Burcu Başar

Arles: The City of Van Gogh and Photography

You are probably familiar with the famous Dutch painter Van Gogh`s infamous story of cutting off his ear. Did you however know that the event took place in the city of Arles in Southern France? Van Gogh decides to leave the busy Paris behind and head down to Southern France, which he finds to be more colorful compared to Paris. The Southern town of Arles becomes his first stop during his move. It sadly in some way also becomes Van Gogh`s final stop. His first nervous breakdown leading him to cut his ear happens in Arles and subsequently Van Gogh leaves Arles to voluntarily move to a physiatric clinical in St. Remy de Provence, located now in a mere 30 minutes drive from Arles. Van Gogh dies within a year after he leaves St. Remy de Provence due to a reason not yet fully established – suicide or murder. Arles is today best known for Van Gogh and the stories associated with him. It however has another very important side for especially the photography lovers – les Rencontres d`Arles, one of the most important annual photography festivals in the World. During the festival, the town gets fully occupied by photography exhibits even including the churches. The exhibits held in the churches offer the most atmospheric environment regardless of the nature of the collection in display. Arles is easily reachable by train from Marseille Airport in an hour. My favorite time to visit Provence is during the festival time as this allows me to enjoy the photography festival by basing myself in Arles but also take daily trips to visit the other nearby picturesque Provence towns such as Avignon. I recommend that you tour the exhibits during morning slot before it gets crowded and then take a short train trip to Avignon in the afternoon. You are probably better off if you devote at least four days to Arles both to cover all the exhibits and tour the town.