Once upon a time. There are also fairy tale beginnings in one’s own little life, but at some Point, these beautiful stories come to an end, and something else has begun. Then a village became the capital of the Crozon peninsula. In Breton, Gourenez Kraozon. With about seven thousand inhabitants, including all farms and towns around.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was sent to her emigrated uncle in Boulogne-sur-mer. He had a little barbershop by the harbor. He had survived the Nazis. First in Berlin, then in France. He lived carefree, poor and sloppy in his shop and the two rooms. Bed and kitchen. He needed more, but that’s all he wanted. He liked sitting in front of his shop in the evening, smoking and telling me stories. From a world that no longer existed and from a world that did not yet exist. At that time Boulogne was a small and very manageable harbor town. He told me nothing about Brittany and the end of the world, Finistère, not even about the two heraldic animals: The lion and the silver sheep, but he said, look at your plate and eat, but also look over the edge of your plate. Said it and scooped my plate full of fish heads.

In the second semester break in the summer of 1967, I drove with an old Citröen 2CV from Münster to the end of the world. To the big beach behind the village of Crozon. Pest de Kerloch. I had never seen such rocks in the sea before. Unforgotten forms at low tide and high tide, vistas and caves. I stayed for two months. Learned to pick mussels. Tourteaux, crabs, to catch and cook. To eat. I collected tellines, clams, on the beach. I jumped over the rocks, dived, collected sea urchins. But I traded them. I only did the cutting of living sea urchins in half and the scouring out of them once under the strict supervision of a fisherman. Which also showed me how to catch crabs and sea spiders. The joy of all who went out at low tide and took care of their food shared from tent to tent, cooked, filled the shimmering air above the sea and dunes with little cries of happiness.

At that time Crozon was a village with a market square around which the shops were lined up on three sides: a grocery store, a bakery and a pastry shop with the most exquisite cakes and always fresh eclairs. Filled with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or pudding. A pharmacy, a shop for newspapers and cigarettes, a fish shop, a butcher who ran back and forth with a bloody apron between the counter in the shop and the cold store and fulfilled the wishes for lamb ribs, a faux filet. Freshly cut. When he whistled his way in a good mood, he also added a small entrecote. Asking for two, receiving three. A shop for pots, ceramics, and a postcard stand in front of the door. On the fourth side stood the church. Next to it is the house with the Mairie. Two stately townhouses from bygone times completed the square. In the side streets, there were still shops for flowers, fabrics, pottery. And a hairdresser.

At the corner to the thoroughfare stood a beautiful house with a pub. A few steps down into a dark space. Away from sunlight and the hustle and bustle of the market. There was an elderly lady behind a high old wooden counter. Besides bottled beer, cider and calvados from barrels, plum brandy was served in tiny, finely curved glasses. Prune. His scent ran through the whole pub, which was apparently between heaven and earth. Where people drank and sang. The stately landlady made sure that everyone behaved properly. She was the queen in her dark blue dress, her apron tied in front of it. She sang, served, rebuked, bought, collected. In her kingdom, the afternoon could pass. Everyone was full, everyone drank in small sips. Prune. Lucky me. Crozon.

Twice a week there was a market. A stand with oysters, sardines, sea spiders. Stands with honey, baked in the oven with loaves of bread. With sausages. Stuff and stuff. Clothes and shoes. I could shop with very few francs. The market people all ate in the same restaurant and then sat with the Queen of the Intermediate Kingdom. With plum brandy and calvados. It went loud. That’s funny. There were just as many tourists that the mixture was right. The locals were in charge, and the tourists bought what they needed for camping out in the big bay. They’re all French. Just a handful of Englishmen and Germans.

There were two restaurants in Crozon. One on the road to Camaret. Palm trees and banana trees stood around the house. Lotte was offered on the menu. But they didn’t have that many francs. So back to the market place and down an alley leading to the other street from the village. The other restaurant was hardly recognizable for strangers. No map. There sat the market traders, the families, half the town and many people who had pitched their tents outside on the beach. Many Parisians in August. The menu cost seven francs. You’re lucky. Radishes with salt butter and bread. A large slice of a Pâté de champagne with cucumbers. With a little luck, there was half a Tourteaux to choose from. A big one. I collected the little ones from the rocks. Then french fries and on the market days a small entrecote. Or an andouillette, a faux filet, a lamb chop. Tripe. A quail. Then ice cream or crème brûlée. Half a liter of wine was free. Water from the carafe too.

For many years I drove to the end of the world. Not alone anymore. Camping in the bay for two months. Tourism increased, prices climbed. For the oysters, for the plum brandy. Also in the restaurant, sometimes there was the menu for ten francs, then for eleven, twelve. Then it was over. The small farmhouses became holiday homes. In the port villages of Morgat and Camaret, promenades were built. A lot of tourists came to the end of the world. The bay has become a natural reserve. No one allowed to camp in the vast dunes. Camping sites established. Snack cars from left to right. Prices have been climbing. Some stores closed. The little restaurant locked forever. The markets are catering to the tourists. The Parisians bought land, built houses. No one collected mussels anymore. The villages and farming communities been declared community. Crozon is the capital of the peninsula, the canton of Crozon. Chataulin arrondissement.

The locals are making their way. By the new regulations, by the tourist flows from so many countries. The Parisians are still coming in August. But everything’s different now. Who wants radish with salt butter and bread as a starter, half a Tourteau? Simple accommodation. Sitting all afternoon in an intermediate realm near Calvados and plum brandy, forgetting the role you play in life. Noteworthy are the sights, drinking cider and eating crêpes. And a seafood plate. Or 12 oysters. Crozon and also the fishing port Camaret, both places, are only villages in winter, but without the life that once existed. They bravely fight their way through the new times and customs.

The last tent was torn apart by a four-day raging Mistral in the Camargue, in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, bending the poles. A village then. Today nobody is allowed to camp on the coast, in the dunes. Everything is in order. Along a promenade. With awful food. If array continues like this, humanity will soon experience a climate catastrophe that it can no longer order, but we can afford an expensive plate of seafood for a while longer.

J. Monika Walther

J. Monika Walther comes from a Jewish Protestant Family. She grew up in Leipzig, Berlin and on Lake Constance. The one and only thing she wanted to do in life is: write. She lived and wrote in Spain, Portugal, and Israel, among other places. She is also the Founder of two publishing houses, Frauenpolitik and tende (together with Annette V. Uhlending). Monika writes radio plays, audiobooks, stories and novels such as Sperlingssommer, Am Weltenrand and thrillers such as Himmel und Erde, Goldbroiler or the Description of a Battle, Das schöne Dorf (2017).
Since 1966 Monika has lived in Münsterland, Westphalia, Germany and the Netherlands. She is happy with her adopted home and her family. For forty years. (Photo: Barbara Dietl)
J. Monika Walther