There are museums and there is the Louvre

The French are not the best sandwich makers in the world. When I wrote this I was eating a somewhat stale baguette with cheese. That’s it, no slice of tomato or cucumber, not a single leave of lettuce. Just a few slices of emmental. And butter, I believe, beure.

But then I don’t suppose that one visits Paris to eat sandwiches. There’s far better food to be had and even if it was simple, I had a wonderful omelette for dinner last night. And a crepe for breakfast, which was lovely as well.

I didn’t come for the food, though. I came to visit the Louvre.

When I visited Paris the last time, which was also the first time, I came with my family. It was our last family trip before my brother and I started to take off without our parents. I was 18 and I had an obsession with the French Revolution.

My Mom gave me the newly acquired map of Paris and told me to show us around the city. For the better part of two and a half days I dragged us around the city, we managed to see every major sight, even went to Versailles.

But when we arrived at the Louvre, it was closed. It was a Monday. I still vividly remember. I was so disappointed. It’s not uncommon for museums to be closed on Mondays, but who remembers these things when you’re excitedly discover a city that you’ve been dreaming of?

We were leaving the next day so that was that.

I’ve been wanting to come back every since, but didn’t pursue the option while I still lived in Germany. Curiously it wouldn’t have occurred to me to just come over by myself. Then I travelled the globe and since I returned to Europe I was set to visit.

But as it is with most things, you either book the flight or train or you keep talking about it without ever going.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to see the Louvre, so I booked the train and in this approaching week, have been stupidly excited about it.

I wasn’t exactly excited about getting up at 5:45am on Saturday morning to go to St. Pancras to catch my train, I was, in fact, decidedly tired. Well, I got over it and when I arrived at Gare du Nord, I took the Metro to Cite, paid Notre Dame a quick visit, ran across Pont Neuf and almost without further distraction made it to the glass pyramid, the main entrance of the Louvre to stand in line.

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I was almost literally over the moon, went nuts with my camera and thought to myself that nobody should be this excited about going to a museum. Must be the geek in me, or is it the nerd?

After an initial orientation, I dropped my backpack off and visited almost the entire museum. One could quite easily spend an entire day at the museum. And still wouldn’t have seen all of it, if half. The building complex is gigantic. Due to part closures the wings aren’t exactly easily accessible either and I had to run up and down the stairs numerous times in order to move between wings.

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Needless to say that quite a number of muscles in my thighs are aching today that I seem to have forgotten exist. The lesson to be learned here is obviously that I need to climb stairs more often.

The building map that you can get for free gives you a number of highlights on each floor in each wing. I managed to see 90% of those highlights, only skipping those I truly wasn’t interested in.

I saw the Mona Lisa from afar. I had no inclination to wrestle with the masses in front of her, held back only by a feeble looking barrier. I got a sideways glance at her and moved on.

I couldn’t help thinking that it might not even be the original, if you believe the movies that is, which would then be kept in the vaults. I would’ve liked to see her closer up, not because of her fame, but for her creator, if it truly was the master himself, who painted her.

I spent four hours skipping around not just centuries of human art and history, but millennia. I wandered through the Egyptian collection, Greek sculptures, met Rembrandt, sighed over Caspar David Friedrich and marvelled at Jaques Louis David.

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And then there was the Louvre itself. The building complex is utterly remarkable. I posted some impressions of it over on Tumblr last night. I just loved wandering through the halls. When I used my camera, it was more to capture the architecture than get a photo of the Venus of Milo, though I did that, too.

Sufficient to say I need to go back.

If I lived in Paris, I would come here every other weekend, visit one part of the museum at a time in order to get to know all areas as well as they deserve to be known. In four hours I practically flew through the exhibition. I saw everything and nothing, only paused here and there when something in particular captured me.

But there is so much more to discover, so many things that will take your breath away.

The length and width, the breadth and depth of art that human kind is capable of is astonishing.

How this is true for the same species that causes so much willful destruction is utterly beyond me. Sadly, fewer men and women seem to create art than wage war. Or they do neither, instead look the other way, because war doesn’t bother them and art doesn’t inspire them.

Of course reality isn’t that black and white, but when you look at so much “white” everything else seems to be “black”.

What a curious species we are.

Anyway, next weekend I’m going to the British Museum, because it’s been too many years since I went and it’s quite the English counterpart of the Louvre. If I can’t go back to the Louvre anytime soon, I will at least appreciate what I have at my doorstep.

Originally published on the 21st October 2013

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