Skooter reporting 09/27/12
Carnac: Best for ancient history
The three of us were belated at Lodge Kerisper in La Trinité-sur-Mer. We were amazed of the bedrooms because they feel like ships’ cabins, with blonde wood, porthole windows and blue-and white color schemes. Downstairs, there’s a lounge bar with deep leather sofas and coffee-table books to browse. Rubbing our hands we said in unison, “Perfect”.
Early in the morning, we met Véronique Martin, a local guide, she immediately brought us to a scenic and tranquil place. She walked steadily out across the grass and announces, “Welcome to one of the ancient world’s greatest construction projects!” It’s a foggy day, and a grey veil dangles over the land. Pines crackle gently in the breeze and droplets of dew flicker on the fields, reflecting watery sunlight sifting through the clouds.
We stared at the first of the Carnac stones as it appears from the mist: a way-post in the steely shadow that seems we traveled back into the past. France has plenty of prehistoric sites, but Carnac is in a confederacy of its own. Spread-out across the dune-land of southern Brittany, the site is on an inconceivable scale. It’s been compared with Stonehenge, the Parthenon and the Pyramids in architectural ambition, but regardless of the efforts of archaeologists and academics, its rationale remains a mystery.
This is what we observed and learned; the main alignments consist of more than 3,000 granite menhirs (an upright monumental stone) arranged in rows between 3300 BC and 1500 BC. Each of the blocks was carved at a local quarry and transported for miles, even though the lightest weighs in excess of three tons. The menhirs cover 40 hectares and stretch for four miles, making Carnac the largest prehistoric monument anywhere on Earth.
“There are many things we do know about Carnac,” explains Véronique, running her hand across one of the massive blocks, its surface infested in yellow lichen, its curves furrowed by centuries of rainfall. “We know where the builders quarried their stones. We have ideas about how they transported them, and some of the techniques they might have used to set them up straight. But the one thing we can’t answer is the most significant question of all – and that, of course, is why.”
Speculations about the monument’s function are as numerous as the stones themselves. Some thought the alignments honor important warriors or tribal chieftains. Others believe they mark out an astronomical clock or celestial calendar. One bizarre speculation even argues that they may have been a kind of seismic detector, used to predict earthquakes. The current accord is that the stones served a religious purpose, most likely related to the summer and winter solstices, and perhaps involving ritual sacrifice – but the truth is, no-one knows.
“Carnac is one of the great riddles of the ancient world,” the lovely local guide continues. “In many ways, we are so close to the people who built it, but in other ways they seem very distant to us. We know almost nothing for certain about their language, customs or spiritual beliefs – and we probably never will. It’s that mystery that makes this place so fascinating.” She turns and disappears into the ranks of stones, a ghostly figure gobbled up in a wall of silver fog.
After that ancient fascinating visit, we are back to the future and our belly begins to murmur. So we are looking for the best place where to eat. The ever accommodating Veronique led us to the Bistrot du Marin, at the port in La Trinité-sur- Mer, three miles east of Carnac. They serves Breton cuisine such as cotriade (fish stew) and mussels in cider.
To be continued…