For many, history is just a list of boring facts, boring dates and boring names. However when you look closely at history you learn about real people, just like us, who just lived in different times. They laughed and they cried the same way we do. For most living an ordinary life was enough, but, some had big dreams! Some wanted to decide the fate of the world order and some did just that! No date was set to be famous. Some events were planned, but most dates became famous “by accident”. The same applies to places. Did residents of Waterloo expect that theirs small village will become famous one day, thanks to Napoleon getting a whooping there? No, I don’t think so. When Louis XIII, charmed by the Versailles’ forests, ordered the construction of a modest residence there, he couldn’t know that someday this place would witness something extraordinary. He could not have known that the bloodiest war that world had ever seen would end in Versailles. For sure, he could not have known, that one day, in his small, hunting residency, one of the greatest empires would give away the last breath.
In Versailles the victorious Allied leaders signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I and unofficially planted the seeds for another war. The harsh terms of this treaty spurred German nationalism, which in turn gave Adolf Hitler a political platform. The Versailles meeting closed one chapter of history, but at the same time, opened a new one.
But we can’t blame the palace for that. The Versailles Palace itself is a special place. It started as a modest hunting lodge, and later was expanded into the world’s most famous palace, a model for all future European palaces. In 1662, Louis XIV, also known as The Sun King, distrusted the Parisians so much that he resolved to move the royal residence away from the Louvre Palace, which was at the heart of the political turbulence of that time. The palace which was created as a result of this “escape” is beyond beautiful. Everything looks, and is, overwhelmingly expensive.
The interior and exterior, are amazing. All the chambers are papered in the most beautiful wallpapers, decorated with gold. The red colours give a feeling of overpowering warmth, but the cold, marble, white staircases create the balance. The room where the new world order was estabilished is called “The Hall of Mirrors”. The main attribute of the hall is the seventeen mirrored arches that reflect the seventeen arcade windows. This hall is the biggest room in the Palace. There are enormous crystal chandeliers along the length of it. They are simply breathtaking. This place had to look breathtaking in 1919 as well, but I doubt, that then, anyone from people gathered here was looking how the walls and chandlers look like. People who were disputing about new european order had much more important things to focus on, than cute wallpapers and nice tiles on the floor. They focused on few signatures that sealed the world’s fate.
The history connected with this room felt overwhelming to me. There were many people when I visited and I really could not see the hall properly. But, this is how this hall looked like in 1919 also. In a place where now tourists trying to take the perfect photo, almost 100 years ago there were people waiting for the war to be over. They needed to see Germany’s signature on the treaty to believe that the warfare was over ! President Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister Lloyd George of Great Britain, and Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau of France ………..So much history in just one room!
The crowded hall is a bit of a crystal trap. That’s why it is so pleasant to look through its windows. The arcade windows of the hall overlook the magnificent Versailles Garden. The garden is equally as famous, as the palace. 100 hectares makes this place Europe’s largest palace garden. It is hard to imagine how large it is, until you need to walk it back and forth. The garden is laid out in a geometric pattern of paths, bushes, flowerbeds and trees. It can take an entire day to walk through it all, but you can rent a golf cart to explore. Several fountains adorn the garden’s basins. The most famous are the Latona Fountain and the Apollo Fountain, the Neptune Fountain. The fountains were installed to entertain the many guests invited to the parties organized by King Louis XIV. They didn’t entertain me as they were all shut down when I visited.
There are also some smaller palaces in the garden: the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. They were build because Versailles Palace didn’t give much privacy. King Louis XIV ordered the construction of the Grand Trianon, a palace almost as luxurious as the main palace where the king could escape the formalities of the court and arrange meetings with his mistress. His successor, king Louis XV later built the smaller Petit Trianon for the same reason.
If you plan to go to Versailles, you should consider spending the entire day. In 4-5 hours you will only have time to see the palace and the front gardens. There is so much to see here that even one day seems not enough. Take my words as a truth. You can spend the entire day just idly walking through the gardens and by the lake.
The spring is almost here. Tulips overtake the gardens. Sun rays warm up the walls of Versailles Palace. The Golden Gate to the palace shines from a distance. Could there be a better time to visit Versailles and end the cold winter?