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Geography and Landscape


The Ardèche is a department in France, named after the river Ardèche. The Ardèche has an area of 5529 km², is part of the future Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region (from January 1, 2016) and is bordered by the departments of Drôme to the east, Vaucluse and Gard to the south, Lozère and Haute-Loire in the west, Loire in the north and the well-known nature reserve the Cevennes. About 35 km the Rhône forms the eastern border of the Ardèche. The Ardèche, together with the Cévennes and the Auvergne, forms the Massif Central.

The highest place in the Ardèche is Lachamp-Raphaël at an altitude of 1,320 meters.

The lowest place in the Ardèche is Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche at an altitude of 50 meters.

Location of the Ardèche department in FranceLocation of the Ardèche department in FrancePhoto: Marmelad CC 2.5 Generic no changes made


Ardeche LandscapeArdeche LandscapePhoto: Emil Pollnow CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Ardèche landscape is a very beautiful area known for its deep gorges or 'gorges', rugged high plains, (dripstone) caves, bare volcanic mountains with round peaks or 'sucs' such as the suc de la Croix de Bauzon ( 1538 m), and extensive (chestnut) forests. More than 30% of the Ardèche is covered by forests that mainly occur on steep slopes and lie at an altitude of between 300 and 1000 meters. The north of the Ardèche is also known as the 'green Ardèche', with extensive grass plains and forests around the capital Privas. The south, 'Ardèche méridionale', is much more wild and has one of the most varied landscapes in the South of France, including the Massif du Mézenc, a volcanic mountain range that forms the continental dividing line between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

On both sides of this mountain range is a row of sucs or phonolite volcanoes, Signon (1454 m), Roche-Borée, Touron (1380 m), Sara (1520 M), Gerbier-de-Jonc (1551 M), Montivernoux ( 1441 m), Areilladou (1448 m), Pal, Bauzon, Montfol (1601 m), Rocher-Tourte (1535 m) and Mont d'Alambre (1691 m). The Haut-Vivarais (50-1200 m) and the Bas-Vivarais (300-700 m) are separated by the basalt Plateau du Coiron. The wildest landscape of the Ardèche can be found in the virtually uninhabited Massif de Tanargue, especially in winter, when lovely mountain streams turn into large fast-flowing rivers.

The rugged landscape of the Tanargue, ArdècheThe rugged landscape of the Tanargue, ArdèchePhoto: Alainauzas CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The rounded hill tops that characterize the Ardèche landscape, especially in the low mountain range of the Monts du Vivarais, are mostly of volcanic origin and were created during a period of volcanic activity (12-8 million years ago) in which the Alps also arose. Dome mountains such as Mont Mézenc, with 1754 meters the highest mountain in the Ardèche, Mont Lozère (1699 m), Mont Aigoual (1567 m) and Mont Gerbier de Jonc (1551 m) are examples of mountains with this typical shape. The three other periods in which volcanic activity created the present landscape were between 7.7-6.4 million years, between 1.5 and 0.5 million years, and between 80,000 and 12,000 years ago.

Other scenic volcanic features which are common in the Ardèche are gorges such as the Gorges de l'Ardèche with the famous Pont d'Arc at Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, lava plugs or 'necks' and water-filled round wells or 'calderas'. There are also several horizontally accessible caves and 'avens' or 'abîmes', natural funnel-shaped karst pipes created by the action of carbonated rainwater on the soft limestone, such as Aven d'Orgnac, Grottes de Saint-Marcel and Grotte Chauvet Pont d'Arc, which is 500 meters long, 30 meters wide, 10 meters high and was only discovered in 1994. Naturally, the inevitable dripstone curtains, stalactites and stalagmites also arise in these caves, and where they touch each other pillars or columns are formed. Some important cavers are Édouard-Alfred Martel from the late 19th century and Robert de Joly and Jean-Marie Chauvet from the 20th century.

Grotte de la Madeleine, beautiful cave in the Ardèche Grotte de la Madeleine, beautiful cave in the Ardèche Photo: Benh LIEU SONG CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Ardèche has more than 5000 km of different types of waterways. The most famous rivers of the Ardèche are the Rhône (in total 812 km) and the fast-flowing Ardèche (125 km), which flows over a length of about 30 km through gorges with cliffs up to 300 meters high. The Ardèche has its source in the Massif de Mazan at an altitude of 1467 meters and flows 125 km further, above the Pont-Saint-Esprit at an altitude of 50 meters, into the Rhône, which has its source in Switzerland.

In the In autumn and early spring, the water of the Ardèche can rise more than 20 meters in a few hours at high tide, a European record. The 66 meter long natural arch Pont-d'Arc has been carved out by the Ardèche.

The Ardèche meanders through the landscapeThe Ardèche meanders through the landscapePhoto: Jean-Christophe BENOIST CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

There are also the Chassezac (85 km), the Eyrieux (83 km), the Ibie (33 km) and the Doux (70 km), the largest tributary of the Rhône. In addition, at an altitude of 1400 meters, at the foot of Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, the longest river in France, the Loire, has its source. Underground mineral and thermal springs originated in the porous volcanic rock. Some well-known health resorts are Vals-les-Bains, which has more than 140 cold water springs (13°C) above ground that have been exploited since 1600, Neyrac and Saint-Laurent-les-Bains.

The almost 100 ha large, circular crater lake Lac d'Issarlès, is very special with its alternating emerald green and dark blue color and great depth (138 m). The crater lake is located at an altitude of about 1000 meters. Other lakes are Lac Devesset (48 ha), Lac aux Remiers, Lac Ferrand, the artificially created Lac Coucouron (14 ha) and Lac Saint-Martial (13 ha).

Special is also the Cascade du Ray-Pic, a waterfall that plunges down several stairs with a length of approx. 60 meters. A rare physical phenomenon occurs in the Grotte de la Mofette near Neyrac-les-Bains, where carbon dioxide comes to the surface.

Of the nine national parks and 46 regional parks in France, the Ardèche has one national in its territory. park, Parc National des Cévennes, and two regional parks, Grands Causses and Parc Naturel Régional des Monts d'Ardèche, of which the south is called the Bas-Vivarais and the north the Haut Vivarais.

Waterfall Cascade du Ray-Pic, ArdècheWaterfall Cascade du Ray-Pic, ArdèchePhoto: Sylaf CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Climate and Weather

The Mont Mézenc was already covered with snow in mid-December 2007 The Mont Mézenc was already covered with snow in mid-December 2007Photo: Dandumona CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The northern plateau of the Ardèche has a pleasant climate in summer, because it rarely gets very hot then. In autumn it can be haunted with heavy downpours and in winter there is a layer of snow on the plateaus. Although the ski areas there are much smaller than in the Alps, winter sports can be enjoyed to the full in the west of the Ardèche, between the Croix de Bauzon and the Plateau de Lalouvesc.

Southern Ardèche, with a Mediterranean climate, still has nice temperatures in spring and autumn. In general, the Ardèche has a continental climate with Mediterranean influences. The temperature of central France is between 21 and 26°C in summer. The annual mean temperature is 12°C. The sun shines an average of 250 days a year, and spring and autumn can also be sunny.

Sun on the Ardeche watersSun on the Ardeche watersPhoto: Mboesch CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Also known in this region is the mistral, a northerly wind from the Massif Central that rises suddenly and can last for several days and can cause a temperature drop of 10°C. Strangely enough, after a period of mistral there is often a period of calm.

In the northwest of the Ardèche, on the edge of the Vivarais, lies the region of La Montagne or the 'Plateau of the Ardèche'. Here every winter from November to April occurs a curious meteorological phenomenon, 'la burle'. For a long time, the wind blows so hard and frequently that daylong snowstorms cause high snow piles that even cover entire houses. This treacherous wind has already cost many human lives.

Climate table Ardèche

avg.max.temp.avg.min.temp.hours of sunshine p/ddays of rainfall p/m

Plants and Animals


Gentians ArdecheGentians ArdechePhoto: Tigerente CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

There is a clear difference between the flora of the north and the south of the Ardèche. In the north, alpine and even arctic species can be found from the last Ice Age in this region. In the south, many Mediterranean species such as thyme, savory, juniper bush, prickly gorse, olive tree, lavender, alpine pine, evergreen species such as holm oak and kermese oak and deciduous species such as pedunculate oak and downy oak.

The warmest parts of the gorges are overgrown with holm oak, kermesik, sarsaprilla shrub, rock rose, mouse thorn, sanddod grass, white smele, turpentine, wild asparagus, thyme, savory, Southern European juniper and lavender. Where it is not so warm, downy oak, truffle oak, pedunculate oak, juniper bush and honeysuckle grow. Because many flowers are picked, irises, peonies, cyclamen, periwinkle palms, jasmine, many types of orchids and gladioli are becoming less and less common.

In the Montagne Ardèchoise, on the slopes of mountains like the Mont Mézenc and Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, the silver-colored spring ragwort, also known as the 'grass of Mézenc', stands out. You will also find mountain violets, daffodils, gentians, anemones, alpine roses, lady's mantle, bearberry and the rare carnivorous sundew. Endemic to the mountainous region of the Mézenc is the rock plant Senecio leucophyllus. The most common tree species on and around the massif of Mont Mézenc is Norway spruce. To get a little more variety and natural balance in the tree population, hardwoods such as beech and maples, and coniferous species such as larch and Douglas fir were planted.

The scrubland areas, which mainly consist of grasses and low plants, are covered with boxwood, prickly juniper, woolly rockrose, mastic, clematis, honeysuckle, scorpion broom, Virginia creeper, a stray honey locust and the sweet pea with its beautiful flowers.

The pea grows in the garrigue areas of ArdècheThe pea grows in the garrigue areas of ArdèchePhoto: 4028mdk09 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On the high plains and in the mountains it is a succession of forests, plains and meadows, each with its own flora. A random list shows the diversity well: broom, sundew, mountain violet, euforbia, narcissus, peat fluff, spring ragwort, foxglove, yellow gentian, great gentian, alpine anemone, alpine rose, yarrow, arnica, wild rose, fireweed, saxifrage, trollyrus, red saxifrage, trollyrus, Solomon Seal, Wool Grass, Yarrow, Mallow, Arnica and St. John's Wort.


Buzzard ArdecheBuzzard ArdechePhoto: Spencer Wright CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Réserve naturelle des Gorges de l'Ardèche is a typical bird of prey area, with about sixteen species, both brothers and migrants. The hawk eagle, the serpent eagle, the buzzard and the bearded vulture can be seen here to a greater or lesser extent. A selection of the other bird species: wryneck, jay, green woodpecker, shrike, wagtail and rock swallow. Large mammals include beavers, genets, feral goats and wild boars.

The rivers and lakes of the Ardèche are home to about 30 species of fish, including European grayling, carp, pike, zander, barbel , goby, roach, rudd, dace, tench, gudgeon, bullhead, bream, alvert, ellerling, catfish, chub and the very rare lake trout. Migrating species include eel, shad and lamprey species.

strawberry butterflybrown fire butterflyorange sand eye
alpenhooibeestjeCleopatrapurple fritillary
almond gerebiacheckerboarddark blue
Apollo butterflythistle butterflyProvençaalse erebia
bergerebiadark scarlet bluered fire butterfly
mountain louse butterflydark erebiasooty reebia
mountain fritillary butterflydune pearly butterflyrock butterfly
mountain red whiteyellow-tailed tadpoleSpanish oak page
mountain speckled headyellow lucerne butterflytiger blue
blue kingfisher butterflygold-eyed haybugthyme blue
blue-eyed butterflylarge-veined whiteTitania's fritillary butterfly
blowing bush bluebig speckled frogTwo-Tone Pearloid Butterfly
pale bluegreat foresterfalse brown blue
turned out to be a haystackGreat fritillary butterflyfalse heather blue
blind bergerebiabig fire butterflypeat hay beast
floral blueshepherd fritillarysphagnum butterfly
colorful fatheadIcarus bluefield fritillary butterfly
tree blueJasius butterflyviolet fire butterfly
boserebiamallow tadpolewater rebia
forest fritillarycardinal's mantlewedwhite
forest-edge fritillaryEmperor's mantlewestern speckled frog
forest whitelittle Apollo butterflywhiteband sand eye
forest sand eyelittle argus butterflyforest fritillary
nacreous mothlittle rangerSouthern Midget Blue
brown blueknotwort fritillarySouthern Tail Blue
brown tadpolekingpageSouthern Pile Butterfly
brown sand eyemorning red (photo)black Apollo butterfly

In 1985 marmots were released again in the massif of Mont Mézenc.

In addition to many migratory birds, there is also a migratory butterfly that crosses the Rhône valley in the spring towards the far north of Europe.

In 2000, gold trout (also known as knight trout or red trout) was released in the crater lake Lac d'Issarlès.

Europe's largest lizard, the up to 70 cm long pearl lizard (photo), has a great time in the sun-drenched Ardèche, as is the great enemy of lizards, the lizard snake. This smooth snake species up to two meters long is poisonous, but not dangerous to humans and also very shy.

Pearl lizard, largest lizard species in Europe and therefore also in the ArdèchePearl lizard, largest lizard species in the ArdèchePhoto: Jason Pratt CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Despite shrinking populations, the Ardèche still has seventeen bat species, including the Eyelash or Netted Bat, Capaccini's Bat, Fringed Tail, Pug or Cross-eared Bat, European Free-tailed Bat, Bechstein's Bat, Common Bat, small-eared bat, gray long-eared bat, common pipistrelle, long-winged or Schreiber's bat, long-eared bat, water bat (photo) and the purple horseshoe bat.

Cormoranttree creeperScops Owl
African Stonechattree larkLittle Tern
alpine swiftboom piperScops Owl
alpine hedge sparrowfalconeider
red-billed crowforest ridermagpie
chaffinchtawny owlEleonora's Falcon
Bearded WarblerCreeperEuropean Canary
flusherSpectacled Warblerfitness
shelduckMarsh Harrierwhistler
mountain whistlerPenduline Titgrebe
bluethroatSummer duckYellow-legged Gull
Hen harriercasarca or sooty goosecollared redstart
blue peacockCetti's singerYellow Wagtail
Blue Heroncirl buntingBlack-necked Grebe
Blue Rock Thrushlemon ice creamcommon swift
blond wheatearkillersgloss head (photo)

gray buntingstock pigeonLittle Egret
Montagu's harrierhoplittle swan
Red-backed Shrikewood pigeonlittle blackcap
gray flycatcherwoodcockAvocet
Grielhouse sparrowLinnet
gray-headed woodpeckerhouse martinmute swan
gray buntingIberian Gray Shrikecuckoo
gray kiteIberian ChiffchaffCattle Egret
green woodpeckerkingfisherBlack-headed Gull
greenfinchchewwhite-fronted goose
green-legged riderkeepGreat Tit
Great_Spotted WoodpeckerruffRedwing
Great Yellow WagtailBarn Owlblack grouse
great reed warblerlapwingShort-toed lark
big thrushGreat Gray Shrikecrane
great black-backed gulllittle moorhengadwall
sandwich ternLesser_Spotted WoodpeckerFieldfare
Great merganserlittle reed warblercurved sandpiper
Great ScoterLesser Gray ShrikeCrested Duck
Great Egretlesser black-backed gullcrossbill
black-tailed godwitlittle ploverCrested Cormorant
hawklittle sandpiperTufted Duck
hedge sparrowLesser Kestrelcrested cuckoo
sacred ibissmall stairscrested lark
hermit ibislittle flycatcher (photo)Crested Tit

Small flycatcher, bird from Ardèche Small flycatcher, bird from ArdèchePhoto: Mdf CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

quackpartridgered-necked grebe
quailWaxwingred-throated pipit
CorncrakepintailRed-headed Shrike
bearded vultureBlue Titred-legged falcon
spoonbillpool riderred-rumped swallow
Madeira Storm BirdCaspian Gullbar-tailed godwit
mandarin duckSpotted Crakerock pigeon
matkopProvençal warblerRock Creeper
cootpurple heronRock Sparrow
blackbirdputterrock swallow
middle merganserravenPied Wagtail
Black Vulturered heronpink pelican
Red Ploverlong-eared owlrough-legged hawk
Nightingalewhimbrelrough-legged owl
nightjargiant ternsaker falcon
Egyptian Goosereed buntingroller
arctic ternreed warblerOystercatcher
Nutcrackertree sparrowscreaming eagle
sandpiperred partridgeSiberian Chiffchaff
sand martinred rock thrushsiskin
storkred kitesnake eagle
orpheus warblerrookshoveler
ortolaansooty goose or casarcawigeon
Daddyrobinsnowfinch (photo)

Snow finch, bird in ArdecheSnow finch, bird in ArdechePhoto: Doc Searls CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

mustacheShort-eared Owlcurlew
SparrowhawktickSong Thrush
starlingospreyherring gull
grasshopper warblercommon ternsilver plover
long-tailed titJaysummer translation
Little Owlfire gold roostersummer dove
Black-winged StiltMoorhenswan goose
Steppe Harrierwater piperblack ibis
Storm Gullwater railCarrion Crow
petrelsnipeBlack Tit
pocharddipperblack stork
taiga tree creeperHoney Buzzardblack redstart
tame gooseOrioleblack rider
Wheatearwild duckblack woodpecker
Chiffchaffwild swanblack tern
scottish duckWrenblack kite
kestreltealblack swan
garden warblerwitgatBlack-throated Thrush
redshankRed-necked Flycatcherblackcap
Collared DoveWhite-eyed duckBlack-headed Bunting
griffon vultureWhite WagtailMediterranean Gull
cockatielWhite-faced ternBlack-headed Reed Warbler
SkylarkLittle Bittern (photo)

Little bittern, a species of heron in the ArdècheLittle bittern, a species of heron in the ArdèchePhoto: Marek Szczepanek CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Prehistory and Antiquity

Replica of lion drawing in Grotte ChauvetReplica of lion drawing in Grotte ChauvetPhoto: HTO in the public domain

Hunting Neanderthals had been around 350,000 years ago near Orgnac, in the far south of the Ardèche. Recent archaeological finds and discoveries indicate that homo sapiens arrived in the Ardèche some 42,000 years ago. The oldest cave paintings in France, in the Grotte Chauvet, are around 32,000 years old and only found in 1994.

In the 7th century BC. Several Celtic tribes settled on both banks of the Rhône, the Allobrogen on the left bank, the Helvii on the right bank and between the river Isère and the Mont Ventoux de Voconces.

A few centuries later the Romans began their advance towards western Europe and soon realized that the Rhône was ideally suited for the transport of all kinds of goods and the spread of their civilization. In the 2nd century BC. they gradually conquered the area of the Allobrogen and in 121 BC. they settled permanently on the left bank of Rhône. In 118 BC. the Romans created the province of Gallia Narbonensis, which stretched from the city of Vienna, just south of present-day Lyon, to the coast of the Mediterranean.

In 43 BC. was the conquest of all of Gallië(present-day France, Belgium, western Switzerland and parts of the Netherlands and Germany west of the Rhine) became a fact and Lyon became a reality in 27 BC. proclaimed capital of Galliëby Roman soldier and politician Lucius Munatius Plancus.

 Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (born as Diocles) (ca. December 22, 244 - December 3, 311) Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (born as Diocles) (ca. December 22, 244 - December 3, 311) Photo: Jebulon in the public domain

The first centuries of the new millennium were one of prosperity and peace for the Lyon area. Trade took off, many new cities were founded and Lyon was, in addition to being the main economic and intellectual center, also the starting point for the spread of Christianity in Gallia;. It wasn't until Septimus Severus, Roman Emperor from AD 193 to 211, that some hitches arose. Regular raids by barbarians, including Kimbren and Teutons, undermined the flourishing trade in the area and, on top of that, the deprivation of Lyon's monopoly on the sale of wine in Galliëby Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus, who reigned from 276 to 282. Lyon languished somewhat as the main city of Galliëand was demoted to a simple provincial capital under Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (reign 284-305).

Middle Ages

Chateau de Rochemaure, medieval castle in the ArdecheChateau de Rochemaure, medieval castle in the ArdechePhoto: Celeda CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Roman occupation of the Ardèche was followed in the 5th century by the Burgundians, who settled in Valence in 450. Then it was the turn of the Franks and several other peoples who settled. At the same time, the further Christianization of the Ardèche took place with the construction of abbeys and churches in the Frankish empire. In the 8th century, the Saracens advanced towards Ardèche and plundered, among others, Valence. The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne died in 814 and was succeeded by his only surviving son and heir Louis the Pious. Louis died in 840 and with the Treaty of Verdun in August 843, the so-called Frankish Middle Kingdom was divided among his three sons, Pippin I of Aquitania, Louis the German and Lothair I, Louis's eldest son. The latter was given an area that stretched from Rouen to the North Sea, Provence, the Rhônevallei, including the Ardèche, and Burgundy.

The Frankish Middle Kingdom was divided between the sons Louis II, Lothair II and Charles of Provence, nicknamed "the young" and the youngest son of Lothair I. Charles got next to Provence, which at that time also included the Ardèche, also the Lyonnais, the Viennois de Drôme and the important Christian-religious center Arles.

In 877 the area of Charles was attacked by the Vikings, resulting in a fragmentation of the area, which fell into the hands of feudal and Christian rulers such as the bishops of Viviers. Nevertheless, this period was generally a period of economic growth, which had its effect on an increase in the number of cities and the accompanying population growth. From that time onwards the area was known under the name Vivarais.

In the 11th and 12th centuries the area was called Dauphiné(region now roughly equivalent to Isère, Drôme and Hautes Alpes), under control of the Counts of Albon, but suffered during that period, and also in the 13th century, from wars that affected those in power in that area. At the same time, the power of the French kingdom increased rapidly, and in 1271 the Vivarais and the Dauphinéannexed to France. The 14th century was dominated by the plague and the war with the English, including the Hundred Years Orlog (1328-1453). The first meeting of the first States of Vivarais was held in 1422.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation

In the course of the 15th century, peace returned to the area and prosperity increased. As a result, the city of Valence was given a university and was, in the first half of the 16th century, also important for the rise of Protestantism, which, from Basel and Geneva, among others, entered the region around the Ardèche. . Around 1528 the first preachers were active in Annonay, and from there in barely half a century the Reformation penetrated the entire region. In the city of Privas, Protestantism was introduced in 1534 by the priest Jacques Valéry and was one of the hotspots in the upcoming wars of religion. Finally, in 1598 (Edict of Nantes), Henry IV decreed that Privas would be ceded to the Protestants.

Protestantism soon took on a more 'militant' character and clashes with the Catholics were bound to happen. In the second half of the 16th century these clashes became increasingly fierce and there was mutual looting and murder, among others by François de Beaumont, baron des Adrets (1506-1587), who, among others, defected to the Protestants or 'Huguenots', as leader of the Huguenots, his gangs left a trail of violence through the Rhôn valley. These Huguenot Wars lasted from 1562 to 1598. Sometime later Des Adrets converted back to Catholicism, and the Protestants became the target of his actions.

François de Beaumont, 'Baron des Adrets' François de Beaumont, 'baron des Adrets'Photo: Public domain

Eventually, the Protestants were defeated by the Catholic Commander General François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières (1543-1626). The Catholic faith regained the upper hand in the Ardèche region, under the leadership of large cities such as Lyon and Le Puy, but this cost many human lives, including during the Bartolomaeusnacht or 'Parisian blood wedding', then on the night of On August 23, a number of fanatical Catholics murdered hundreds of Protestants. It was not until 1596 that the skirmishes between Catholics and Protestants ceased, and this was further confirmed by the Edict of Nantes, promulgated in 1598 by Henry IV, which guaranteed freedom of religion.

Plaque commemorating the Edict of NantesPlaque commemorating the Edict of NantesPhoto: Public domain

In the end, that edict turned out to be of little value, because in the 17th century the Counter-Reformation was steadily expanding and the Protestants were pushed back further and further. For example, from 1661, Louis XIV organized so-called 'dragonnades', also in the Ardèche, in which soldiers entered the houses of French Huguenots with the intention of converting them, often by force, to the Catholic faith. Particularly after 1685 (Edict of Fontainebleau), when the Edict of Nantes from 1598 was withdrawn to make matters worse for the Protestants, many Huguenots fled desperately to the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States. The remaining Protestants did not just accept the situation, however, and the so-called 'camisards', Huguenots living in the rugged Cevennes and Vivarais, led by the famous Jean Cavalier (officially: Joan Cavalièr) revolted against the oppression, an uprising that lasted from 1702 to 1715. Another “leader” of the Protestants was Antoine Court, who secretly organized meetings that eventually attracted more than 10,000 Protestants. After a prize was put on his head, he fled to Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1730, where he continued his work for the Reformation. The religious strife did not come to a definitive end until 1787 when Louis XVI ended the persecution of non-Catholics with the Edict of Tolerance and guaranteed freedom of religion.

Jean cavalier, leader of de camisards (1681-1740) Jean cavalier, leader of de camisards (1681-1740) Photo: Public domain

During these turbulent times, the Ardèche was also hit by a severe winter in the winter of 1669-1670, causing all olive trees to die. When rumors also surfaced that tax increases were imminent, the time was full. A peasant uprising followed, which mainly occurred in and around Aubenas. Serious riots broke out, but soon the insurgent leader was imprisoned. However, he was soon freed by a nobleman from La Chapelle-sous-Aubenas, Antoine du Roure. Aubenas was taken by the men of Du Roure, but the king's army put a bloody order, peasants were murdered and Du Roure was executed.

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The French Revolution of 1789 did not pass the Ardèche and its surroundings without a struggle. Rebellious Chouans fought against revolutionary troops in the mountains of the Vivarais, but lost their lives in 1792 after a fierce battle. Chouans, led by Jean Cottereau or 'Chouan' (1757-1794), were initially insurgents against the French Revolution operating from the Bas-Maine (now roughly the department of Mayenne). In January of the year 1790, the Ardèche department was created.

Jean 'Chouan' CottereauJean 'Chouan' Cottereau, ArdechePhoto: Public domain

Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo, the Ardèche and the Rhônedal were occupied by Austrian troops. In the mid-19th century, the Ardèche came back into the news as a result of the coup d'état of Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) in 1851. Louis Napoleon was the first popularly elected president of France from 1848 to 1852. However, the presidency was only one. for four years and he thought that was not enough. The parliament, consisting mainly of monarchists, however refused to submit a constitution proposal to this effect, which led to a coup d'état by Louis Napoleon on December 2, 1851. Parliament was dissolved and a plebiscite allowed him to stay for another four years, after a new plebiscite. in 1852 even as Emperor of the Second Empire. The Ardèche was one of the French departments that opposed Louis Napoleon's ideas and a violent uprising followed in the Ardèche. Below is an article from a Dutch regional newspaper from which it becomes clear that the battle was fierce:

Some places in the French the Ardèche department are troubled by new troubles. The gendarmerie and line troops have restored order, but many are beginning to question whether other means can yet be put in place to save the unfortunate department, where the demagogues promote and practice killing.

Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1778-1846)Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1778-1846)Photo: Public domain

The nineteenth century was of course also dominated by the Industrial Revolution, especially in the big cities. Because the Ardèche did not have them, the region was hit by a great migration to the city, which cost the Ardèche about a third of its population. However, disasters never come alone and in 1880 the Ardèche was also hit by the phylloxera that affected half of the vineyards. Earlier, in 1850, the silk worm, so important to the Ardèche silk industry, was affected by pepper speckle disease.

Cartoon from the satirical magazine punch where a grape bug feeds on a glass of wine Cartoon from the satirical magazine punch where a grape bug feeds on a glass of winePhoto: Public domain

The First and Second World War left their marks deep in the Ardèche. Many French soldiers did not return from the battlefields and trenches and during the Second World War many 'maquisards', guerilla units of the French resistance movement who fought against the German occupier, mainly in the countryside of the French countryside, were killed. Lyon was at that time the capital of the French resistance.

Members of the maquisards, active in the Ardèche during WWII Members of the maquisards, active in the Ardèche during WWII Photo: Public domain

After the Second World War, the recovery of industry and infrastructure was given priority in the Ardèche. New developments were fruit growing and tourism, which is becoming increasingly important for the Ardèche economy to this day. In 1972 the Rhône-Alpes region was established, to which the Ardèche became part. In 2006, the chestnut in the Ardèche received the AOC hallmark, a quality and origin guarantee. In 2019, the Ardeche is strangely in the news, because of an alcohol ban in the popular Gorge. The measure was taken because of accidents and quarrels between tourists.

See also the history of France on Landenweb.


Privas, capital of the Ardèche with less than 10,000 inhabitants Privas, capital of the Ardèche with less than 10,000 inhabitants Photo: Anotine CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

With approximately 325,000 inhabitants (2015), the Ardèche is very sparsely populated. The population density is less than 55 inhabitants per square kilometer. For the rest, the region is characterized by the presence of many villages, a single larger community that fulfills a central function for the surrounding region, and many hamlets.

There is a slight depopulation of the Ardèche, around In 1900 about 370,000 people still lived in the Ardèche. In the Monts du Vivarais and Vivarais Cévenol, some areas are already completely uninhabited.

The ten largest towns and villages of the Ardèche

namenumber of inhabitantsheight
Annonayapprox. 16,700359 m
Aubenasapprox. 12,250251 m
Guilherand-Grangesapprox. 10,800112 m
Tournon-sur-Rhôneapprox. 10,300121 m
Privasapprox. 8,300298 m
Le Teilapprox. 8,29071 m
Bourg-Saint-Andéolapprox. 7,20055 m
Saint-Pérayapprox. 7,100130 m
La Voulte-sur-Rhôneapprox. 5,10095 m
Viviersapprox. 3,70073 m

Population diagram region Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes, including Ardèche Population diagram region Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes, including Ardèche Photo: Technob105 CC 4.0 International no changes made


French Language MapFrench Language MapPhoto: Public domain

The official language in France is French, in addition Breton (Brittany) is spoken by minorities, Occitan (the south), Basque (in the western Pyrenees), German (Alsace-Lorraine), Dutch (French Flanders), Catalan (Roussillon), Italian (around Nice), Corsican (on Corsica).

The French language is a Romance language spoken by approx. 100 million people as their mother tongue, of which approx. 60 million in France. French is also still spoken in Belgium below the line Visé-Mouscron and Brussels, in Switzerland (Suisse romande), Italy (Valle d'Aosta) and Canada (Quebec), and which, in addition to the mother tongue, is used in many former French colonies as the language of administration and administration. French is the continuation of the Vulgar Latin, which was introduced and developed in Gallia Transalpina by the Roman conquerors (58 - 50 BC).

The history of French begins when people through the Carolingian Renaissance, which revived the study of Classical Latin, became aware of a gap between Latin, language of administration, jurisdiction and religion, and everyday language. This is evidenced by a decision of the Council of Tours (813), which from then on had to be preached in the vernacular ("lingua romana rustica"). Broadly speaking, three periods can be distinguished in the history of French: Old French (early 9th & ndash; early 14th century), Middle French (early 14th - early 17th century) and modern French (early 17th century - present).

The French language originally consisted of Latin words introduced by the Romans, supplemented by words of Celtic and Frankish origin. From the 12th century onwards, these "folk words" are borrowed from Latin, the "learned" words. In the 16th century, many words were also borrowed from Italian. Many words have also been borrowed from Dutch, and from English since the 18th century.

Especially in recent decades, much has been borrowed from English in the field of technology, sports, fashion, etc. originated. French purists oppose this “invasion” of foreign words. occitan provenço-alpin. The pronunciation of this variant is about the same as that of Provence, except that the 'ca' of Provence in the Ardèche is pronounced 'cha'.

Below are some typical words from the Ardèche

caillettespiced pork pieé
cellaremote cottage
clèdebuilding to dry chestnuts
couderclarge pasture
drailleroad used by pastoralists
dykeigneous rock
gourpond in cave
lauzeflat piece of slate
moulinagetwisting silk thread


Church of St. Laurent of Aubenas, Ardèche Church of St. Laurent of Aubenas, ArdèchePhoto: Havang(nl) in the public domain

Approximately 80% of the French population is Roman Catholic (approx. 48 million), 4.5% predominantly Sunni Islamic (approx. 4 million) and there are also small minorities of Protestants (approx. 950,000), Jews (approx. 700,000; the largest Jewish community in Europe) and Armenian-Christians. Since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV, Catholicism has been the state religion.
Since the separation of church and state in 1905, the state has ceased to be involved in the Church. The Roman Catholic Church has eighteen provinces in France and a total of 95 dioceses. The Archbishop of Lyon is the head of the ecclesiastical provinces.

After St. Bartholomew's Day (1572), the power of Protestantism in France was broken. Protestant churches were not recognized until the law of 1802. The main Protestant denominations are: the Eglise Réformée de France, the Eglise de la Confession d'Augsburg d'Alsace et de Lorraine, the Egliseé catchélique luthérienne and the Église réformée d'Alsace et de Lorraine.
Since 1905 there has been a federation of Protestant churches consisting of Reformed, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and free churches: the Fédération protestante de France .
Protestant theological faculties for the training of pastors are located in Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Paris and Strasbourg; the last two are inter-confessional faculties. Despite the relatively small number, the influence of the Protestants in France is quite large.

The Abbatiale de Cruas is a Benedictine abbey church, which is rare due to the presence of a cloister gallery, an elevated part of the choir that the nave protrudes from the church, and through a Romanesque crypt from the mid-11th century. There is also a Byzantine mosaic floor, called 'Le paradis promis aux justes', from 1098.

Abbatiale de Cruas, ArdècheAbbatiale de Cruas, ArdèchePhoto: Wayne 77 CC 4.0 International no changes made

Impressive is the village church of Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès made of volcanic rock, which is also called 'la cathédrale de la Montagne' due to its imposing appearance.

The Abbey of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, 12 km west of Saint-Laurent-les-Bains, was founded in 1854 and is located at an altitude of 1100 meters.

Collégiale St-Julien of Tournon in the Ardeche Collégiale St-Julien of Tournon in the ArdechePhoto: FredSeiller CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Collégiale St-Julien is the former (until 1790) collegiate church of Tournon-sur-Rhône with a 14th century gothic facade, a square bell tower and a restored 17th century organ. The Chapelle des Pénitents is the oldest part of the church with beautiful 15th and 16th century murals.

The church of Bourg-Saint-Andéol, late 11th century, is named after Saint Saint -Andéol or Andéol du Vivarais, one of the first Christian martyrs of the Ardèche and born in Izmir (martyred in 208), Turkey in the 2nd century. The facade of the church was restored in the 18th century.

Lalouvesc, a place of pilgrimage, has a 19th century Romanesque-Byzantine basilica, built by the architect Pierre Bossan, who specialized in ecclesiastical architecture in 1737. canonized Jean-François Régis (1597-1640) lies in a shrine. Régis was a French folk preacher and Jesuit from the time of the Counter-Reformation and died in Lalouvesc. The lavish interior features columns of different colors of marble, gold-clad arches, a beautifully painted dome and very colorful stained glass windows.

Image of Saint Jean -François Régis Image of Saint Jean -François Régis, ArdechePhoto: Havang (nl) in the public domain

In the episcopal city of Viviersis the smallest cathedral in France still in use, the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent. The cathedral, with a free-standing 12th century bell tower (formerly a defense tower), was inaugurated in the 12th century by Pope Calixtus II and completely rebuilt by Bishop Claude de Tournon in the late 15th century. The Gothic choir contains beautiful walnut choir stalls and a marble main altar from the 18th century. The ship was designed in 1759 by the Avignon architect Jean-Baptiste Franque.

Cathédrale Saint- Vincent in Viviers, Ardèche Cathédrale Saint-Vincent in Viviers, ArdèchePhoto: Morburre CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The largely 12th-century church of Champagne is the only church in the Rhônedal with a vaulted nave consisting of a number of domes on trumpets, (funnel) shaped supporting vaults that transition from a square to a polygonal or round superstructure like a dome. The church also has beautiful choir stalls from the 15th century.

The Église de Melás of the town of Le Teil is a Romanesque style church typical of the Vivarais region. The church has a fairly low, square bell tower and consists of three parts: a side aisle or chapel, a 12th century nave and an octagonal baptistery or baptistery from the 9th century.


State structure

France Assemblee NationaleFrance Assemblee NationalelPhoto: Freepenguin CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Under the 1958 constitution, France is a parliamentary republic whose president has extensive powers as head of state. The president has been directly elected by the people by universal suffrage for seven years since 1962. In 2002, the President of France will be elected for a term of five years instead of the current seven years.
The President enacts laws passed by Parliament or by the people (in case of referendum), signs the decisions of the council of ministers he presides appoint the prime minister and, in an emergency, can take over the whole of the legislative and executive power and declare the dissolution of the National Assembly.
The president can even replace the prime minister if he so wishes , except when there is a so-called "cohabitation" in the government. This only occurs when the composition of the National Assembly is such that the president is forced to appoint a prime minister of a different political color from his own. After the elections of June 1, 1997, this situation arose when the neo-Gullist president Chirac ruled the country together with a cabinet and a Prime Minister Jospin, who were of leftist nature. The cooperation between Chirac and Jospin went pretty smoothly for the first four years.
The government, led by the prime minister, is proposed and appointed by the president. The government defines and implements the general policy of the country and is accountable to the National Assembly.

Text constitution of FranceText constitution of FrancePhoto: Erasoft24 CC 1.0 Generic no changes made

Legislative power is exercised by the parliament, which consists of two chambers. The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 577 members, 22 of which are from overseas departments and territories. The Assemblée is elected for five years through a district system. The senate is mainly elected by the members of the "conseils généraux", the departmental councils, and by the municipal councils.
The senate has much less powers than the Assemblée and has 321 members, of whom 12 representatives of the French abroad and 13 for the overseas departments and territories. Senate members are elected for nine years and the senate is renewed for a third every three years. The President of the Senate is the second highest office holder in the country after the President.
All French citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote and to be elected to the Assemblée must be at least 23 years of age and for the Senate 35 years. Women have only been entitled to vote since 1944.
Parliamentary and presidential elections take place in two rounds. If the candidate manages to obtain more than 50% of the vote in his constituency in the first round of the parliamentary elections, he is immediately elected. If he does not succeed, a second round follows in which a simple majority is sufficient. A precondition for the parliamentary elections is that the candidate has obtained at least 12.5% of the vote in the first round.
In the presidential election, only two candidates who obtained the most votes in the first round can participate in the second round round. The current political situation in France is described in the chapter history.

Administrative division

France Administrative DivisionFrance Administrative DivisionPhoto: Public domain

The French state has 22 regions, which are divided into 96 departments. The country also has: four overseas departments, the "Départements d'Outre-Mer" (DOM): French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion; three overseas territories, the 'Territoires d'Outre-Mer' (TOM): French Polynesian, the Wallis and Futuna-islands and New Caledonia; the two overseas 'collectivités territoriales' Mayotte and St-Pierre-en-Miquelon and some areas of the South Pole, "Les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF). The prefect is in charge of each region and department and is the representative of the government and of each individual minister.
The departments are divided into arrondissements (325), headed by a sous-prefet, the arrondissements are divided into cantons (3714), which in turn are divided into 36,433 municipalities. Approx. 90% of the municipalities have less than 2000 inhabitants.The arrondissements and cantons have only administrative significance.

The Ardèche is one of eight departments of the Rhône-Alpes region. In France, all departments are alphabetically numbered and the Ardèche has been assigned number 07.

The current area of the Ardèche roughly corresponds to the province of Vivarais of the French Revolution. The Ardèche exists from the three arro ndissements Largentière, Privas and Tournon-sur-Rhône. The three arrondissements of the Ardèche consist of 33 cantons, which in turn comprise a total of 339 municipalities. The capital or prefecture of the Ardèche department is Privas, Tournon-sur-Rhône and Largentière are sub-prefectures.

Cantons of the Ardèche

Le CheylardTournon-sur-Rhône
Les VansLargentière
La Voulte-sur-RhônePrivas

Overview cantons department ArdècheOverview cantons department ArdèchePhoto: Public domain


Market ArdècheMarket ArdèchePhoto: Jean-louis Zimmermann CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the western part of the Ardèche people still live mainly from forestry and livestock farming. Fruit growing (and the related canning industry) is of great importance, because about 8% of the population still works in this branch of the economy. The main fruit products are peaches and apricots, but cherries, apples, plums, kiwis, berries and guyot pears also generate considerable income. The wild blueberry cultivation, good for about 400 tons per year, takes place on the acidic soil of the high plateau in the Ardèche. The slopes of the Eyrieux valley, from Beauchastel to Saint-Sauveur-en-Montagut, are the peach country of France. This valley has the near perfect conditions in terms of soil and climate for growing peaches. In recent decades, the number of growers has fallen sharply and other types of fruit are also being grown.
South of Les Vans there are large olive groves and one of the two (olive) oil mills from the Ardèche are still in operation. Fruit and vegetables are canned in Annonay, Privas, Aubenas and Viviers.

The traditional silk production of the 19th century has disappeared, but a few textile factories have remained. Other branches of industry that can be found are paper manufacture, shoes, pharmaceutical factories and the automotive industry. With 220,000 ha of forests, the Ardèche is still one of the most wooded areas in all of France. The wood exploitation of the pine forests of the Haut-Vivarais is a source of income. The town of Aubenas is the economic heart of the Ardèche.

The Ardèche is still one of the most forested areas in France The Ardèche is still one of the most forested areas in FrancePhoto: Patrice78500 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Livestock farming and its products are still an important source of income for the Ardèche. Besides cows, goats and sheep are especially important for the Ardèche. The Ardèche has one of the largest goats in France and is what produce goat cheese, including the 'caillédoux' from Saint-Félicien, the number één of France. Although sheep farming is struggling, there are still many flocks of sheep around in the Ardèche. As far as cheese is concerned, the Ardèche is distinguished by the picodon made from full-fat goat's milk and the coucouron and coudoulet made from cow's milk.

Important for the economy is viticulture and especially tourism. Most of the vineyards are located to the east of the Ardèche, and the most famous are those of Saint-Péray, Saint-Joseph, Côtes du Vivarais and Cornas. Special is the wine, 'Poire Williams', which is made from the sweet, yellow pear in the valley of the Rhône.

Three bottles of Cotes du Vivarais, ArdecheThree bottles of Cotes du Vivarais, ArdechePhoto: PRA CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Chestnut culture was at its peak at the end of the 19th century with more than 60,000 hectares of chestnut trees, also known as 'bread trees'. At the moment, less than 10,0000 ha of that area is left, and only half of it is still used for (sweet) chestnut cultivation. As far as France is concerned, the Ardèche produces about half of the total French production, the Ardèche is still in the first place with a production of between 4000 and 5000 tonnes, but many companies source the basic product from countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Chestnuts can be processed into jam, pie, purée, ragout, soup, liqueur (center is Saint-Désirat), beer (Vals-les-Bains) and as the pinnacle of delicacy the met flavored sugar syrup candied chestnut and the chestnut puree 'créme de marrons'. The capital of the Ardèche, Privas, is also known as the capital of the candied chestnuts or 'marrons glacés', in particular of the well-known brand Cléent Faugier (since 1885). In the valley of the Glueyre there are more than 300 ha of chestnut forestsand the Parc Naturel Régional des Monts d'Ardèche is also entirely devoted to the sweet chestnut. The village of Saint-Pierreville is also a center for chestnut cultivation, with chestnut trees as far as the eye can see.

Ardeche chestnutsArdeche chestnutsPhoto: Randomduck CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the 17th century, the Ardèche and the Cevennes were the largest silk producer in Europe. From the once flourishing production of silk cocoons (sériciculture) and worked silk thread, however, only the twisting of silk thread through twines or 'moulinages' remains in the Ardèche, where two or more silk threads are twisted together. In the 19th century, the village of Largentière, from the 10th to the 15th century a silver mine (in fact silver-containing lead) was exploited here, long the largest silk producer in the Ardèche.
The Haut- Vivarais was the cradle of the French paper industry in the 17th century and in 1777 Etienne de Montgolfier, son of the renowned paper producer in the Ardèche, Pierre Montgolfier (1700-1793), managed to produce the first sheets of paper without annoying irregularities. to produce. More than 1000 people are currently employed in the paper sector.

Tourism is playing an increasingly important role. The low countries play a leading role, more than 70 percent of foreign guests come from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Logo of the l'Agence de Développement Touristique de l'ArdècheLogo of the l'Agence de Développement Touristique de l'ArdèchePhoto: Public domain

Furthermore, many people still find work in craft trades and in the arts and crafts. Pottery in particular is still a tradition that is kept alive in the Ardèche, with the centers of Saint-Dé sirat, Saint-Laurent-du-Pape, Salavas and Toulaud.
Most jewelry made in France brands such as Oslo, Nina Ricci and Kenzo come from artists who have settled on the Boutères massif, between the towns of Le Cheylard, which is also economically driven by textile production, and Saint-Martin-de-Valamas.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Ardeche RiverArdeche RiverPhoto: Patrice78500 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Ardèche is best known for its wild and unspoilt nature, a varied landscape overgrown with Mediterranean vegetation and chestnut forests, in short, a true hiking paradise, but mountain bikers also get their money's worth. As much as one third of the surface of the Ardèche is covered with forests. Kayakers and canoes are mainly drawn to the famous 'Gorge d'Ardèche', a hundreds of meters deep and about 31 km long gorge with jagged rock formations, through which the Ardèche winds its way. The center of kayak and canoe tourism is the town of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc and especially the last stretch of the Ardèche river is ideal for kayaking and canoe trips.
Amazing is the Pont d'Arc, a natural, approx. 34 meters high and 59 meters wide rock arch over the river Ardèche, and close by are caves with prehistoric petroglyphs, the most famous of which is Aven d'Orgnac (surface 3 ha and columns up to 50 meters high) and also Aven de la Forestière, Aven Marzal, the Grotte de la Madeleine and one of the most beautiful and largest cave systems in Europe, the Grottes de Saint-Marcel.

Pont d'Arc ArdèchePont d'Arc ArdèchePhoto: W.Bulach CC 4.0 International no changes made

Don't go to the sparsely populated Ardèche for urban beauty and entertainment, as there are no big cities, but medieval villages like Les Vans, Largentière and Balazuc and tourist towns like Ruoms and Aubenas are well worth a visit.
Beach lovers can also visit the Ardèche, along the banks of the Ardèche River there are numerous romantic pebbles and sandy beaches. Along rivers such as the Auzon, the Ligne, the Chassezac, the Beaume and the Eyrieux, in countless places you imagine yourself to be the owner of a private beach. The disadvantage is that in autumn and at the beginning of spring the beaches disappear under water during high tide.

Although the ski areas are much smaller than in the Alps, in winter in the west from the Ardèche, between the Croix de Bauzon and the Plateau de Lalouvesc, winter sports can be enjoyed to the full. Cross-country skiing is excellent on the western high plateaus Bèage, Coux, Bois de Cuzes, Suc du Pal and the Domaine de Ski de Fond.

Annonay takes place every year the first week of June the 'Fete des Montgolfières' site, an event celebrating the invention of the hot air balloon by the brothers Joseph Michel and Jacques Étienne Montgolfier. On June 4, 1783, the first unmanned hot air 'balloon' took off at Annonay. The first manned flight took place on October 15 of the same year.

Statue of the Montgolfier brothers in Annonay, Ardèche Statue of the Montgolfier brothers in Annonay, ArdèchePhoto: Jacques Forêt CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

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Ardèche, Drôme
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BBC - Country Profiles

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Forst, Bettina
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Graaf, Gjelt de / Auvergne, Ardèche

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Last updated December 2021
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