Dijon, France: One of the most beautiful countries in the world – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 22, 2020

When travel comes back, and it will, I have on my list one of the best kept travel secrets, the city of Dijon, the capital of the bountiful Burgundy region in France, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Located about 200 miles southeast of Paris, the city boasts exceptional gastronomy, as well as historical landmarks and cultural attractions.A short train ride away from Paris about an hour-and-a-half by train Dijon is an important rail link on the railways of France, which possesses one of Europes technologically advanced rail systems. For my weekend sojourn before COVID-19, I took the intercity, high-speed and comfortable TGV rail service of the French National Railroads. The French system of high-speed trains extends the range of convenient day trips, and Jews in Dijon often travel to Paris and Lyon, the latter also about two hours away to the south.The city is considered the headquarters of Dijon mustard and cassis, that sweet, dark red liqueur made from black currants. Dijon was granted exclusive rights to produce this product in the 17th century.I stopped at the Maille Boutique, established in 1845. Its a wonderful location to rendezvous, popular with tourists and locals alike. The establishment displays a wide range of mustards, over 40 varieties, prepared or served on tap, as well as other condiments, vinegars and gherkins. Antoine Maille founded the brand in 1747. Today it is produced in Chevigny Saint Sauveur, located a few miles from town. Thus, Dijon mustard is no longer manufactured and packaged in the town of Dijon. Other brands are manufactured in various towns in Burgundy, such as Fallot mustard firm which has a mustard mill in Baune.The Grey Poupon mustard brand, well-known in the US and around the world, (it has a kosher certificate from the Orthodox Union in the US) originated in Dijon in 1866. The name comes from a merger of Maurice Grey and Auguste Poupon.Moreover, the town boasts rare wines to go with delicious cuisine. Wine-tasting is very popular in this getaway located in the Burgundy vineyard.Foodies and gourmets just love the Dijon market. Admire the produce, flowers and cheeses. Gaze at the markets ironwork framed building designed by Gustave Eiffel, born in Dijon and designer of this covered market, as well as the Eiffel TowerOne of the reasons I enjoyed Dijon was that it stands out as a city of clean, winding pedestrian streets, with wooded 15th-century houses, a city where the old town remains the shopping center. I walked down the Rue de la Liberte, where I found everything from clothes stores and pharmacies to establishments specializing in mustards and local wines. This main street leads from the 18th-century, Porte Guillaume (an Arc de Triomphe design) to the Place de la Liberation, which is a large square in front of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. The square remains a pedestrian area which is brought to life by water jets in summer. It is semi-circular in shape and opens onto the iconic Palace. Today the Palace houses the Town Hall, the Tourist Office and the Museum of Fine Arts.Regarding the Palace, Dijon was a former Roman camp on the great military highway linking Lyon with Mainz. Dijon began its important role in history in 1015 when Robert I, duke of Burgundy, made the city the capital of his duchy.THE DUKES of Burgundy placed the Jews under their protection in 1196. The synagogue and a Sabbath House were situated in the Petitie Juiverie section, as well as a cemetery.After the expulsions of 1306 and 1315, only a few Jews settled here, until 1789 when they again moved in permanently. Many came from Alsace. The Jewish population numbered about 400 in 1902.Today, approximately 225 Jewish families reside in Dijon, a city of about 159,000 residents. Dedicated in 1879, the synagogue in Dijon is the focal point of the Jewish community. It is located at 5 Re de la Synagogue. I learned that the main synagogue, completed in 1879, served a robust community which by World War II numbered 550 persons and that Jews were absorbed into the mainstream of life in the city.Although the town synagogue was used as a stable and garage by the Germans, the house of worship survived World War II. One person who may have been responsible for its escaping destruction was a Catholic clergyman, Chanoine (Canon) Felix Kir, who later became mayor of this municipality, as well as a member of parliament. Kir persuaded the Germans not to destroy the temple. He hid Jewish ritual objects in his home.Eighty percent of the community perished at the hands of the Germans, including a 36-year-old rabbi named Elie Cyper, a member of the resistance. Visitors going to the synagogue can walk along the pedestrian crossing (named the rue du Rabbin Elie Cyper) connecting the Rue de la Synagogue to the Place WilsonIn September 1944, Dijon was liberated from the Nazis who occupied the city throughout the war, and who kept the town under tight surveillance because it is an important railroad and highway center.In the fall of 1944, that first Yom Kippur of liberated Europe, American Jewish GIs from throughout the battle zone flocked to Dijon. There were so many American Jewish troops here, that the overflow prayed in the streets, it was said.After World War II, the Jewish community began anew. Since the vast majority of Dijon Jews had been deported during the war, it was not until the 1960s with the influx of the North African Jews that the community flourished again.There are other signs that a Jewish presence has been in the Dijon area for many years. This travel writer kept seeing road signs to nearby Troyes, the birthplace of Rashi, (1040-1105) the great commentator of the Bible and Talmud. It is said that in Rashis day, rabbis traveled to Troyes, (two hours away) via Dijon, and often stayed over in Dijon.An excellent source on Dijon is the book An Uncertain Future, Voices of a French Jewish Community, 1940-2012, by Robert I. Weiner and Richard E. Sharpless.At press time, all hotels, restaurants, shops and boutiques in Dijon were open. Face masks are compulsory in all closed places and when moving about. Visitors from the US and other countries, including Israel, have not received the green light to visit most countries in Europe. When the restrictions are lifted, put Dijon high on your travel list.The author is a travel writer and travel-lecturer, is the author of the just-published, Klaras War, A Novel; A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe (Pelican Publishing); Klaras Journey, A Novel (Marion Street Press); and The Scattered Tribe: Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond (Globe Pequot Press). Follow him on Twitter @bengfrank

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Dijon, France: One of the most beautiful countries in the world - The Jerusalem Post

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