps.

A large 3D map of Besançon can be found at the Musée du Temps.

My solo stroll back to our apartment winds this way and that. I am impressed with how Besançon feels like a real living city, and less like the storybook tourist towns we've recently visited. I pass restaurants, shops and even a bagel joint that assure me that Besançon will be due for a second look on a future road trip.

Saint-Jean's cathedral in Besançon contains two altars. 

Fontaine de l'État-Major stands in Place Jean-Cornet in Besançon. 

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