Tag Archive: Books


Notre Dame

We were in Paris, so of course we had to visit Notre Dame. Thanks to Disney, my sister and I had a number of songs to sing about the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The front of Notre Dame is actually rather plain, the two towers hide the back of the tower making the church look smaller than it really is. It was the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame while we were visiting, so there was some sort of exhibit in front of the church, plus some bleachers for people to sit on and admire the architecture.
Front of ND

We climbed the left side of the tower first. The entire tour takes you up through the left tower across the small bridge and then up again to the very top of the right tower. From there we were allowed to walk around the small tower and see the city from various angles. The only disappointing thing was that the bells were being worked on, so we had no luck seeing them.

The steps up to the lookout.

The steps were worn down by so many feet that they were more like bowls that steps.

Stairs up to ND

The back of Notre Dame.

From the top of ND

The famous gargoyles of Notre Dame.

The church is said to be one of the better examples of Gothic architecture both in France and in Europe as a whole. I’ve seen a lot of churches on this trip, and I have to admit that these were probably some of the most beautiful and creepy gargoyles I’ve seen. Each and every one was different in shape and character. Some were just sitting looking over the city, while others held smaller creatures in their hands and enjoying a meal.

Gargoyles

Over Paris

After descending the right tower, we visited the inside of the church, which really put into perspective just how huge the cathedral really was. Once we exited the church we headed towards the back and it took on a completely different look. I actually like the back of Notre Dame the most. It has huge arches that shoot out from the main building and form into sturdy pillars, making the building look like a creature, ready to lift its massive body from the earth.

From the Back of Notre Dame.

A typical street in Paris.

The streets of Paris are just plain dirty. There are unpleasant things all over the streets and sidewalks, but despite this I felt like Paris streets had a certain charm and character that I hadn’t yet found in any other European city. There was always a small restaurant to stop at on every corner and the buildings were smashed together creating small alleys, each of which seemed to hold its own special secret.

Paris Streets

I was told by a friend that I needed to visit a bookstore not too far from Notre Dame. After not much searching at all, we arrived at Shakespeare & Company. It is a very unassuming shop, just off the main street and somewhat hidden behind a wall, but despite this it was my favorite place in Paris. True, I was born to love books, but even one who reads only one book a year would appreciate the charm of S&C.

Even before entering the store you have travel through thick curtains to see inside. As I pushed them aside, I felt like I was entering another world. The rooms of the store hardly fit together. It was almost a game to try to discover all the different nooks and crannies the store was hiding. Books covered the ceiling from top to bottom, they were piled on tables and overflowing in customer’s arms (especially mine).

S & C

The first floor of the building is a store, while the second floor is a living space, but also holds a number of books not for sale. There was a small living space, a cubby for writing, a small nook for reading and a bedroom with a piano. Basically, I want to this place as my home.

WIndow Seat

A small cubby filled with notes and a simple red typewriter.

Writing Corner

Typewriter

After buying the store out, we headed back to the apartment as the sun set. Every hour after the sun sets, the Eiffel Tower puts on a light show and sparkles in the sky. We were barely able to catch the show and ended up watching the beautiful sight from the side of the tower.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

Orange Sky

Under the Tower at Night

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We went to the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or Austrian National Library one day for class. This is the library that resides in one section of the Hofburg Palace. Part of it is very old and only used as a museum of sorts, but the rest is used by people in Vienna for their research.

It was like a library from out of my dreams, with shelves full of books going all the way to the ceiling, spiral staircases and secret rooms full of even more books!

The National Library was built in the Baroque style and by Charles VI, the last Habsburg man and father of Maria Theresa. He created a rule called the Pragmatic Sanction that allowed Maria Theresa to take his place, because he could not produce any male heirs. After his death the Habsburgs become Habsburg-Lorraine.

The bookshelves were so high that ladders are needed to reach the top.

The books are so old that the pages have turned dark brown. Everything is hand printed and many of them have beautiful illustrations with the boldest colors I’ve ever seen. We were lucky enough to have our professor there who knew one of the tour guides personally, so we got to see some of the books close up. The covers are also made out of wood.

There were secret rooms all throughout the library. They are not actually supposed to hide anything though.The room was built in an oval shape, but the building itself is square so they had extra nooks to fill in.

The ceiling at the entrance to the library.

The domed ceiling of the central part of the library.

A statue of Charles VI, which stands in the middle of the library.

After we looked around the old library our guide took us underneath the Hofburg to reach the new section of the library. I felt very official walking through all the secret underground tunnels and using the non-public elevator.

We walked by the ventilation system for the library, which is underneath a garden.

The never ending archive room.

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I have two ten-page papers due at the end of my semester. One of them is about the Turkish sieges on Vienna, but the other one is on Art Nouveau and specifically the Art Nouveau movement in Vienna. Since I’m right in the middle of one of the most artistic cities in Europe it was easy for me to simply walk outside and do my research through sightseeing.

The Art Nouveau movement in Vienna was specifically called the Secession, because a group of artists left the Künstlerhaus. They believed it was too restricting. In this group was Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich and most famous of all Gustav Klimt. Later Otto Wagner would join the movement a little later, but he was also a large player in the movement. 

The first place I visited was the Karlsplatz station, which was built by Otto Wagner. He is responsible for a lot of different buildings in Vienna and he also worked on the Ringstraße.

Karlsplatz is one of the larger U-Bahn stations in Vienna. This particular exit is not used too often, but it is really beautiful and probably the most artistic of the Karlsplatz stations. Its name comes from the Karlskirche (Charles Church), which is only about two minutes from here.

Gold, nature and swirling patterns some basic themes in Art Nouveau.

This actually looks like the front, but it is the back of the station. No one can exit through these doors from the U-Bahn.

Detail on the station.

One of the doors. I love the attention to detail. Its simple yet beautiful.

Next I headed over the the Secession building, which was built by Joseph Maria Olbrich. At one point in his life Olbrich worked under Wagner and many of his buildings are similar to Wagner’s own work. Olbrich built the Secession building specifically so that the artists had a place to exhibit their work. Today it still hosts exhibits and has one of Gustav Klimt’s famous works, the Beethoven Frieze.

The Secession building.

Many people hated it when it was first build, because of the golden ball on top. They called it a cabbage or a furnace. Personally, I think it looks cool on its own, but I was surprised by it the first time I saw it, because it doesn’t look like anything else in the area.

Olbrich built this building as a “temple to art” so the entrance is very ceremonial, but inside the building is completely white and plain. This was because the Secessionists believed in functionality over form.

The three heads over the doorway. They are the three Gorgons, representing painting, architecture and sculpture, which are the arts that the Secessionists mastered in.

Above the Gorgons are the words of the Secessionist’s motto, Der Zeit Ihre Kunst, Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit.

To Every Age Its Art, To Art Its Freedom

The side of the building.

Owls on the side of the Secession.