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The Venice of Belgium: Brugge &Ghent

I have never heard of Bruges  until I saw series of beautiful pictures on Facebook posted by my high school friend. I was planning the trip from Bergen, Norway to France at that time(August 2014).It looked like such a beautiful, cozy European medieval town.

Oh, actually, I had heard of Ghent at that time in Art History class in 2012 and the lecturer said Ghent altarpiece is one of the most famous altarpieces in the world and it has long history of losing its settled place. She also said that we should go to Ghent to see the altarpiece that the church in Ghent would hardly loan to other museums. At that time, I hardly imagined I would see the altarpiece in person but I made it ūüôā

For these reasons, I decided to visit both towns in one day. I also wanted to explore different parts of Belgium besides Brussels.

Bruges

Bruges(Brugge in Dutch) is a small town located in west of Belgium. You can go there from Brussels central station and it’s one hour away from Brussels by train.

Bruges has most of its¬†medieval¬†architecture intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The historic centre of Bruges has been a¬†UNESCO¬†World Heritage Site¬†since 2000. The history of this town goes back to the 9th century and it became one of the centers of trace since it’s the crossroad between northern Hanseatic League trade and the southern Hanseatic League trade from the 12th century to the 15th century.

brugge2brugge3

These pictures are the beginning part of old Bruges. It’s so picturesque that I couldn’t stop taking photos on the way.

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belfry

<Belfry>

<Markt(Market Square) in Brugge>

Belgium has been historically and culturally influenced by France and Netherlands but it has distinct architecture. Markt(Market Square) is at the core of Old Bruges and the bell tower(Belfry) is the signiture medieval architecture in the square. The belfry was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was attending as an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry.

 

canalcanal3canal2

<Canal>

Canal is the main reason why this town attracts many visitors. Although it’s not famous as canal in Venice, it has its tranquil and Flemish charm. It’s what makes Bruges beautiful. Bruges‚Äô loveliest places ooze even¬†more charm when you admire them¬†travelling by boat.

 

Ghent

Ghent is between Brussels and Bruges and it’s ¬†40 min drive from Brussels. While Bruges is more tranquil and touristy medieval town, Ghent is more vibrant, urban and less touristy city. I saw a lot of forums on the internet asking visiting either Bruges or Ghent and I personally recommend both for these different characteristics. And Ghent is also an university town so there are more young people relatively compared to Bruges.

There is a canal in Ghent as well but I think the canal in Bruges is more picturesque. Anyway, the main reason that I visited Ghent wasn’t for canal, it was for Ghent Altarpiece in St. Bavo’s Church.

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When I was at the core of the Old Ghent, there was a performance where people dressing in traditional Flemish outfits doing historic roleplaying.

 

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<Saint Bavo’s Cathedral>

Unlike dominant gray color in K√∂ln dom, this cathedral has bright color scheme with marbles.¬†The building is built on the site of the former Chapel of St. John the Baptist, a primarily wooden construction that was consecrated in 942 by¬†Transmarus,¬†Bishop of Tournai and Noyon. Traces of this original structure are evident in the cathedral’s crypt.The chapel was subsequently expanded in the¬†Romanesque¬†style in 1038. Some traces of this phase of expansion are still evident in the present day crypt. In the subsequent period from the 14th through 16th centuries, nearly continuous expansion projects in the¬†Gothic style were executed on the structure. A new¬†choir,¬†radiating chapels, expansions of the¬†transepts, a¬†chapter house,¬†nave¬†aisles and a single tower western section were all added during this period. Construction was considered complete June 7, 1569.

Entering this cathedral is free, but if you want to see Altarpiece, you have to pay around five Euro including audioguide(I highly recommend audioguide). I’m sure there must be some people complaining it doesn’t worths that money. But considering that it has been the most stolen artwork, that’s the way compensating its rough history.

It’s almost been destroyed in a fire, was nearly burned by rioting Calvinists, it’s been forged, pillaged, dismembered, censored, stolen by Napoleon, hunted in the first world war, sold by a renegade cleric, then stolen repeatedly during the second world war, before being rescued by¬†The Monuments Men, miners and a team of commando double-agents. The fact that it was the artwork the Nazis were most desperate to steal ‚Äď G√∂ring wanted it for his private collection,¬†Hitler¬†as the centrepiece of his citywide super-museum ‚Äď has only increased its renown.

(Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/dec/20/ghent-altarpiece-most-stolen-artwork-of-all-time)

 

 

ghent altarpiece

<Ghent Altarpiece-picture:Wikipedia>

Ghent Altarpiece is the most stolen artwork in the world since it was painted by The Eyck brothers in 1432. ¬†It doesn’t look gigantic in the picture, but it is really huge if you get to see it. I was completely overwhelmed by the size at first. ¬†I wonder how people managed to steal this enormous altarpiece(11ft x 15ft (3.5m x 4.6m)). It is also amusing how symmetrical the altarpiece is.

Later, with listening to audioguide, I was marveled how complex and sophisticated the story presented in the altarpiece.  Van Eyck brothers really tried hard to contain all the details of the story in the altarpiece.  My memory on the story has been diminished but it worths reading it if you are a big fan of medieval art works.

I visited Bruges and Ghent in a day but I would like to stay either city longer if I have next opportunity( I had to go to Paris on the next day).  I was in a rush so I felt I missed some nice other places to visit. So if you are reading this blog post, hope you have a chance to stay in those towns a little bit longer.

 

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[Book Review] One Hundread Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Rating:‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ

From my observation on Goodreads or other book page, this book has one of the most polarizing readers: the one who really hates this book, the other who really loves this book. I bought this book in a second hand book store quite a while ago but this was somehow intimidating to start reading. One day, I was spacing out while watching my books in the shelves. This book caught my eyes with all the green color and reminded me that I hardly touched this book.

‘Ok, Challenge accepted. Not sure if I can make it till the end of this book but I can try.”

After reading a few pages, I thought ‘oh gosh, it’s series of nonsense, ridiculous things’¬†. But some parts of me pressured me to keep reading this and eventually I ended up really like it weirdly although I was really struggling with names that I had to take a side trip to look at the genealogy of Buendia family.

I can literally feel new wrinkles spreading across the surface of my brain when I read this book by Marquez.. After reading three chapters, it starts making sense and that’s when you realize you’re probably crazy, too. And you are. We all are.

Plot and Comment

The story follows 100 years in the life of Macondo, a village founded by Jos√© Arcadio Buend√≠a and occupied by descendants all sporting variations on their progenitor’s name: his sons, Jos√© Arcadio and Aureliano, and grandsons, Aureliano Jos√©, Aureliano Segundo, and Jos√© Arcadio Segundo. Then there are the women–the two √örsulas, a handful of Remedios, Fernanda, and Pilar–who struggle to remain grounded even as their menfolk build castles in the air.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, Columbia in 1927. Influenced by his grandmother’s vivid story telling, Marquez decided at an early age that he wanted to be a writer. Upon completion of la Universidad de Cartagena, Marquez began his career as a reporter and soon began to write short stories. His earliest stories were published as early as the 1950s, yet in 1964 while living in Mexico City with his young family, he completed Solitude in a mere eighteen months. Finally published for the first time in 1967, Solitude sold millions of copies, establishing Marquez as a world renown writer, leading to his receiving the Nobel Prize in 1982.

Throughout the novel and the century of change to Macondo, all the Jose Arcadios were solitary individuals and inventors. Determined to decipher the gypsies secret to the universe, they holed themselves up in an alchemist’s lab, rarely seen by the outside world. The Aurelianos, on the other hand, were leaders of revolution. Colonel Aureliano Buendia started thirty two civil wars yet lost all of them. A relic who fathered seventeen sons of the same name and grew to become Macondo’s most respected citizen, his spirit of adventure and discovery repeated itself in the descendants who bore his name.

Women held the family together. First Ursula who lived to be 122 years old and then her daughter Amaranta, the women expanded the family home and raised successive generations so that new Jose Arcadios and Aurelianos would not repeat the mistakes of their namesakes. Yet the same mistakes and characteristics occur: rejected love, spirit of adventure, lone soles willing to live for one hundred years in solitary confinement. Additionally, the two characters who predicted all the events of the novel were not even members of the Buendia family: Pilar Ternera, a card reader who specialized in fates and could look at a Buendia to know his future; and Melquiades, a gypsy who befriended the original Jose Arcadio, leading all the successive generations to a life of solitude.

At first Marquez equates solitude with death. Later on he includes individuals happy to live out their days alone. In order to make a point of his examples of solitude, he interjects countless examples of magical realism: a man bleeding to death down a street, yellow butterflies announcing a man’s presence, a rain of epic proportions that would not end. With these and other countless examples throughout the text, Marquez created a magical realism genre that is still widely in use by Latino writers and others around the world today.

While used to the magical realism genre, Marquez usage and prose were a treat for me to read. Between the prose and magical realism and a memorable story for the ages, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epic, genre changing, extraordinary novel. Authors of the last fifty years can credit Marquez’ influence in their own work. I feel privileged to have finally read this saga deserving of its numerous awards and top ratings that eventually lead Marquez to earn a Nobel Prize. One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel for the ages, meriting 5 wonderful stars.

[Art] Nick Knight Photography

Seoul is growing as one of the culture hubs in Asia so there are more fascinating art&photo exhibitions nowadays. There are several art museums I always visit whenever I visit back to Korea and Daelim Museum is definitely one of them.

daelim

Daelim museum is located at the heart of Seoul near Kyungbok-Gung(Gung means palace) and it’s one of the best museums if you like modern photography& fashion arts. In the museum, you can see a lot of fashionable, artsy and young Koreans. When I visited the museum in January with my sister who studies fashion design, there was Nick Knight exhibition going on. As a person who used to have more interest in fashion and fashion photographies(I’m still interested in but not as much as when I was in high school), Nick Knight is an idol in fashion photography world. Like Steven Meisel.

Then Who is Nick Knight?

 

<Nick Knight, OBE>

Nick Knight¬†OBE¬†(born 1958) is a British¬†fashion photographer¬†and founder and director of SHOWstudio.com. ¬†As a fashion photographer, he has consistently challenged conventional notions of beauty and is f√™ted for his groundbreaking creative collaborations with leading designers including Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen. Advertising campaigns for the most prestigious clients such as Christian Dior, Lanc√īme, Swarovski, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein or Yves Saint Laurent as well as award-winning editorial for W, British Vogue, Paris Vogue, Dazed & Confused, Another, Another Man and i-D magazines have consistently kept Knight at the vanguard of progressive image-making for the past three decades. He has directed award winning music videos for Bjork, Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

 

<Skinhead>

According to what I heard from the museum, Nick Knight started his photographer career from his early 20s in 1982. In 1980s, skinhead was not representing racists movement. Rather, it originated from working class youths in London. Nick Knight was attracted to these rebellious skinhead culture and it became his early inspiration.

skinhead3skinhead2skinhead

 

<Portrait>

 

 

kate moss

If you are at least a little interested in fashion, you all know Kate Moss. And this picture changed black and white.

 

eedaniel

<Daniel Day Lewis,1986>

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lady gaga

<Lady Gaga>-We all know lady gaga, right? Her hairs in the picture looks like more charcoal drawing.

yoji

<Naomi Campbell in Yohji Yamamoto by Nick Knight, 1986.>-I didn’t even know she was Naomi Campbell. I think it’s amazing how Nick Knight has a talent to make the photography looks more paintings.

smoke

<Susie Smoking>

This one is absolutely my favorite that my phonescreen background has been this one for over 7 months. The light green background and purple outfit goes seamlessly in this picture. By not showing her eyes, it makes her more mysterious like Naomi Campbell picture.

 

 

 

<Art>

 

Although Nick Knight has a reputation as a “fashion photographer”, he does not want to limit himself as a “fahsion photographer.”

metal

Maybe modern and photographic version of Cubism?

 

kinetic

This one is one of the most original still life photos I’ve ever seen. Who would have thought melting the surface of the photo?

 

Sadly, this exhibition ended a few months a go. But if you have a chance to see his exhibition around you, don’t miss it! It’s ¬†a great opportunity to broad your horizon on your idea of photographies.

[Book Review] For One More Day by Mitch Albom

Rating:¬†‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ

I am usually kind of a person who goes with classic literature for reading fiction. Classic literatures,such as Anna Karerina ,Demian and Les Miserables, tend to give deeper and more philosophical messages or questions about human life (yeah, especially Dostoyevski’s books are big challenges to my brain that I mostly give up at the middle). ¬†But it does not mean that you should ¬†disdain reading simpler or more modern books. ¬†Sometimes reading simple books can be a nice breeze from complex classic literatures. In this sense, ‘For One More Day‘ was a great choice(special thanks to my mentor in my company for lending this book to me :)).

While it has quite a simple storyline, it motivated me to think about my past relationship with my parents which is a very important aspect for many people.  Mitch Albom certainly has a talent of delivering fundamental lessons in a simple and understandable way. Although some people might find his books are clichés, some of his books have been loved by many readers around the world.

Plot

For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

As a child, Charley “Chick” Benetto was told by his father, “You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both.” So he chooses his father, only to see the man disappear by divorce with his mother when Charley is on the verge of adolescence.
Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been crumbled by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits bottom after discovering his only daughter has shut him out of her wedding. And he decides to take his own life.
He makes a midnight ride to his small hometown, with plans to do himself in. But upon failing even to do that, he staggers back to his old house, only to make an astonishing discovery. His mother, who died eight years earlier, is still living there, and welcomes him home as if nothing ever happened..

What follows is the one “ordinary” day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Charley learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.

Comment

There are many in this world who would do anything to get just that one chance to make amends for their past misgivings. Yet very few get this golden opportunity while the majority is saddled with that nostalgic remorse and regret.

‚ÄúFor one more day‚ÄĚ takes one through a wistful journey which encounters a strange and enigmatic tryst with the ghost of the past. The story unfolds the main character Charley Benetto (Chick) whose life is in ruins. Being unwanted at his own daughter‚Äô wedding was the last straw of having lost everything and he is ready to give up his life. As he takes a midnight ride to his hometown, he encounters his dead mother much to his amazement and everything seemed as normal as ever.

Instances from his life are brought to light with a quick flashback through the book. Being with his mother for that one day makes him realize the lack of time he spent with her and how out of touch he had been with her. Yet she had managed to retain that special place in his heart and the close call was what brought her to him and his encounter with the other world. As this journey nears an end, his surprise knows no bounds as he unravels several loopholes and a shocking truth in the end. He also gets the second chance to convey his unexpressed explanation for a certain act of his, which to his surprise was known to her all long.

This book is intriguing and emphasizes beautifully on a mother-son relationship. It makes one reflective and also makes ones eyes go moist and choke with emotion. The few words quoted in the book as the character‚Äôs father tells him ‚Äúmama‚Äôs boy or daddy‚Äôs boy chick? What‚Äôs it gonna be?‚ÄĚ As he recalls this statement in the end, he is made to realize by his mother that ‚Äúa child should never have to choose.‚ÄĚ

Many may dispute this as being just another ghost story. Yet there are times that we draw parallels and examples from our lost loved ones that make it seem as though they were never gone. They retain their omnipresence in our memories. There are some individuals to whom we postpone our visits; taking them for granted only to realize that one fine day they are no longer there. And then we grieve at our actions for having said something that had hurt them or not having spent quality time with them when they were alive. This thought continues to haunt us till eternity.

This book teaches one to never take anything or anyone for granted. Life‚Äôs uncertainty is such that we may never get another chance. So why not take the one life hands out and utilize it to the maximum as the saying goes,‚ÄĚ If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.‚ÄĚ One should ensure this ‚Äėlemonade‚Äô remains sweet instead of letting it turn sour.

After finishing this book, I called up to my parents right away ¬†ūüôā

Stumptown, Portland trip

I really felt I need a rest at that moment. You know, sometimes you just feel so stuck in the same place forever that you would really wanna go out. I was thinking of going Canada since I’ve never been to Canada and I heard a lot that foods in Quebec are great. Unluckily, it was kind of out of my budget so I tried to find the alternative. Then, I googled the US map and tried to see which states I haven’t been to.

I have some friends here who have experience living in Oregon and all of them mentioned at least once how beautiful Oregon is. And I’ve never been to Oregon. Eventually, I went to trip to Portland from May 25th to May 28th. It was a short break but certainly refreshing and energizing.

Portland Downtown

 

 

 

On the first day, I had a little bit of jetlag coming from central time zone. It was a dinner time where I came from while it wasn’t in Portland. Before visiting Portland as an avid fan of “Parts Unknown”, I wanted to visit the very famous thai restaurant in the US starting from Portland, Pok Pok. In one episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain visited Northern Thailand with his chef buddy, Andy Ricker who loves to go to Chiang Mai area often and eat street food there. I was quite hooked by the food they had in the episode and wanted to visit Chiang Mai (or this restaurant if I can’t visit Thailand in near future). Since it’s a very well known Thai restaurant among food lovers, I imagined the restaurant would be upscale located in fancy downtown area. However, it was quite opposite. The ambience of the restaurant is quite approachable and the restaurant is actually located in relatively residential area. Waiters/waitresses seem pretty chill like most locals in Portland. I forgot the name of the food that I ordered, but I remember it was steamed pork with fat and southeast asian curry sauce. The portion is smaller than I expected but I fully enjoyed the taste and flavor of the food. The ginger really went well with the curry flavor. After eating a dish in that popular place, I headed to downtown Portland.

So, here is the map of Portland. The west side of the river is Portland Downtown while the east side of the river is more residential area. Pok Pok was on the division streeet which is south east part of city of Portland and Powell bookstore is at the heart of the downtown.

Powell's books

powell

<Powell Bookstore>

As a reader, visiting famous bookstores is one of the top things to do on the list whenever I’m traveling. In that sense, I was really happy to visit Shakespeare &Company during the second visit to Paris. And Portland has this,Powell’s books: the biggest independently owned bookstore. The bookstore was crowded with people with different age groups but many of them were eager to chat about what they read or what books they like in the bookstore regardless of age. Inside of the bookstore is like a maze but books are categorized and organized in a great way. The genre that the bookstore has was really diverse. ¬†Even there were some computers helping customers to locate books they are looking for. I was happy to see some books that are hard to get around my area. It is not as pretty and vintage as Shakespeare & Company but I would be content with living near the bookstore that has almost every books in the world. I got ‘The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro and “Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell as souvenirs.

On every Saturday in Portland, Saturday market near the riverside is a big event. Saturday market is a vibrant spot with lots of people who are searching for street food or handmaid items like any other farmer’s market in US cities. People say that you will get full with food after getting diverse kinds of street food in the market.

 

chinesemooncakelan su

< Lansu Chinese Garden>

As Portland is very green city, there are a couple of popular gardens in Portland. This one is Lansu Garden and it’s located along Old Chinatown. It used to be a boring parking lot but artisans from Suzhou transformed the parking lot into beautiful Chinese Garden as Suzhou and Portland become sister cities in 1988. Since then, it became one of the most beloved places in Portland. I went to Portland in late May and it happened to be “Asian Heritage month”. Luckily, there were a couple of Asian cultural performances. The performance that I watched is Japanese traditional music performance. ¬†It was quite different from Western classical music. Unlike Western music, the Japanese traditional music has few notes but this lack of notes made the audience focus solely on the tempo and rhythm of the music. There were audiences from various backgrounds but many of them enjoy the music.

roserose garden

washigt

 

 

Portland downtown is a pretty compact so it is easy to look around. On the west part of Portland, there is Washington Park. It is a small mountain so it’s a great place to take a hike/walk and take a break from hustle and bustle in downtown(well, Portland downtown is not very busy,though). I have a friend who used to live in Portland for one year when she was a teenager and she highly recommended Rose Garden a year ago when I get to visit Portland. Unfortunately, roses didn’t bloom much yet but still it was beautiful walk on the way.

Outside of Portland

You can enjoy beautiful nature around Mt. Hood area driving one hour east from Portland downtown. I won’t cover too much about it but I would love share photos with you. When I went there, the weather was incredibly nice.

vista2vista

<Vista House and Colombia River Gorge>

 

latourell

<Latourell Falls>

multnomah

<Multnomah Falls>

 

horsetail

<Horsetail Falls>

[Book Review]Anna Karenina

Rating:¬†‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ

In the beginning, reading Anna Karenina can feel a little like visiting Paris for the first time. You’ve heard a lot about the place before you go. Much of what you see from the bus you recognize from pictures and movies and books. You can’t help but think of the great writers and artists who have been here before you. You expect to like it. You want to like it. But you don’t want to feel like you have to like it. You worry a little that you won’t. But after a few days, you settle in, and you feel the immensity of the place opening up all around you. You keep having this experience of turning a corner and finding something beautiful that you hadn’t been told to expect or catching sight of something familiar from a surprising angle. You start to trust the abundance of the place, and your anxieties that someone else will have eaten everything up before your arrival relax. (Maybe that simile reveals more about me than I’d like.)

Plot

The novel begins as Anna Karenina arrives in Moscow from Petersburg to help her brother and sister-in-law settle a domestic dispute. Members of Russia’s privileged class, “Dolly” Alexandrovna discovers that her husband “Stiva” Oblonsky has engaged in an affair with one of their maids. Affairs being a long unspoken of part of upper class life, Dolly desires to leave her husband along with their five children. Anna pleads with Dolly to reconcile, and the couple live a long, if not tenuous, marriage, overlooking each other’s glaring faults. While settling her brother’s marriage, Anna is reminded of her own unhappy marriage, setting the stage for a drama that lasts the duration of the novel.

Tolstoy sets the novel in eight parts and short chapters with three main story lines, allowing for his readers to move quickly through the plot. In addition to Stiva and Dolly, Tolstoy introduces in part one Dolly’s sister Kitty Shcherbatsky, a young woman of marriageable age who is forced to choose between Count Vronsky and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin. At a ball in Kitty’s honor, Vronsky is smitten with Anna, temporarily breaking Kitty’s heart. Even though Levin loves Kitty with his whole heart, Kitty refuses his offer in favor of Vronsky, and falls into a deep depression. Levin, seeing the one love of his life reject him, vows to never marry.

Anna becomes a fallen woman and rejects her husband in favor of Vronsky, fathering his child, leaving behind the son she loves. Even those closest to her, including family members, are appalled. Yet, Anna does not value her loved ones’ advice and chooses to live with Vronsky. Despite a comfortable, upper class life, Anna is in constant internal turmoil. Spurned by a society that clings to its institutions as marriage and the church, Anna chooses love yet isolation from all but Vronsky and their daughter. Her ex-husband is viewed as a strict adherent to the law, cold, and unsympathetic, and will not grant a divorce. Anna’s frustration and anxiety grew every day doubting Vronsky would have an affair with other ladies.

Comment

 

When it comes to talking about Anna Karerina, some people would ask “isn’t it Tolstoy novel about an aristocrat lady having an affair?” as if the book is more or less than a soap opera or chick lit in late 19th century. Well, it is universal that affair stories add some spices on storylines. Actually, the story between Anna and Vronsky(the affair partner of Anna Karerina) is more fractional than you would think.

There are three principle couples: Stiva and Dolly, Vronsky and Anna, and Levin and Kitty. Of course, the most widely known among them is Vronsky and Anna but we also need to pay attention to the two other couples. In fact, Tolstoy depicted Levin and Kitty is the most ideal couple and Levin himself is what Tolstoy thought of an ideal man should be. My favorite discovery was the three or four chapters devoted to, of all things, scythe mowing by Levin‚ÄĒchapters that become a celebratory meditation on physical labor. When I read those chapters, I felt temporarily cured of the need to have something ‚Äúhappen‚ÄĚ and became as absorbed in the reading as the mowers are absorbed in their work.

 The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of unconsciousness in which it seemed not his hands that swung the scythe, but the scythe mowing of itself, a body full of life and consciousness of its own, and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.

It’s not just lawn mowing that Tolstoy would like to describe but also Tolstoy shows that one needs to involve into the action regardless of the class. It’s the moment that Levin grows to be more mature human being and Kitty started to admire him. Levin and Kitty is ¬†developing their relationship in more mature way while the relationship between Anna and Vronsky ended tragically and the relationship between Stiva and Dolly ended up being stagnant.

His characters are unbelievably complex. The edition of this book that I read was over 900 pages, so he has some time to do it. His characters aren’t static, but neither are they in some kind of transition from A to B throughout the book. They are each inconsistent in strikingly real ways. They think things and then change their minds. They believe something and then lose faith in it. Their opinions of each other are always swirling. They attempt to act in ways that align with something they want, but they must revert back to who they are. But who a character is is a function of many things, some innate and some external and some whimsical and moody.

So all the characters seem too complex to be characters in a book. It’s as if no one could write a character that could be so contradictory and incoherent and still make them believable, so no one would try to write a character like Anna Karenina. But people are that complex, and they are incoherent and that’s what makes Tolstoy’s characters so real. Their understandings of each other and themselves are as incoherent as mine of those around me and myself.

One of the ways that Tolstoy achieves this is through incredible detail to non-verbal communication. He is always describing the characters movements, expressions, or postures in such a way that you subtly learn their thoughts.

He does an amazing job in the internal monologues the characters experience. You frequently hear a character reason with himself and reveal his thoughts or who he is to you in some way, and all the while you feel like you already knew that they felt that or were that. Even as the characters are inconsistent. There are times when he can describe actions that have major implications on the plot with blunt and simple words and it still felt rich because the characters are so full.

The book takes on love, marriage, adultery, faith, selfishness, death, desire/attraction, happiness. It also speaks interestingly on social classes or classism. He also addresses the clash between the pursuit of individual desires and social obligations/restraints. There is just so much to wrestle with here.

And you go through a myriad set of emotions and impressions of the characters as you read. At times you can love or hate or adore a character. You can be ashamed of or ashamed for or reviled by or anxious with or surprised by a character. And you feel this way about each of them at points. But it isn’t at all a roller coaster ride of emotion. It’s fluid and natural and makes sense.

A Day trip to Danish castles near Copenhagen

I had stayed in Copenhagen for three nights and four days so I wanted to explore outside of Copenhagen for one day. My friend ,who once stayed in Copenhagen for one moth, recommended me to visit Frederiksborg castle.

Since Denmark is still a country with monarchy, there are already a lot of castles in Copenhagen. One might wonder if there is a reason to visit another castles outside of Copenhagen. But I would like to say Kronborg castle and Frederiksborg castle have distinctive appeal.

When I traveled to Europe in 2014, I have a jetlag that I woke up around 5:30 am and went to bed around 10:00pm. Don’t get me wrong as an early bird. I’m not an early bird in usual. This early bird schedule makes me have more free time in day time. I also found Kronborg castle on the internet saying it’s a nice medieval castle to visit and it’s one hour from Copenhagen and from Hiler√łd(where Frederiksborg castle is). So I made my mind to go to both castles on the same day. Thanks to my new sleeping schedule, I was able to start the trip around 7:00am when Copenhagen is more peaceful.

Kronborg Castle

It was quite cloudy and windy morning. It was 16C but I felt it’s much colder even if I was wearing leather jacket, scarf and conventional denim jean. Yeah, when you are in Scandinavian country, you really appreciate genuinely when the weather is very nice. When I was in Oslo before Copenhagen, my Norwegian friend often said how lucky I am to visit Oslo when the weather is the nicest and the warmest in that year.

Anyway, I got a train to¬†Helsing√łr¬†where Kornborg castle is located. After one hour in the train, I got to¬†Helsing√łr ¬†and it was much windier than Copenhagen.¬†Helsing√łr is 45 km north of Copenhagen and Helsingborg(Sweden) is just across narrow channel. When the weather is sunny, you can actually see Sweden from Kronborg castle. Kronborg castle is the most famous tourist spot in that small city so it was very easy to navigate the way from the station to the castle.

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Sorry for the picture. The weather was so cloudy that it’s difficult to take fancy pictures. But as it’s famous for ¬†the setting of William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet,¬†this weather was even more matching with the¬†most famous Shakespeare’s tragedy. I wouldn’t be so surprised if I run into Hamlet’s father ghost in the castle at night in this weather. For some avid Shakespeareans, the castle also has Hamlet performance in the castle.

aerial

<Aerial view of Kronborg castle, from Wikipedia>

As you can see in the picture, Kronborg castle has a moat. If you see the moat in person, it’s pretty large. This castle was originally built as a fortress in 1420s so there were some unused cannons near the castle wall.¬†From 1574 to 1585 Frederick II (there are many Frederik-s among Danish Kings)¬†¬†had the medieval fortress rebuilt into a magnificent Renaissance castle, unique in its appearance and size throughout Europe.As a consequence of developments in the military technique of the era and the improved striking power of the artillery, it became clear that it was necessary to modernize the fortifications of Krogen. After the conclusion of the Northern Seven Years’ War in 1570, King Frederick II initiated an extension of the advanced bastions to relieve the medieval curtain wall. Later, the castle played a role as a tollgate for neighboring country passing this castle and it contributed to Danish wealth.¬†Around 1.8 million ships passed through the Sound during this period and all of them had to pay a toll at Kronborg Castle. Of course, this tollgate was cumbersome to neighboring countries and Sweden was angry about it.

During the Dano-Swedish War of 1658-60, Kronborg was besieged, attacked and conquered by a Swedish army.

kronborg2

Even though the weather is not so sunny, I was able to see Sweden from this castle.

 

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inside kronborg

<While traveling Denmark castles, you will see a lot of furnitures in the castle>

hall

<The ballroom. There are many paintings and tapestries describing Denmark-Sweden war. It used to be the largest ballroom in Northern Europe.>

 

Holder

This is the statue of Holger the Dane. According to a legend linked to Arthurian myth, a Danish king known as Holger the Dane, was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay. He returned to rescue France from danger, then traveled to Kronborg castle, where he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland. His beard has grown to extend along the ground. A statue of the sleeping Holger has been placed in the castle.

Near the statue of the holy Danish king, one woman dressing in Danish armor approached me and asked to kill any Swedish people nearby. Still, Denmark and Sweden have interesting rivalry relationship.

The castle is not too big so it took somewhere between 1-2 hour to look around.

 

across

<Saying goodbye to Kronborg castle>

 

Frederiksborg Castle 

Then, I took train from Helsing√łr to Hiler√łd to visit Frederiksborg castle. Now it started raining. I do like rain but it’s not a pleasurable moment when you are traveling. Frederiksborg is more known as a castle with beautiful exterior than Kronborg castle.

hilerod

On the way from Hiler√łd station to the castle, it was quite residential and there was even a street with some shopping malls. This scenery actually reminds me of the time when I had a day trip in Cambridge. Raining + this kind of street with some shopping malls.

entrance

After about 20 minutes walk, I finally got to the castle and indeed it was a beautiful red brick castle with a lot of delicate stone works. Actually, the castle has a nickname, “Scandinavian Versailles”. It was a royal residence during the reign of the King¬†Christian IV. The King¬†Christian IV used¬†this castle while his father Frederik¬†II built Kronborg castle and this one(you might have already guessed that from the name of this castle) .¬†Christian IV is known as “cultural king” so his name is frequently mentioned during the castles tour in Denmark with his dad’s name.

frederiksborg

This fountain is “Neptune Fountain”. Neptune is the god of sea and it symbolizes the Danish King.¬†It was created from 1620 to 1622 to stand on the castle’s forecourt symbolizing Denmark’s position as a leading Nordic power in the early 17th century. It is a reminiscence of the heyday when Denmark was the strongest country among its neighbors.

organchapel

The castle has a famous chapel and it was quite beautiful. The chapel takes big parts of the inside of the castle. It is the best preserved part of the Renaissance complex, having largely escaped damage in the 1859 fire.And look at the gorgeous organ! The organ is the oldest organ in Denmark. I really would love to listen to the sound from the organ music.

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Frederiksborg castle also has a beautiful garden. Of course, Versailles garden is much larger but this garden is also worth a visit.

 

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The castle is also next to the lake. This scenery with a lake has inspired many painters. It would have been great if I can see a sunset sitting along the lake in sunnier weather. Hopefully, if I happened to visit this place next time, I wish Denmark treat me with nicer weather. But it was a good idea to go outside Copenhagen and explore these castles.