For many years I wasn’t particularly interested in history. In fact I thought it was rather boring. No wonder, in school the most important thing to remember from history lessons seemed to be endless numbers and years: King number IV died in 1765 or that boring battle between Country A and Country B took place in June 1255. Whence this obsession with numbers?
And then, a couple of years ago, I met Marie Antoinette, queen of France, who shared the same interest as I do: eating pastries! And there you have it, and it’s so simple: behind all these anonymous names and years and numbers and battles you will find astounding stories about real people, with feelings and thoughts. Flesh and blood!
After I fell in love with Marie Antoinette I’ve read dozens of books about the Age of Enlightenment, in particular about France and Sweden. Did you know that Axel von Fersen, a Swedish statesman and soldier, had an affair with Marie Antoinette and that one of her children, Louis Charles, probably was the result of an “escapade” between Marie and Axel? Today infidelity is a big no-no, of course, but in the 18th century everyone was fooling around with… well… everyone and everything with at least two legs. Even kings and queens had “unofficial” lovers and mistresses. No wonder STDs were spred like birch pollen in the spring!
Anyway, one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited is the Palace and Park of Versailles, outside Paris, France. The Palace and Park of Versailles became a World’s heritage as early as 1979. Yes, that’s where Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Luis XVI, lived before they got their heads chopped off. The palace itself is a prime example of untold riches. Merely the Hall of Mirrors must have cost a fortune – and it’s such a beautiful room, well, at least in theory. As you can see in the picture below all you can see is tourists, hundreds of tourists!
Drink milk from Marie Antoinette’s breasts!
After you have wrestled your way through all these tourists I would recommend you to visit a place even more fascinating than the palace, about 10-15 minutes walk in the far end of the huge park: Marie Antoinette’s tiny nook farm house (okay, I’m sarcastic), the Petit Trianon, a place where Marie Antoinette spent many of her days with her friends. There she could play that she was a “poor” farmer, and live just exactly as any farmer… well, I don’t know, the Petit Trianon is actually a castle, though not as big as the palace, but big enough for a 200-child family. At the Petit Trainon, Marie Antoinette and here friends amused themselves by drinking milk from bowls shaped after Marie Antoinette’s breasts. Just like any farmer in France!
The picture below shows a typical room in an ordinary farm house like the Petit Trianon!
Link to Unesco’s website: Palace and Park of Versailles