On the west French coast, in picturesque bay which connects the province Normandy and Bretagne there is a strange small island Mount Saint-Michel.
Couple of hundreds of meters away from the shore and connected with it with a firmly made causeway is the thing by which it reminds a lot on Sveti Stefan. To tell the truth it lacks sunny beaches and transparent green blue color of the sea, but in other aspects, and especially by natural phenomena, it is a first class tourist attraction equal to the most famous monuments in Paris.
This, actually, is not an island in the real sense of that word. When I visited it there was no sea around anywhere. The tourist in vain climbed up and with their handbreadth looked in the blurred horizon. The silent sea withdrew for more than 15 km and left behind a live sand mass. Saint-Michel is now an island in sand.
We came on it by bus, down the asphalt road over the causeway under the very bulwarks. But, the entrance was only possible through an improvised bridge for pedestrians below which cars and fishing barges were parked together. This strange picture will soon be changed.
Several families with permanent residence on the island take a good advantage of the invasion of tourists which with various intensity last all over the year. In one street on the island all doors are a bar, a shop of souvenirs, or some of the typical French restaurants with “four tables”. There are eight hotels and four mini museums compressed one next to the other. Beside the modern equipment everything depicts the ambience from medieval.
The biggest part of the island takes up the ancient monastery, a huge building that enlarges the island for two more natural heights. It dates from the VIII century and has been constantly additionally built and remodeled in order for it to be finally finished only in the XIX century. At the very peak of thin steel dome, which streaks the sky a gilded statue of archangel Michel with a sword pulled out which serves at the same time as thunder shield, has been placed. Since it was sheltered and well protected in this isolated fortification, with bulwarks all around, monastery has been spared from centurial destructions. Everything has been preserved in such a way that even an amateur can clearly notice the interchange of numerous styles through centuries, which does not disturb the harmony and unison of the entity.
Made as a fortress, whose grounds rise from the sea, monastery was not just a refuge of monk order. Many refugees have found a safe shelter in it, and during the French revolution it was turned into a jail for political convicts, who, as people here will precisely explain to you, shod here in frowzy casemate died here nibbled by rats!
Today the monastery is a historical monument. In one part it is an abbey of Benediction order with several monks. Once a year, on the day of Saint Michel, by whom the area got the name, a special solemn custom is being performed so many pilgrims come here, continuing the long routed tradition. Namely, the religious dogmatic have made, about the natural phenomena and the characteristics of the area, fame about the island as of a holy place, so the uninformed crowd has been arriving here for centuries to get redeemed for their sins in a best possible way. Everyone wanted to take a bit of that “holy” sand with them, so many people ignorant, wondering over it, died. Because the sand is “alive”, and the water for those uninformed can take you by surprise. No you can read numerous warnings that it is dangerous to get far from the island, because every year brings some tragedy to careless tourists.
Even though the tourist season is at the beginning, already here it is as in a beehive. A big group of students came to see the maximal tide in the year, because during the spring and fall equinox, about 21st of March and 23rd of September, during the fool moon, the ocean will change the level for more than 12 meters!
Before the sunset we all appeared on salient watchtowers. You can notice only the distant flocks of gulls who restlessly are expecting the sea to brig them in shallow waters a rich diner. The time went by, and people were restlessly moving with prepared cameras. One German states ironically that in France nothing happens in time, which goes for the sea too! Someone gave a warning and the laughter calmed down.
First you could hear a distant resonance, like before the storm, and soon a short curved line of water appeared, constantly changing the shape. Here comes the sea! A really strange statement, but here it is! It is coming close with the speed of a running horse, and you can clearly see the waves. Before it got dark completely we were surrounded with muddy foaming water. Truthfully captured with it, because the bridge was totally sunk, barges are now dancing on the sea, the cars which have “run away” on safe, are now unreachable for us. Water came to the gate. It is even climbing up the street! We are all surprised and with distrust we are clapping the water with our palms! Splash! Splash! Really! The sea has come! So twice a day forever.
We should wait for the midnight. Then everything will be as when we arrived. It is as if the sea is going in favor to hoteliers. Because where will we go now but in restaurants. That is a special charm, since French cuisine here is complemented with another specialty. Namely, inn the surrounding meadows, called Salt fields, the sheep stocks go out on pastures and their meat is very tasteful. The hosts will recommend it to you with a lot of superlatives, so you can hear that gourmands are spending their last days here, relaxing with the allures of earth table. With such comments and of course exquisite French wines it is not hard for us to wait for the moment of our “liberation”.
Walking over the bulwarks of the island under the stars on the sky we once again were listening to the hiss of the sea, which was now withdrawing slowly. That strange sea was going away somewhere, retracting inside itself, repeating its eternal game once again. And the shapes of the towers in the moonlight looked as monsters who came out from that sea, and who stretched there in shallow waters, and remained fossilized like that.