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Camargue - Among the bulls, wild horses and flamingos

Camargue, France, Cowboy with his cattle

Delta Biosphere Reserve, Regional Natural Park, a place of refuge for romantic dream and nature lovers, the Camargue miraculously survived until now, protected by tough laws and effective.

Seen from above, plane or helicopter, or even a simple map Camargue looks like a green triangle around, sat next to coastal marine area Languedoc-Roussillon in Provence, southern France. Also known as the Rhone delta, the Camargue delta is bordered by marshy islands appeared as an arms bordered by the Rhone and the Mediterranean.

About one third of the Camargue is covered by salt lakes or swamps; the largest lake in the region is famous salty Étang of Vaccarès.

Both declared National Park and Reserve in early 1972, the Camargue is a surface of 820 square kilometers, covering the better protected wetlands in Europe.

Today the Rhone Delta is considered, rightly, one of the largest and most vital ecosystems of the world.
In total, at present, Camargue covers over 140,000 hectares, spread over meadows, marshes, dunes, sand banks, and salty lakes.
The climate is extreme, from the hot days of summer, with 100% humidity in the air, to winter, in which cold mistral brings frost in the Alps on the salt fields in the Camargue.

To the north of Camargue, stretch the Great Plains farm in Provence, mainly cultivated with cereals, grape-vine, rice and lavender. Central and southern provide relatively wild land, characterized by saline ecosystem of the region.
Flora here is typical of southern France, the main species being wild lavender, tamarisk, ienuperii, irises and wild rosemary.

Salt lakes and lagoons are surrounded by sand dunes, which form is shaped by the winds. This salt is formed from a natural process: water evaporates under the action from the summer sun merciless, and all that remains are the huge natural salt from the Camargue. Today, the salt fields of Girard Saint are the largest in Europe, is spread over about 11,000 hectares. Their salt production amounts to about 1 million tons annually. During winter, some are flooded with sea water salty, but spring, with the increase in fresh waters of the Rhone, is transformed into swamps animated life.

Camargue famous marine pier was built in the nineteenth century in order to create a protective barrier to prevent flooding by marine waters of the delta. Has a length of 20 km, east of it is salt fields from the the Girard St. and west is bordered by sand dunes and groves of hazelnuts grown here to keep the sand layer. The dam has its own flora, plant species distinct from those found in fields and lagoons. It is also an important habitat for many species of terns, Tern, gulls, and Turn peaks.

Camargue forests cover small areas of land compared to the total extent of the reserve, but it plays, however, a very important role in local biotopes. We find along the Rhone and the dunes from the Vaccarès. Forests provide habitat for various species of mammals such as rodents, foxes, wild boars.

Camargue is a living whole, which changes constantly.
Annual floods and alluvial land changes the configuration, despite dam and forests.
The amount of sediment transported annually by Ron, is about 20 million cubic meters, the phenomenon leading in time to increase the reserve area.

Bulls

Camargue is the birthplace of a unique breed of cattle. Bulls - or, more accurately, the Camargue cattle - are tailored to the particular race living on these lands. I live in a state of semi-liberty, being raised mainly for their high quality meat, very popular with wealthy gourmets. There are even some original recipes based on beef from these animals, very popular with tourist’s recipes.

Taurus, resembles apparently of the famous bulls Corrida in Spain, but unlike them, their cousins in Camargue are smaller, have a slender and physically are not as aggressive.

Bulls are used in a form of 'local corrida', bloodless, in which the young brave called "razeteurs" must snatch a cockade caught between the horns of the animal. The more courageous and more temperamental bulls are not killed, as happens in the Hispanic world. In fact most appreciated have a special status among the locals. This kind of bull races dates to the region since the sixteenth century.

According to locals, there are currently three varieties among Camargue bulls:

- Bred bulls, living free and are used in so-called "course Provence" - show bull described above.
- Taurus mestizos - hybrid between those of the Camargue and Spanish, designed for "capeas" or "economic Corrida".
- Pure-breed bulls, Spanish and Protughez intended for bullfighting "classical" Spanish type.

Horses

As Camargue bulls, horses here, it is a race, truly unique and extremely interesting. These horses belong to one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, is closely related to prehistoric horses whose fossils were discovered in the south of France.

They are living in semi-freedom, with human help only into the most severe winters.

Invariably are born with hair brown to black, but with the age of 4 years, their color changes, all horses, regardless of sex, becoming white.

Just as the Camargue bulls are smaller in size compared to other breeds of cattle and horses here just reach more modest size than most breeds of horses. They are horses ridden by the cowboy, those caring the Camargue bulls ..

They are never kept in stables. The horses here are very vigorous and resistant, as well as able to withstand incredible swelter and humidity in summer as well as terribly cold winds of winter.

Are inseparable companions of reserve guards and one of the most important symbols of Camargue region.

A Provencal manade is an impressive sight; the word means a herd of cattle or a herd of Camargue horses that roam the marshy land, being under the vigil of a guard on horseback. But human intervention is reduced (annual checks of health, castration of male animals bookmarking). For a farmer can be called the owner of a manade (which is a kind of "brand" Camargue region-specific) conditions are required by law, including growth in semi-freedom, without feeding in winter - with other words, a minimal intervention by man.

Flamingii

Camargue is home to the largest concentration of flocks, the 'pink flamingos', which nest in Europe. Here come every spring, more than 20,000 flamingos, grouped in several flocks. Nesting in swamps, building their nests from mud hardened in the sun, so any increase in water level, not to drown the house. They are perfectly adapted to plankton consumption: filling their beaks with water rich in small bodies and with a filter with formations that line the sides of the tongue and beak. Much of the bodies which are plankton, which serves as food, are crustaceans, providing pigment that stains pink flamingo’s plumage.

Besides horses and bulls, flamingos is one of the symbols of the area, its image is found everywhere.

Other interesting creatures here include: beavers, badgers, many species of frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles and over 400 bird species nesting or staying here during migration.

History, tourism and, of course, food!

People have lived in the area, which circumscribe the Camargue since ancient times. In ancient times, Camargue, was an island dedicated to the Egyptian god of the sun, Ra. In fact, the village of Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer is located, near the ancient altar of Ra.
Later, the Romans exploited salt here, because, in the middle Ages, Benedictine monks and Cistercian, to have the monopoly of salt trade here. Today, in addition to salt mining and rice cultivation, tourism is the main source of income of the region: the Camargue is visited annually by over 1 million tourists.

People come here to see one of the last remaining relatively wild places in Western Europe. A special category and devoid of tourists, is formed by passionate ornithologists, who come here for one of the best places for "bird watching" in the world. The most important towns and villages have many specific sights, a typical Provencal architecture and an air of infinite holiday.
The largest is Arles, Saintes-Maries-followed by de-la-Mer and Aigues-Mortes.

Local cuisine is a subsidiary of Provencal cuisine, with some specialties, highly appreciated by gourmets. Roast beef and ouillade - stews of beef with spices of Provence, there are two ways to be really enjoyed. As well as gardiane, beef browned in olive oil and then cooked with black olives, garlic, artichokes, potatoes and smoked bacon. The result (delicious) is served with gasket rice from Camargue.
Very tasty are tellines, mussels cooked with onions, herbs and white wine or with persillade - mince the parsley and garlic.

This is the taste of Camargue!