Burden of Ages
A tale about the city
Evening young man if you’re looking for a table I’m alone, you can sit with me if you wish. No, I’m not uncomfortable sharing my table with a serf, please sit down and grant me the pleasure of having company during the dinner.
It’s natural that you haven’t seen me before, I travel with the caravan that stopped to repair one of the wagon’s axle. Keeper, cheese, lamb and wine for both of us. Please don’t go, I insist that you partake of the food, I’d be very rude of me leaving you with barely a cabbage soup when you’ve been so gentle to join me. Enjoy with me and let’s chat over our meal.
Where do we come from? I came from Buda in a caravan that returned there after trading in the walled city of Oppidum, I stayed in there for a few days and then joined the caravan that’s outside of this tavern.
Do not worry, few people have listened about Oppidum, indeed the last time I passed by it was less than a small village, just like this one. Do you want to hear a little more about that city?
Au contraire, it’s a pleasure to talk about the places I’ve been through. Oppidum is a walled city that would pass unnoticed to any voyager wealthy enough to travel in horse of fast carriage; however anyone on foot or traveling with a merchant’s caravan will see the upper part of the walls shining with the last rays of the sun before dusk. Well, that would be leaving from here to Buda at midday.
Truth been told the city doesn’t have a lot of history, originally there was only a roman fortress destroyed centuries ago by the Huns; but in the past century someone truly brilliant chose it to establish a port and began the reconstruction of the city. Now beyond the harbor there’s also the usual church and they’re finishing a castle in the highest hill inside the walls, from where you can watch all the surrounding lands, including the road that goes outside the northeast-southeast wall, the harbor to the south of the city, and the fields on the other sides, with the astonishing mountains in the north.
The walls are only 10m high, 2m wide and with turrets each 200m, all the wall is surrounded by a moat of at most 3m wide; the wall facing the road is less than 2Km long, with a total perimeter of 8Km tops. It has five entrances for wagons: The most used is Via Miranesse in the southwest corner, Via Zelarino is to the west, Via Favaro to the east, and finally Via Ca’Rossa at north and Corso del Poppolo are the entrances to a road that crosses the entire city.
Well, the perimeter can be long to explain, let’s say that you’d need to walk at mid pace for three hours in order to surround the entire city. I see that you liked the wine, please take another sip.
Anyone could go inside the city? I’m not that sure, caravans can freely enter and exit the city in order to trade and use any of the harbor facilities, but I suppose any faithful person would be allowed through the gates, otherwise, there are two inns outside the walls and close to the deepest part of the dock. Beyond those inns and a little farther to the south you can find many camps of undesirables, pagans and gypsies, which are frequently patrolled by the guard in the day.
Beyond the walls? Well the city is separated into four districts by a river that runs northwest to southeast and is divided in two branches by a hill close to the wall; those two branches briefly meet in the center of the city before separating again. A few small warehouses are in the southwest district, near the south-southwest part of the wall that’s closer to the dock; in that wall you can also find two small pedestrian entrances that allow easy access to the harbor. Wealthy residents and merchants are located in the northeast district, where some nobles have big houses, just in case they need to extra protection of the walls; the garrison is located in the western part of that district.
The last two districts are enclosed by the river’s branches: The one in the west has the castle and keep surrounded by some woods and atop the highest hill; the church of St. Lawrence and the guild’s houses are separated of this hill by the Baroness gardens. In the meeting point of the rivers you’ll find the market, always crowded with local and foreign merchant’s selling their goods. In the last district, east of the market there’s a miniature forest very loved by the Baron (some people says is bewitched, buy don’t say it out loud). Beyond that forest lays the private state of a wealthy Venetian merchant family, whom are also the owners of the largest warehouses in the area, they even have their very own private dock.
As you’d expect from any merchant they’d try to extract up to your last ducat, if their presence is eerie pay no attention, they would respect any deal to the last consequence, and don’t repeat this, but it looks like they deal with forces forbidden for any good Christian. Rumors say they were the ones that sponsored the Baron to wall the city and part of the deal is a tax free dock for them.
What comes to the harbor? You’ll see cheese, wine, vinegar, salt and grain from many places, arriving to the southern warehouses. Now that you ask I realize that you see a lot of products from far away lands, and a mixture of strange languages, dare I say even heretic languages. Speaking of wine, do you want a little more?
Knights? No, I didn’t see knights, the city has its own guard and is a pretty safe place, walls are watched day and night, and the guard patrols constantly during the day. At night you’ll see small patrols focusing on the warehouse district in order to deter any theft attempt, and trying to maintain order.
Does it belong to the empire? Well as far as I know the Baron is ideologically promiscuous and he prefers to avoid conflict with any self-appointed regent, in fact there’s a joke inside the walls that any invading force only has to deliver its flag to the closest guardsmen, whom will proceed to fly it atop the castle itself, without any bloodshed, later the Baron will submit tribute to that force. BUT, woe to those who try to ransack the city, because they’d have to face the guard that includes the finest mercenaries from around the world… besides, I’d always thought that there couldn’t be anything holy in the yoke of an empire, so I find it extremely insulting that of the Holy Roman Empire.
Please don’t look at me like that, it was just a little voyager’s humor, now I’ve noticed that you’re quite a beast for the booze, please I insist that you enjoy a little more.
Landscapes? Well inside the walls there’re some towers open to anyone, so besides the view from those places you’d only see the walls and the majestic mountains, of course frequent travelers can request to the guilds a special pass for egress and ingress and enjoy the outside view to later enter freely to the city, in fact I believe that the monks of a nearby monastery have been granted to such passes.
The houses in southwestern Oppidum aren’t exactly charming, simple two stories houses made of wood, some with business or workshops in the first floor and living quarters in the second. The streets close to the center are very regular and dare I say spacious, but the closest to the wall the more twisted the streets become. The only buildings that break the norm are the church, the garrison and the guild houses that are made of stone, and listen to this, those merchants that own the warehouses their manor is built with pure marble.
The northeast houses, well I was happily allowed to enter that district through the Via Giardino bridge, maybe that was because I was wearing my fine garments for as I understand the guard only allows the wealthiest persons to cross that bridge; serfs, servants and visitors have to cross through the Via Revolta bridge. The streets in that district are regular and wide, you can also see houses made of stone, of even THREE FLOORS, the wealthiest manors even have sculptures and marble entrances, I even remember two or three beautiful houses inside iron gates, and believe it or not with fountains like those of the greatest cities. I’m surprised with your resistance to liquor, bestow me the honor of pouring you a little more.
A fountain is a sculpture that pours fresh water, think of it like a spring surrounded by marble statues. The city doesn’t have the classic bucket well but a series of fountains dispersed inside the walls, so the people could drink directly from them, it’s surprisingly fresh water taken from the highest part of the mountain by virtue of a roman aqueduct. Of course it pales if you compare it with mighty Constantinople, but Oppdium has a quaint provincial charm.
Yes I have visited Constantinople and its marvels would take more than a night of conversation and you my good friend are drunk enough to remain standing a little longer. Come, let’s exit this place and allow me to carry you to your house.
AH!!! It’s a wonderful and refreshing night, no, don’t apologize my friend for drinking all the wine and consumed all the cheese and meat, the least I can do for you is giving a joyous time and feed you well, besides, you’ll need that to recover what I’ll take from your neck.