People in Nantes are used to seeing cryptic signs all over the city, such as “BZH = 44” or Gwenn ha Du. “BZH” is the abbreviation of “Breizh”, “Brittany” in Breton, and “44” is the department number of Loire-Atlantique, where Nantes is the prefecture. The Gwenn ha Du is the flag of Brittany—its name means “black and white” in Breton and it features eleven ermine spots (their number may vary) and nine stripes.

Nantes has a Celtic past but administratively speaking, the city is not currently part of Brittany, it belongs to the administrative région of Pays de la Loire. This offends many residents but the fight is pointless.

The French government considers Brittany part of France but Breton nationalism is still strong and some folks regularly wish for independence. The nationalist agenda include those seeking autonomy and less active participants who simply want to keep the culture alive.

We were walking past the new courthouse when we spotted a small gathering of people waving the Gwenn ha Du and playing traditional music. The police didn’t let them step inside the courthouse. I guess one of the nationalists was on trial for something and that the gathering showed up for support.

A passerby stopped and asked one of the Bretons: “What do you want?”

“Independence!” he replied. “Brittany shouldn’t be part of France,” he added.

“Do you really think it could ever happen?”

“No,” he shrugged. “But we are trying.”

The exchange made me smile. Fighting for a lost cause—and admitting it is a lost cause!—is so French!

Nationalist Sticker
Nationalist Sticker
Nationalist Sticker
Nationalist Sticker
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse
Small Protest in Front of the Courthouse

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7 Comments

  1. Klaus July 4, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Independence, eh? Strange, I’ve heard of a similar situation somewhere else, just east of Ontario ;).

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 4, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Really? Never heard of that! 😉

      Reply
    2. Holly Nelson July 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Ha, I can’t imagine what you mean!! It Is so French though and I love how much the French care about their causes!

      Reply
      1. Zhu July 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

        British too, though, I think.

        Reply
  2. Den Nation July 4, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I’ve been wondering something for ages: do people living in Nantes see themselves as Breton? I have asked the few people I know that come from the 44 department, but I haven’t really got a straight answer. What do you think? Do you consider yourself bretonne as much as the rennais would?

    I won’t lie – I don’t think that Nantes is part of Brittany and that people from there are Breton. Sure, there are historical links, but I think of things more of along the lines of wine – bretons drink beer (that is a generalisation of course) and Nantes is surrounded by vineyards. Also, I have this feeling that the whole cider/crêpes culture is less present in Nantes and the 44 than say in Normandy. For me Normandy has actually more in common with Brittany today than the Loire-Atlantique.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I have zero roots in Brittany so I have never felt close to the culture, although I kind of appreciate it now that I live in Canada. Some of my friends really feel Breton (and speak the language too!). I am not pro-independance at all but I think culturally-speaking, Nantes is in Brittany.

      Reply
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