We spent some time back in the stone age today, visiting the Alignments of Carnac, a collection of megalithic sites. More than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the Celts, and are the largest such collection in the world. The stones were erected at some stage during the Neolithic period, probably around 3300 BC, but some may be as old as 4500 BC. They are considered the first architectural efforts of man currently known in Europe.
This makes the site even older than Newgrange, the Irish passage grave which I consider one of the most fascinating places I have ever seen, at 3200 years BC, 1000 years older than Stonehenge. It’s modern compared to this site.
What was the purpose of these stones? The main site we saw has eleven converging rows of stones stretching for 3,822 by 328 feet. There are the obvious religious and astrological explanations, but my favorites are that Saint Cornelius, while being chased to the coast by a regiment of Roman soldiers, turned them all to stone. Or that our friend Merlin did the same thing. Take your choice, as we will probably never know the real story.
The best part of our Carnac visit was going to a barrow grave, the Tumulus of Kercado. Seeing a 6500 year-old burial site is one thing. But actually going into it with no one else around made it quite magical. We walked through a silent wood, past an ancient (relatively ancient) wall, and came to a clearing where one of the large stones known as menhir faced the opening of the tomb. Yes, electric light spoils the effect a bit, but does enable you to take in this engineering marvel.
Our next trek was to the Giant Menhir, which was tucked quite far back in the woods, standing quite tall and lonely. (Human figure added to indicate scale.) Magical.
We next took one of those tourist trains through the area, which includes the coastal town of La Trinité-sur-Mer, getting glimpses of the lovely bay that makes the town as sailing haven. Smelled wonderfully of the sea. We even saw people digging for cockles in the tidal pools. Now we really feel we are in Brittany.
Our stop for the evening is in the town of Vannes. How can there be so many lovely towns in this country with such gorgeous still-standing half-timbered houses leaning cozily against each other? It astounds us. Lunch was spectacular today too, featuring the bivalves that Don so adores. Another town we could quite get used to.