A beautiful day and a smooth flight from England across the channel with a great view of Jersey and all its trust structures, and a quick passage through French customs at Rennes.
In Rennes I discovered a new drink. Being presented with a list of unfamiliar beers I just kept it easy and selected the one called Leffe ‘Ruby’. It is a bit strange, from Belgium, and via the internet it seems that it is not distributed yet in Australia. When it first arrived it looked like a fizzy Ribena, but then it tastes more like beer that has had some juice added. I realise this description will make beer lovers feel a bit nauseous but it was strangely interesting, and not as sweet as it sounds. By the end of the glass I still had not decided what I thought of it, and so I ordered a second glass.
Mont St Michel. There are lots of great photos on the internet (I forgot my camera in the rush) but if you get onto Google Images there will be lots of professional shots and they would be the best ones to browse. It really is photograph worthy, and like something built for a mythical movie. Wikipedia will tell you the historical version, and if you google the folklore you will find out things that are naturally much more interesting.
Archangel Michael lives there, along with lots of seagulls. According to a local tale the AA tricked the devil into yielding up possession of the citadel, as well as the produce of surrounding farmlands, in a manner which you might think was not very forthright but I suppose if you are an AA that is ok??? Anyway now it belongs to the AA, and there is a huge winged statue of him hovering over the steeple at great height. It is very impressive.
Who knows what this place was really used for. Probably lots of different things over the years. But certainly as you drive in and see it hovering in the distance, like a mirage in misty salty air, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking into another world, into another time and place.
I am at Carnac now – in a little hotel near the sea. I know now why it was so cheap. It sits directly opposite a graveyard. A rather massive one. This was not properly declared on the website and I don’t remember seeing mention of it in any traveller reviews. I shall put it in mine, as some people may find it relevant to their decision making. I suppose there are graveyards everywhere but this one has me a little a bit unsettled. I am coping by working my way through a bottle of wine, and googling to find out about Carnac. I am going to wander over and see what I can see of the stones tomorrow, but meanwhile I have barricaded myself in my room and am whiling away the hours with some idle research. I am not terribly excited by this lot of stones, but it is a bucket list thing and I was in France anyway, so I am here. I am actually more excited by the wild coastlines and interesting smuggling history of this area.
So what do the stones mean. I scoffed to myself (and probably influenced by the location of my hotel) supposed that they are probably some sort of ancient graveyard, somewhat bigger than the one over the road. (Great … suddenly the creepy massive graveyard just got bigger in my imagination …).
Except. Check out some of the photos on the internet – the stones are too far apart to be headstones; unless it is a graveyard for giants, who happened to be nearly as wide as they are tall. I suppose if it was a civilization of giants, it might explain why they were able to move such massive stones in the first place.
But even after some wine I can’t convince myself of the giant’s graveyard theory. So what is it. Something about the stone placements is strangely reminiscent of an airport runway, you know how you see the airport runways accentuated with little rows of lights and markers so they are easily seen from above? But nothing except a very small craft could land at Carnac without colliding with the stones, and noone has yet found the remains of a megalithic aeroplane.
Maybe the area was once underwater, and the stones were used to tie up little boats or rafts, like a marina? But that does not explain all the dolmens scattered about, and the fact that excavations have shown that alot of the dolmens, at least, were quite surely burial sites. If this whole area was underwater then how could there have been underwater dolmen burials, and what would have been the point of them if so? If anything they would have been hazards for watercraft.
Local legend states that it was a Roman Legion, turned to stone by the wizard Merlin. I tried to comfort myself with that as being the most rational explanation – after all, stranger things happened in the bible, people getting turned into pillars of salt and what not – but again the theory fails. Look at the stones. That is not a Roman Legion. An opposing army could run rings around those stones and that was not the point of Roman battle formations. They stood closely side by side to form a formidable line, then they marched forward. That is how they won battles. These stones are not close enough to each other to be a Roan legion, so this is not the explanation either.
Which gets to one of the other theories – that it is a megalithic dancing ground and people danced ‘ring around a rosie’ round the stones. That would be fun – except that it is a monumental amount of effort just to make a dancing ground, and it goes for such a long distance that the spectators would never be able to see the whole dance at once. A very inconvenient performance venue to say the least.
Someone has posed the theory that the stones and menhirs had something to do with predicting earthquakes and seismic shifts – which sounds plausible until you wonder about what would be the point as there is no high ground around here and so there is nowhere to run to – unless they all grabbed their kids and jumped into boats at the first threat of an earthquake – I suppose sitting on a boat might be the safest place to be.
A Scottish mathematician and astronomer, and his son, have calculated that the stones are ridiculously accurate in mapping not only sun and moon movements, but also movements of major stars, and constellations – and I will have to run with that as being the most plausible theory so far. It also coincides neatly with accepted theories of other sites like Stonehenge.
But something about the name keeps bugging me. “Carnac”. It is an odd sounding word which is not resonant with other words around here. There is a temple in Egypt called “Karnak”. It also has lots of strange rows of columns and would have been difficult to build; utilising heavy stones transported great distances (instead of local stones). I would love it if someone more intelligent did a comparison of the two sites to satisfy my curiosity!
Ha! Incroyable! I have just googled it and sure enough I am not the first genius to notice this. There is a book written about it which is very conveniently online. It is called Stars Stones and Scholar . It details megalithic sites worldwide including europe, china, japan and nazca lines in peru and they all seem to do the same thing, map out the heavens. Which makes me wonder about how much of history do we really know and how much do we just suppose – like the bit where we are apparently the most intelligent civilisation to walk this earth yet we struggle to figure out what these ancient civilisations were up to, and how they achieved it. Food for thought indeed.
Meanwhile I think tomorrow I will wander along the beach and dream up stories about pirates, and rum smugglers, and glamorous runaway Baronesses. I am missing the water’s edge and the sand between my toes, and the fresh salt air. I think alot of people come here, there are plenty of current model convertibles whizzing about, as well as camper vans etc. I get the impression that the Brittany coastline is very beautiful, and I might content myself with enjoying that.
Lots of love to you my friends
from this funny little place by the sea
8 August 2013, Carnac – France