The Palace of Versailles is one of the world’s most notable monument. Like the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China, this palace is ingratiated ubiquitously. I almost didn’t put this into my itinerary; at the end I visited the extensive land where Versailles sits on twice. You see, as a history enthusiast, I spent the first half of my life studying European history and continued in depth as I started my university career. Palace of Versailles remains a connotation of the pinnacle and downfall of aristocratic European culture. The seat of ancien regime, this place is one that is revisited a gazillion times by history students as we chart the history of modern Europe.
Upon reaching the now wealthy suburb of Paris, I am met with a serpentine queue that seems endless in its quest. I decide to spend my first visit renting a bicycle and cycling around the gardens instead. The wind, still cold and relentless from winter numbs my hands but the trees seem willing in whispering their age-old secrets to me. Round and round, I cycle in this maze. Many cyclists and joggers are seen on the paths – and even the white swans waddle playfully in the water with one another. In here, time seems to come to a standstill. One hears nothing but nature, and the occasional bleating of sheep (there’s a farm in there, yes). Removed from existential motorcars, arbitrary signage and wheezing of technological tools: Your entire energy is synced with your surroundings and this, in its most essential form is part of the Gardens of Versailles’ beauty.
On my second visit, I join the throng of visitors. After 45 minutes, I am finally in the palace and finally, I witness that grandeur that bespoke the palace. Ambling through corridor after corridor, my senses are assaulted by grandiloquent paintings on the ceilings and four-poster beds with silken drapes and canopy – yes the royalty of yesterdays lived beyond our wildest luxuriant imagination. This hunting lodge has come far and almost brought a nation to bankruptcy. The infamous(and untrue) phrase of “Let them eat cake” by Marie Antoinette keeps ringing in my head even as I enter the Hall of Mirrors. Built in the late 1600s, this hall is filled with mirrors and windows which gives off an airy and capacious illusion. Gold decorated the hall while marble walls and rich-wooden flooring sequestered this part of the building from the rest of the palace. To have Bismarck declared the German Empire after the defeat of French right in this very Hall of Mirrors must have been quite the national humiliation; no wonder they hated each other right up to WWII.
Regardless, this UNESCO site remains a magnificent byproduct of the ancient regime and a standing testimony of greatness despite the eroding time.