Posted in Prose

How to Train Your Ron

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I saw this post a few days earlier and it made me realise that, yes I indeed assume that everyone has read Harry Potter. I have grown up reading Harry Potter, started reading when I was 6 actually, and I simply cannot picture not having read it. It is mind boggling. I am known for forcing it to my close friends and a couple months ago I gave one of my copies of the Philosopher’s Stone to my dear Ron, so that he can stay a Ron and not become a Cormac. He is a muggleborn (has only watched the movies and not read the books) and I constantly casually include Harry Potter in our daily conversation, so he is not totally clueless when it comes to the franchise. Still, it was pretty entertaining to witness his reactions.

The first thing I want to emphasise is that he has liked the book more than the movie-which is honestly not very surprising. Although the first movie is a loyal adaptation, almost to a fault, the audience cannot immerse in the story. For him, it was mainly because of the acting of the child stars. They are not terrible, but also not very convincing so the designated emotions do not reach us.

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You probably remember the “I’m a what” part quite clearly.

So reading the book enabled him to feel more. That is also natural, Rowling gives intricate details when it comes to her characters-and we find these details in other books as well. Hence the books feel more well put and consistent that way; like how we learn about the instance where James saves Snape’s life. At the end of the book when Dumbledore answers Harry’s questions, he casually gives a reason for Snape’s hatred for Harry’s father. My Ron thought that Dumbledore might be lying to Harry to give him a nice, Gryffindor-worth answer regarding his father to soothe him. And he is not wrong in his guess, Dumbledore is known for being a master manipulator. He also thought that Dumbledore might have let Harry face Quirrell and yet again he is not wrong. Dumbledore always let Harry test his strengths and weaknesses, to prepare him for his final task that he needs to face alone. He kind of confirms this to Harry as well in later books. Although Harry thinks that he does stuff due to his luck and external forces/help, he is good when it comes to practice simply because his instincts are good and he is able to develop them (and yes trouble always finds him). Thanks to his adventures he is quite adaptable and hence good at improvisation.

Harry’s adaptability is another thing my Ron focused on. He found it sort of weird of Harry to just accept the wizarding world without any problems. The thing here is that Harry had an awful childhood where he simply didn’t belong; nobody wanted to talk to him not to anger Dudley and he had ill fitting clothes and ill fitting rumours about him. So just like Hermione does, yet another outsider in his “normal” world, he accepts the wizarding world as his true reality; as belonging to it and refer time and time again to Hogwarts as his only home. Not only he is a wizard, pretty cool thing to learn when you are eleven, but he is also rich, famous and good at sports. And for once in his life he has a true friend. What is saddening about Harry is that in the Chamber of Secrets he visits the Burrow and surprised to find that the Weasleys like him. He is so not used to affection and love that he finds himself not worthy of genuine attention and affection.

Although Harry takes to the wizarding world quite easily, he does not let his muggle life go that easily. My Ron paid attention to the way Harry always seems to compare anything at Hogwarts with what he had at Dursleys. When he is at his first feats at Hogwarts, he thinks about the food back at Privet Drive and constantly think what would the Dursleys’ reaction be had they seen Harry’s money/friends/school. He lets go of this habit once he is comfortable in the wizarding world, but maintains it throughout the first book.

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Because he didn’t get to indulge in anything sweet at Privet Drice, he goes and buys everything. Oh, Harry…

He commented on the whole Snape-seemed-to-be-the-bad-guy-but-turned-out-okay. Rowling carefully chose the instances where Harry sees Quirrell outside the classroom and Snape is always there, somehow threatening him. It is quite a success (in his words) of Rowling to raise no doubts in the reader about Snape’s bad intents, hence it makes quite a good surprising element when we find out that it is Quirrel all along. He thought Snape a well developed character, but not a good person (honey he is just starting!) and thought that Rowling was a little bit easy on Snape, tried to make him seem like a hero. I wholeheartedly agree with him on that one. Rowling herself said that she saw Snape neither as a hero, nor as a villain. And by giving him a sad backstory (I am talking about the abusive muggle father bit, not Hogwarts) she sort of made up for his shortcomings, I.e. his power-abusive attitude towards his students: he picks on Harry the moment he sees him (“You see what you expect to see Severus”—Dumbledore), constantly ignores Hermione (don’t want to say because she is a Muggleborn, but yeah) and he is Neville’s biggest fear. She sort of gives Snape lovers (many of whom are movie watchers only, at least from what I have observed) something to work with to justify him. I have even met someone who said that Snape was faking it in front of others (and he didn’t mean to call Lily the m-word) so that the Death Eaters’d believe him. So, I am glad that we agree on Snape: an interesting character but a horrible person. And he asked the very question that I have been asking myself: why did Harry name his kid after him? Had Snape known, he would have turned in his grave.

In general, he seemed to have genuinely liked the book and will continue reading. He has carried the book with him, so that he could read once he got the chance. He found the plot detailed and well developed despite it being considered a children’s book. I am so glad he thinks that way, because as you know, after the Prisoner of Azkaban the plot line gets more complicated and the language more complex. He is speculating on things, although how can you speculate without any influence after seeing the movies at least? I am proud and glad though; he seems to agree with my opinions on almost everything (Snape being the first) and now he knows why I call him my Ron. I am pleased that he accepted I was right, I trained him well. 🙂 (No offence to Rons out there, but his life is easier when he listens to Hermione.)

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Posted in Prose

Beorn Is the Old Black

 

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Today, I’m gonna be taking you on an adventure through The Hobbit. This is my copy of the book and every image that I will be including in the post, is taken from this lovely illustrated version-which I highly recommend. Although I have a lot to say, I shall be focusing on one specific character, of whom I have not really thought about.

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“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” And whose story I have recently had the chance to read. I have to admit, I like it better than the trilogy. The Hobbit is full of fun adventures and some serious stuff in the end, but it is more sunny and enjoyable than the other three. Don’t get me wrong, the trilogy is amazing, but I sometimes find it a bit too dark for my taste. The narrator’s humorous tone here and stance to the whole thing as if he/she is a traditional story teller, a bard figure if you will, made it a light reading. When compared to the movie trilogy of the book, interestingly the book felt rushed. And the Battle of Five Armies was disappointingly short and quick. Also kudos to Peter Jackson for including the scene between Gandalf and the Necromancer the book casually mentions through Gandalf’s own account of things he has done after leaving Thorin & Co. That part of the movie was marvellous, but I will not even start ranting about the whole elf-dwarf love thingy.

As the book tells the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and puts him in the focus, some things are left to the reader’s imagination-like the escape of the dwarves from the goblins and the battle itself to name a few-and the other characters, including the dwarves even, did not really interest me when I first watched the movies. But when I started reading the book, one character stuck with me, who does not even get nearly enough book time, and that person is Beorn.

Why I focused on Beorn was because I had this class in my last semester in university called “Animal and Human at the Crossing of Literature and Philosophy ” and in that class we have read four novels and discussed the role and treatment of the animal. It was by far the most interesting elective that I had taken. And as per usual, we had to write a paper on a novel and discuss the animal in it. Naturally, I had chosen Harry Potter. I focused on the animagi (I like pluralising it in the proper Latin form) and the usage of animal body, more specifically Nagini. The concept of animagus has always fascinated me; having a connection to an animal so strongly that your soul and character reflects that. (Don’t forget that the patronus, the protector spell, also reflects the character of the person casting it—remember only McGonagall can save McGonagall!) So I started asking the basic questions: how does the transition work? Does the animagus have the human mind and consciousness whilst in animal form? How and where can we draw the line between the two?

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Peter Pettigrew as shorn in Pottermore.

What we know from the Potter universe is that the outer appearance of the animagus matches the animal he is. For example Peter Pettigrew’s “skin looked grubby, almost like Scabbers’s fur, and something of the rat lingered around his eyes” and Minerva McGonagall’s animagus form has markings around its eye in shape of her glasses and her patronus has the same markings as well. So appearance wise, the animagi resemble the animal. Manner and character wise this also apply. Sirius Black, with his black hair and “bark-like laugh” resemble the huge black dog that he turns into. His fieriness, loyalty and loving and trusting nature reflect the stereotypical dog characteristics as well. What is curious about Sirius is his manners.

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The cave scene in The Goblet of Fire from Pottermore

When he tags with Harry and the order when they escort the kids to King’s Cross, Sirius “snaps at pigeons and chases his own tail,” “scares a couple of cats” and acts like an over enthusiastic dog on a walk. Yet, he knows that he is Sirius and his godson is leaving him for the semester, so he “rears onto his hind legs and places his front paws on Harry’s shoulders” and Mrs Weasley admonishes him to “act more like a dog.” Even though his body is totally in animal form and he acts like an animal would, he still is Sirius inside. That was how he managed to escape Azkaban. Had he not have consciousness, he would not have survived the waters and wander purposelessly. That is not all; when he comes to Hogsmeade to be near Harry after his name was selected by the Goblet of Fire, he transforms into his animal form to hunt rats to survive in the cave. We can see that Sirius Black has mastered using his animal form and human consciousness in a complementary way (as did Peter Pettigrew, who stuck with the Weasleys in his rat form but watched out for any activity on Voldemort’s part), making him much stronger and superior to ordinary wizards. This superiority is also emphasised by his ability to communicate with “real” animals. He forms such a close relationship with Crookshanks, who trusts no one, he ends up helping Sirius.

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Beorn in his bear form, from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

This is why Beorn was the most interesting character for me. As it turns out he is the first animagus that we encounter in popular canonical fantasy literature. He is said to descend either from the bears who had lived in the Misty Mountains before the arrival of the giants, or from the men who had lived in the region before the arrival of the dragons or Orcs from the north—Gandalf believes the second to be true. Either way, Beorn lives alone in a wooden house between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood. He can also change his form at will, and I believe because of this he refuses to eat meat and use anything in his house that is animal related; he uses wooden utensils and everything. Just like Sirius Black, he has a special connection with the animals around him and also the nature. He has ponies, dogs and sheep as his companions who aid him in the house which is designed for them: the stools are made low so that they can use them. And just like the animagi from Harry Potter, his appearance has some resemblances to his animal form: he is a big hairy man and has a temper and one needs to be cautious when approaching him. He also likes to feed on honey. He is like a grizzly bear in that sense.

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Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin & Co at Beorn’s house, dining after finishing their story

Beorn prefers the company of animals to the other races, but he does not like goblins who disturbs the forest. So when he hears the peculiar story of Gandalf, welcomes them to his house. But he does not trust them. He leaves them in his house almost like prisoners, to go and find about whether they had truly slain the Great Goblin. Though he is fair and helpful, he does not trust people. That is why he follow the dwarves to the entrance of Mirkwood, to see if they’d let his ponies go. He uses his bear form to do this; to blend better with his surroundings and use a bear’s speed to his advantage.

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Beorn fighting a goblin in the battle

 

Again, like Sirius he has mastered the shape shifting and uses it to his advantage. He travels fast in his animal form and that is how he can make it in time to the Battle of Five Armies and in his animal form he is more fierce and magnificent. I don’t really know how he has heard about the battle and neither does Bilbo, but I believe that it was through his connection to the animals. He makes it to the battle to fight against the goblins specifically who are the common enemy, against which all the races unite.

 

Based just on these, Sirius Black reminded me of Beorn; his possible ancestor from a bigger and more complex book series, from a master author. I do not know whether J.K. Rowling had the idea of the animagus based on The Hobbit, as it is not really uncommon to see shapeshifters in literature, Beorn belongs to the most famous fantasy series ever. And the way this duality between the animal body and human consciousness is portrayed in the Harry Potter franchise seems like an improved version of Tolkien’s skin changer.

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Beorn with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Elvenking after the Battle of Five Armies, on their way back to their individual homes

 

Posted in Prose

The Tragical History of Draco, Prince of Slytherin

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Chapter: “The Lightning-Struck Tower” on old Pottermore.

To kill, or not to kill.. That is sort of the summary of Hamlet.. or The Half Blood Prince. Oh yeah, this is another post on Harry Potter and its resemblance to a more canonical work. This time, I take on William Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedy Hamlet.

As you may expect, I will not be writing about how Harry is like Hamlet; trying to avenge his murdered parents. No sir! This is about Draco Malfoy and the situation he was put in in the sixth book of the series. However, mind you, I will not be glorifying him nor justify his actions but merely comment on his terrible year.

Draco Malfoy was forced to join the Death Eaters simply because his father, who was in charge of retrieving the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries failed against bunch of teenagers. He was given this task of killing the greatest wizard of all times as a punishment to his whole family, to rectify his father’s mistakes-he was not supposed to succeed though, but that’s another story. You can guess now where I am going with this. Both Hamlet and Draco were forced into situations where they swore to avenge their fathers. Hamlet was quick to give his word to the ghost of his late father, but not so quick to act when he needed to, while Draco had no choice to take on the task set for him, quick to act but not really knowing what he was doing. When “my father will hear about this” card was taken away from Draco by Azkaban, he ended up being a scared, confused child who tried to do things way bigger than him. In his haste to complete the task, he put various people’s life in danger; as a consequence Katie Bell, Madam Rosmerta and Ron suffered. This also applies to Hamlet. Poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sent to their deaths and Polonius was killed by Hamlet, albeit unintentionally. Both of these characters lack a stable father figure in their lives and without any guidance they struggle to keep going and continue making mistakes.

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I found this fan art on deviantart, done by suwi.

While we were discussing Hamlet in class, my professor told us that Hamlet was a true intellectual, though he was ambitious and wanted the throne as well, and because of that the scheduled murder of his uncle bothered him. Had he been a chivalrous prince, he would have slain the king, taken the throne and ruled over his subjects and probably not ended up dying. Hence, the whole play is the gap between the moment Hamlet agrees to kill his uncle and he actually does. He struggles to close this gap; he is stuck between acting and not acting. And when he acts eventually, it was initiated by forces out of his control. This applies to Draco as well. When he choses to use the cursed necklace and the mead, he cannot control the outcome, although he does not intend to Ron gets poisoned and Katie gets cursed instead of Dumbledore. It is clear that his heart is not in it, yet he is under immense pressure, causing him to break down in front of Moaning Myrtle. He wants to do well, so that Voldemort does not kill him and his parents and he blames Dumbledore and Harry for the downfall of his father. Such a teenage angst he’s got going in this book. What I like about Draco here is that, up until this book he has been such a privileged pain in Harry’s ass, throwing racial slurs at people and bullying Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs left and right, but now he has shouldered responsibility for the first time and he has changed because of that. No more taunting Ron and being mean to Hermione, rather he focuses on saving his family. That is the only redeeming quality about the Malfoys: they love one another so much so that a teenager accepts to kill a man, and a mother lies to the darkest wizard of all times. And still, Draco cannot kill Dumbledore after he disarms him. The love for his family and the desire to prove himself to the Dark Lord so that his father’s misdeeds would be forgiven are not enough to turn him into a killer. Like Hamlet. No matter how the throne does not belong to the king and how his uncle betrayed his father, both through regicide and fratricide which are regarded almost as holy, Hamlet cannot find in himself to kill his uncle but to defer the ultimate encounter.

When the dreaded encounter comes for Draco, Dumbledore is calm and welcoming, like the third brother from Beetle the Bard’s tales. He has accepted his death long ago, but he tries to save Draco’s soul from ripping apart and fragmenting just because Voldemort wanted him and specifically his father to suffer. He tries to reason with Draco, to make him see that there is a way out. When he says “Draco, Draco, you are not a killer” Draco does not object to that. He answers with “How do you know?” He also knows that he is not a killer, be it from his cowardice or good heart. Dumbledore continues to emphasise this. “I am more defenceless than you can have dreamed of finding me, and still you have not acted…” That single sentence reminded me of Hamlet on its own and made me think of the situation Draco’s in. Yes, Draco cannot act until he must act. Had he been a more vicious person who really wants to join Voldemort he would have tortured or even killed Dumbledore. But Draco does not want that. After seeing Voldemort’s way of punishing his most loyal servants, aka his father, and living with him in the same house gave him a new perspective on things. Hence he does not really identify the trio when they are brought to the Manor by the snatches. He wants nothing to do with the man who forced him into his breakdown and punished his father with the worst thing he can do: by taking away his wand, both emasculating and muggling Lucius. With Half Blood Prince, Draco realises that what he thought he wanted to be did not really correspond to the image in his head.

Although what he has done cannot be excused, it is good to know that Draco realises that there is something rotten in the state of Voldemort’s reign. He could have acted against him, but he is a Slytherin and a Slytherin always thinks of his advantage first. He was in a limbo in term of acting, like late Hamlet, but he was also in limbo in terms of ideology. He thought purebloods to be above everyone, yet he found out that it was not the case. So he almost stayed neuter in the war; he only meddled when he thought that he could save his family.

Hamlet and Draco were both forced into fates that they did not really want by their fathers. Hamlet could not prevail, nor did Draco. While Hamlet paid the price with his life for audience’s sake, Draco’s image of his father and what he had been teaching him as the ultimate truth had been shaken and challenged, and that changed and broke Draco. In that way, he is the tragic hero of the sixth book, our very own Hamlet; the prince of Slytherin.

Posted in Prose

It’s S.P.E.W. NOT Spew!

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Hermione and Crookshanks at the entrance to the kitchens. Tickle the pear.!

‘What’s in the box?’ he asked, pointing at it.

‘Funny you should ask,’ said Hermione, with a nasty look at Ron. She took off the lid, and showed them the contents.

Inside were about fifty badges, all of different colours, but all bearing the same letters: S.P.E.W.

‘“Spew”?’ said Harry, picking up a badge and looking at it. ‘What’s this about?’

‘Not spew,’ said Hermione impatiently. ‘It’s S – P – E – W. Stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.’

‘Never heard of it,’ said Ron.

‘Well, of course you haven’t,’ said Hermione briskly, ‘I’ve only just started it.’

This little quote is from Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. From the book of the series where beasts and beings and their treatment, or rather mistreatment, get a little attention. One of the reasons why Hermione Granger is my favourite character is that she takes time to think of others. She was the one who helped Neville look for Trevor the moment she met him, she was the one who adopted the unloved and unwanted cat Crookshanks and the only reason Harry survived to finish off Voldemort was, again, her. So, it is no wonder it was Hermione who took the time to find more about the conditions of house elves. For those who don’t know, there are at least a hundred house elves working in Hogwarts, preparing the feast and cleaning the school-you didn’t think it was Filch who did the all cleaning, did you? They were brought by Helga Hufflepuff and although there is no information, it is suggested that they all sleep in the kitchen or somewhere nearby-close to the Hufflepuff common room. It feels weird to have Helga Hufflepuff, who is the nicest of the founders to allow such a huge amount of slaves in school. The problem with it is that people who grow up in the wizarding world tend to think that house elves like what they are doing and they are, in a way, meant to do chores. I am not talking about Malfoys or Blacks here who do not consider house elves as individuals and constantly abuse them, but regular good guys like Helga Hufflepuff and Ron Weasley. Ron does not question the situation the house elves are in and claims that they like working; until the Battle of Hogwarts, after they are put in almost the same conditions as house elves while they were on the run-plus Hermione’s consistent trials at educating him, Ron realises the problematic position elves are in. This kind of thinking is reinforced in their household, unfortunately. Mrs. Weasley is a traditional old-school house wife and she would like to have a house elf if they could afford to it, they are extremely expensive much like exotic pets and only the upper class can afford to have any. They accept magical beings as they have always been, the common social discourse is what they go with. This acceptance can only be challenged by an outsider, who encounters both the beings and traditions for the first time and that is where Hermione Granger comes in. Being a muggleborn, Hermione faces discrimination early in the series and develops a coping system. This “unwantedness” of Hermione is reflected in the house elves and thus she is more observant and interested. She has a basic understanding of muggle history and that is why she can see elves as enslaved creatures rather than masochistic work-loving “animals.”

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The kitchens as depicted in the old Pottermore

The reason why Ron never heard of S.P.E.W was not because Hermione just founded it, but because it is actually a muggle reference. “The Society for the Promotion of Employment of Women” which also can be abbreviated as S.P.E.W. was a a movement founded in 1859. Back in the Victorian era, women had one major duty: to be a housewife. Some women even fought against the right to vote for women in  “An Appeal Against Female Suffrage” in 1889 and stated that a woman is too delicate to be involved in politics and real world matters. They were seen as pretty objects, in upper class, to possess and to show off. The poor were not that lucky. The more fortunate worked as governesses, the more unfortunate as prostitutes and later on worked in newly rising factories and mines. The working conditions were so harsh and the money they got were so low that a few families had to rent the same room to be able to afford a place to sleep. They worked up to 18 hours and pregnant women had to work until they gave birth and come back when they physically could. Although some acts passed to regulate the working hours and “humanise” the working conditions but they were not nearly enough. So this society was founded to address the urgent need to open up new areas of employment for women and the lack of education available. Another main focus of the society was to make women economically more independent, hence the society offered loans to help cover the costs of their education. You can see the parallelism now, right? The women in Victorian times were oppressed, forced into the house and into two categories; either angel of the house or the loose, sexual women. They were treated badly, didn’t have fundamental rights and suffered under a more dominant power: the men. In Harry Potter, the house elves not only symbolise slavery but also the situation women were in in the past. It is a woman that tries to something for the creatures, the men tagging along unwillingly. And it is a woman, J.K. Rowling who, with a simple abbreviation, reminds the reader of the effort women made to gain, maybe not equal but some footing. It is a nice detail having Hermione, an outsider, a woman, a muggleborn to start a movement to educate the purebloods and help house elves even though they have no conception of fundamental rights and any kind of freedom themselves. This maybe one of the easily missed details hidden in the series, but makes the reader think whether he/she knows the historical context or not.

-For those who are interested, you can check out this website to know more about the Victorian era.

 

Posted in Prose

“It Was A Children’s Book. And That Is How the Trouble Began.”

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything-over two months. At first, I was actually really busy with papers and finals, after that I lost my will to do anything that required any sort of work besides lying in bed and binge watching “The Man In the High Castle” (would recommend by the way). What pushed me into writing was this book I have bought as a gift for one of my close friends. Reading it again after all those years, 14 to be exact, exited me and I just could not contain myself.

Everybody, meet WProcessed with Rookie Caminnie the Witch and her lovely companion Wilbur the Cat. This is the first English “book” that I have ever read like, probably, most of you. In fourth grade, I started learning English and “Winnie the Witch” was the first book I was given besides my usual course pack. I don’t ever remember the process of learning the language and now in retrospect it feels heartwarming to picture my nine year old self reading and trying to understand it-although I still maintain the habit of not understanding things as I read them. Though this was not the only book we read that year, for some reason Winnie stuck with me. Not just as a book series from my childhood but I clearly remember the songs we learnt, especially Winnie and Wilbur Song. I have recently found it on youtube, and every time I listen to it, I immediately return to my childhood. So what made Winnie so special?

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I have always remembered this picture vividly but not the title and hence I went ahead and looked through every Winnie the Witch book I could find until I stumbled upon this. Look how cute the page is-I love the fact that everything Winnie has is black apart from her clothes which are channeling some Dumbledore colouring. And the fact that her nose is red, resembling an alcoholic made me question whether this was all her imagination and that she was not in fact a witch. Well, Dumbledore has a splendid answer for my 14 year later issued questioning: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real.” With that, it is not hard to see that I am going to end up mentioning Harry Potter yet again. Apart from the fact that Winnie is a witch and Harry is a wizard, there is something both Harry and she share. They, without a doubt, symbolise my childhood.

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Aww look at sad Wilbur 😦

The plot of this story is that everything Winnie has is black, so is her cat Wilbur and Winnie keeps sitting on Wilbur and ends up either hurting herself or him. Hence she recolours Wilbur a few times: first she turns him green but it becomes a problem when he goes outside. Then she makes him colourful but Wilbur gets bullied by the birds and a hurt Wilbur is not something Winnie can handle and she ends up changing the colour of everything she owns and turns Wilbur black again. The pages are really colourful, they are fun to look at even if the child is not old enough to read. But under all that colour and childishness lies the serious messages. The usuals. Like accepting people as they are and not trying to change them, that bullying hurts people and that we need more colour in our boring lives. Simple enough. I am not going to go ahead and outright say that this books make the person that I am today, but certainly it made me like colours, cats and magic.

Similarly, I first read Harry Potter when I was eight. It made an impression on me, however I never got into it until I was in my senior year in high school. All of my friends kinda made, and some still do, fun of me for reading and loving “children’s books.” (I am not even going to give an answer to that.) But when I read the series now I find these easter eggs in them. There are mentionings of very obscure literary characters from canonical works, myths and legends, creatives puns, historical events and figures and their appropriation… And many more! It is a goldmine really. And under all this “childishness” of the narration and fantastic quotes, lie the same warnings; about slavery, racism to corrupt media and government (that seems familiar somehow, hmm.). It is not cool to not read children’s literature guys, really. They are actually more complex than you think, it is really hard for a writer to talk about serious matters in an obscure and fun way as not to scare of nor bore the children who do not seem to like reading anyway (and yeah, those who prefer watching the tv/movie adaptations to reading the books I judge you severely). “Powerful messages can be found, even in the childest of the books, if one remembers to turn on perception.” (yes, this is yet again another Dumbledore quote) I have to say I agree with Mark Gatiss (co-writer of the hit tv series “Sherlock” who also portrayed Mycroft Holmes) on something. After the fans’ negative reaction to Sherlock’s ending, he suggested they read more children’s books. That is exactly our problem. We are so keen on suppressing the child in us, we don’t even enjoy Winnie the Witch anymore. So this post is a shoutout to those who are still children at heart. You are the real mvp!

Posted in Travel

A Walk In A Medieval Village

Last friday evening, I was having a nice cup of coffee with one of my close friends(epkem on here) and we ended up talking about, yet another, one of my trips (I swear, I was not showing off.!). Since I have chosen a text from medieval period to work on for my senior thesis, I have been researching about the era and frankly am quite fascinated by it. When I was in Germany, I visited this open air museum, LWL Freilichtmuseum in Detmold, that contained various buildings from the surrounding area which went back more than 500 years. So, I wanted to write an entry about this awesome place and hopefully some of you will share my enthusiasm.!

A brief video about the museum

This song reminds me of the trip and the era for some reason. You may wanna check it out, it is pretty awesome.!

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There are different little “villages” which are a little bit distanced from one another. They tried to capture the feeling of living in that era and actually they were successful. Every little village has its own trademark: one has a lake, the other animals or shops. That is why you shouldn’t skip any of them and the path through the museum actually makes sure that you go through every single settlement. These are the first buildings you stumble upon in the first village. The one on the right is for carriages and farming tools. The one on the left is the living quarters. It is combined with the barn as horses were valuable to just leave outside and they offered additional heat, which was always nice. You enter the house through the barn, in the back of the building you have the sitting area and some rooms with beds, if you go down a few steps you end up in what is supposed to be the kitchen and if you go upstairs you will find the bedrooms. Almost all the houses were planned in this manner-except for the houses of the rich, they would have more rooms and the barn would be separated from their living quarters with rooms for the stable boys. The one in the back/middle is a pigsty and there were about ten pigs, which you can watch but not feed, living in it.

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This is the toilet just outside that building. I have always known that people used to go outside to do their business, but seeing it like that made my realise how grateful I am to have a toilet inside my apartment.! I am serious. They also had pots in the houses to relive themselves, but the idea of going outside when they didn’t even have proper walkways is really terrifying. There was also an exhibition about the evolution of toilets throughout the centuries (Name of the exhibition: Scheisse Sagt Man Nicht). That was also quite interesting.

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People used to have chair like toilets that were made out of wood and velvet and they could also cover up what was in there and make it look like it was just as ordinary chair or a cupboard. Pretty weird huh?

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This is a pathway that would take you to the next village, passing by the windmill. There were chickens, cows, sheep, horses and donkeys all over the park (you can’t see them in this picture but cows are on the left hand side). The two horses are the last survivors of a specific kind (can’t remember the exact name) of horse that is local to the area. Animal-wise, it is quite rich and you can observe them in their natural environment and the way they have been treated in the middle ages. I went there on a wednesday and sunday; and on sunday there was this event where you could learn how to milk a cow, pet the sheep and have something to eat. It was really cool, there were so many families who had taken their kids as a family activity. The kids got to play in the open air and learn about their culture, animals and farming.

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See, they actually still use some of the barns Processed with Rookie Camfor horses. There is also a house there in which a woman lived until 1920s. So, they are fully function
al. I was a bit concerned with the condition of the horses, but I had the chance to watch the caretaker and he was actually taking good care of them and apart from a few hours, they are usually free to wander around the park and graze-and beg for apples from innocent visitors-to their hearts’ content. They are quite friendly and were not afraid of human contact, so that says a lot about the crew of the museum.

I absolutely loved the experience. It was interesting to experience the life style of the people of the time. There were also artisans who made pottery who displayed the old way of doing things, the mill actually produced flour and there were farmers who worked with the soil. All in all it was a unique experience; going back in time 500 years and walk through the changes occurring in time. I would like to finish off with some photographs that I took and liked, hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did (probably can’t and won’t but still).!

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This is the living quarters of the house in the first photograph. On the right is the barn and the entrance.
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This is one of the houses in a separate village. People still grow vegetables in its garden.
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This is one of the bedrooms in that house. The interesting thing was that the panel behind the beds can be opened into the adjacent bedroom. Everything in here was original, so we were not allowed in.
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This is my favourite photograph. It is from the same house. The idea of having a sink before the invention of plumbing is interesting and most of the houses had that. With a little opening on the wall, they allowed water (probably blood, too) to flow out of the house into the back yard.
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This is a bank from the colonial times. There was also a candy store.
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It was the first time I ever touched a donkey. Who knew donkeys had such soft fur.! She was actually quite friendly, followed us around and brayed when we attempted to leave.
Posted in Art

An Answer to A Woman’s Cry of Help

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Artwork by İlayda Üstel

This awesome piece of artwork belongs to one of my friends from school İlayda. I fell in love with  it the moment I saw it, no exaggerating here (I actually have a print out which is framed and positioned near my favourite books). So I wanted to write an entry about it and hope it will actually live up to her art’s standards! The reason I wanted to write about it now, instead of in october (that’s when she showed me) is that I had this response paper for my Victorian Literature class and I had to write about a decorative item that I had at home and try to look at it the way John Ruskin would have if he were alive to it. I wanted to use something hand-made and perfect in its imperfectness, something Ruskin would definitely love and that inspired me to write a bit about it on here as well.

At first this may not make any sense to the onlooker-and before İlayda told me what it was about I was like “Oh-kay what is this?” Let me give you a hint: this is her take on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” (which is one of my favorites and totally devastated me when I first read it back in high school). Those who have read it, are probably nodding now and realizing what every little detail may symbolize. For those who haven’t read it, well I might as well give a short summary. “The Lottery” is about a tradition of a village to ensure a good harvest although there are communities who have started to stop doing it. Nevertheless, on the day of the lottery people gather around and every head of a household has to draw a piece of paper from a black box. The household of the one who has the paper with a black dot on, has to draw again. So Bill Hutchinson draws the black dotted paper and then his wife Tessie. Then they let the paper fly off in the wind, pick up Tessie and *spoiler alert* stone her to death. I am not going to comment on the story though. There are so many good papers written on what it means, what every individual detail symbolizes. I don’t think that I have something more to add. So now, after the plot summary the painting (is it a painting though İlayda?) makes more sense I believe. That hand that we see there in the middle is clearly Tessie Hutchinson’s (although at first I thought it to be Bill’s, but Tessie makes much more sense) although it is not particularly a feminine hand (don’t really know how would that be but….) so that creates the ambiguity. We could be standing in the shoes of either Bill or Tessie and that fluidity kind of accepts all sorts onlookers, which is nice. Also, if this is Tessie’s hand it looks rough from working and by that I may say that the artist is showing us the hardships of the village, rural life especially on women. The hard work does not differentiate, it is hard for all of the genders. I also love the fact that she chose to focus on Tessie instead of the spectacle. This work is almost a recognition of Tessie’s final cry of help. While her fellow villagers fail to hear her, here the artist hears her weak solitary voice and through her work she keeps Tessie alive (going a bit Sonnet 18 here but isn’t that what art does though?).

I also like the background. It is mainly gray, representing the gloom that is awaiting Tessie, and blue, representing the cheerful summer day (June 27), but I like the addition of pink in the middle. It may represent the life and liveliness of Tessie, but it is a very light shade of red which can mean that her life is fading away. The juxtaposition of warm and cool colors also reflect the mood of the village. First we have children running around, gathering rocks and having fun and then we immediately shift to a scene of death. This sudden and unexpected nature of her death is captured by the (what I consider them to be) shiny blood drips. They also shocking and in your face, the artist here clearly criticized the shocking outcome of the draw and how people just go with it and turn it into a mob violence without even considering. I picture Tessie here as laying on the ground, being stoned to death-because of the stones scattered around the hand-and she is still clutching the piece of paper that changed her life while her life is slipping away. We see her in her last moments and that can be why her hand is see-through and not entirely material.

I have a lot more to say about both the story (if you haven’t read it yet, please go and do so it is not that long) and the art work, but I want to finish of by saying how I love the fact that the painting gives away nothing regarding the plot. This is a simple but thoughtful and brilliant way of picturing the story-it is simply genius. That is why I love it so much, besides the fact that it physically just looks good, you can see new details and make new connections to the story and ask new questions. So I personally thank you İlayda for creating this!

Posted in Movie

Fantastic Spinoffs and Where to Watch Them

BEWARE! FANTASTIC SPOILERS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM (I really don’t know what people consider as spoiler)

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I could only wait for two days before writing about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” I have to say, I had my prejudices against it way before it was filmed. I felt like (still kinda feel like) Rowling was turning “the world of Harry Potter” into one of those franchises that go on and on for more money. Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard that there was gonna be a spinoff, I was really excited. It could be about the marauders, the rise of Voldemort, the founding of Hogwarts or even next generation. So the idea of Harry’s textbook turning into a whole new series did not really sit well with me. Although I have to say, the atmosphere was awesome, there even were people in cloaks (Me? I wore my Weasley sweater and Gryffindor scarf-the stuff for Fantastic Beast is scarce right now, fingers crossed for upcoming collectibles). The energy was also high, the whole theatre laughed at the same time, everyone was obviously Harry Potter fans (based on their age and accessory) and everyone was discussing and speculating during the ten minute break. At this point I think it is pretty safe to say that the Potter Fandom is back for good!

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I did my homework before watching the movie, that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the one under The Creature Vault

First of all, let’s get something straight: this is not a prequel to the series but a spinoff. The difference between those is that, prequel tells the story of what had happened previous to the plot whereas spinoff is having another character/story line that was mentioned in the original plot and building upon it. Hence we see Newt Scamander, who was only mentioned as an author in the series, as a fully developed character at the beginning of his real career (he normally works for Ministry of Magic) in 1926. I couldn’t really picture how they could turn the story of a man who dedicated his life to beasts, beings and spirits (oh, believe me there is a difference) into not one, not three but five movies (so my first spoiler: there will be four more movies). There, Rowling as a writer comes into the picture thankfully (she was the one who wrote the screenplay) and you can see her penmanship in some scenes (Newt’s mating dance was certainly one of those. I can picture her writing it down). That also means that we will have a nice plot that does not have various plot holes and stupidity (I am looking at Cursed Child here). Although it is based on Newt’s adventures, the side plot, the rise of Grindelwald to power, is pretty exciting since we haven’t really read much on it. We see him in America, trying to recruit followers slyly (and the symbol for the deathly hallows makes an appearance). I don’t know in which movie it will be, but we will definitely see a showdown between Dumbledore and Grindelwald and from Rowling’s own writing, I am sure that it will be magical. (at this point I may as well admit to it, YES I loved the movie) Untitled.pngBut for now what  I can only say is how awesome Johnny Depp looks as Gellert Grindelwald in his cameo. He is a little bit old for the Grindelwald I had in mind, though it is based on the younger movie version. Considering Dumbledore’s age, Depp’s looks are pretty accurate. He looks like the sophisticated yet murderous villain in the end of the movie (his one and only appearance in the first movie) and adding his acting skills, I am sure that he will create a unique take on Grindelwald and make us love it.

The beasts were simply, for a lack of a better term, magical. When I read Fantastic Beasts at home, I really couldn’t picture them, thank Merlin we have technology! There is nothing I can say against the representation of them-I absolutely especially loved the thunderbird (which happens to be my house in Ilvermorny). There is one inconsistency though, in the preface of his book Scamander states that there are 75 beasts he was able to include in the 52nd edition, however we encounter species in Fantastic Beasts movie that were not listed in the book which were the swooping evil, thunderbird and nundu. And from what I have seen, we will encounter many more that were not originally listed. Let me just mention the first photograph above before I forget. That is the suitcase of Newt which is full of beasts (that part is also problematic. You see he carries their habitats in them. Is that even possible? Sure with an undetectable extension charm you can carry loads of things but isn’t there a limit to it? Add this to the questions I would like to as Rowling if I ever meet her one day) and the whole chaos ensues from there, like the hat of The Cat In the Hat. That claw belongs to a niffler which is a being known for its love for anything shiny (yes kinda like a Tolkienesque dragon) and this one here is particularly mischievous and that one photograph aptly sums up the whole series.

We weren’t able to see anything related to Ilvermorny yet which is the American school of witchcraft and wizardry (you can read its history on Pottermore). Although Newt and Queenie had a punny (see what I did there) dialogue: Queenie claims that Ilvermorny is the best school in the world, Newt as a proud Hufflepuff defends Hogwarts and says it is the best-as all the audience did. Queenie then replies with “Hogwash.” (which means nonsense and is a pun) Ilvermorny was actually modeled on Hogwarts by its founder Isolt Sayre who happens to be a descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself, so get your facts straight first Queenie! I also have to give credit to Newt here, who proudly shows support for his house throughout via his black and yellow scarf (also another question to as Rowling: if Scamander was expelled, how come he still carries his wand with him?) Also he befriends a muggle, Jacob Kowalski, and they have their adventures like an improved version of Sherlock and Watson. (another spoiler: Jacob has a thing with Queenie. I wonder if they’d cause any change in the law in America in upcoming movies.)

Aside from all these entertaining and nice things, we also encounter a harsh, dark counterpart. In 1920s America, it was illegal for a wizard/witch to have any relation with a no-maj (American version of muggle which is abbreviated version of “no magic”). Thus, we see the Salem witch hunting (muggles’ negative fanaticism this time around), direct conflict between magic and non-magic worlds (the death of Senator Shaw) and the unreliableness of people in power-nothing we haven’t seen in the original series. She founded a very solid base in the first movie for the upcoming ones, I don’t think we will ever be bored with them.

All in all, it was really good to be back in the movie theatre watching a Harry Potter movie. I got chills when I first heard “Hedwig’s Theme” and I never realized I have missed hearing in and watching the logo of Warner Bros come into focus slowly. The plot was also good, unsurprisingly really, and I can’t wait to be back in the theatre to watch the second one again! And one final note for those who don’t want to watch the movie, the script was released a book as of yesterday so you may wanna check that out.

Posted in Music

Arnold Long Ago Heard It On the English Channel

For the past few years, I have been almost obsessed with Tom Odell. He is a brilliant artist and if you have not listened to any of his songs, you should go check some of them out (I force my friends to listen to him, who says I can’t do the same to you too?). Lately, I have been constantly listening to “Constellations” and for some reason I got this feeling that the lyrics were quite familiar. Turns out they are not, but a few weeks ago I had to write a response paper on Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and then it dawned on me. The feeling the song has, is kinda similar to Arnold’s. Their approach to love is hopeful and that is something which is hard to find nowadays in our contemporary music industry or in poetry in Victorian era (or in general really. Such powerful poems or songs often tend to be more pessimistic.)

There was this stanza in “Dover Beach” that made me associate it with Odell’s song.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

In the poem, the persona stands by the window looking over the sea (and giving us way too many sea imagery-even when you look at the poem, the form looks like the tides: ebbing and flowing) talks to his lover, who very conveniently silent throughout the poem as if she was a mere object in the room. In the lines above, the persona compares himself, his standing, to that of Sophocles. The sea is the same sea (though they are not looking at the exact same sea) it stays constant but only time and conditions have changed. Arnold has a more pessimistic tone here though, he believes the world to be full of misery and there can be no absolute trust and happiness. This is likened to the sea, these comings and goings of feelings, but the sea is constant (literally and allegorically). Even in Sophocles’ time this sea of misery was there and it will be so in the future (and let’s face it, after almost 150 years, the misery is still present if not entirely turned into an ocean). But in the end, the persona holds on to the love he shares with his lover (I am guessing the persona is meant to be Arnold and the lover his wife as they honeymooned there) in this world of appearances: “a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain” and sees love as some higher power that could save him.

Similarly, Odell talks about “the same old constellations” that would “look different” because he is with his lover. The atmosphere is similar to the poem’s; here the candle as the light source “lying low” whereas the starts are the only light sources coming through the windows in Arnold’s poem. This lover is kinda alone (“There’s people all around us but they’re leaving you alone”) and nostalgic (“You’re telling me a story, some lover that you had”) and just like Arnold’s is silent in the song-though she has a name here which is an improvement. Odell also places importance upon love which is so strong a concept that can change how the individual views the world.

I do not have much to say really. These are all minor similarities and they both give me the same vibe, although I am still hoping that maybe, just maybe, Tom Odell read “Dover Beach” because how can he not, and thought: “You know what? These stars can be used in a better way in another context.” Although the personas of the poem and song are in completely different situations, looking at different things in very different eras in time; they have this same trust in love to act as some kind of a shield (so yeah like a patronus) against the world that they are facing. Arnold thought of Sophocles when looking at the sea (although he is supposedly talking to his lover), maybe Odell was thinking of Arnold whilst he was writing this who knows? This can be me reading too much into this, but at least you get to listen to an awesome song and read an awesome poem!

 

Posted in Travel

On and In the Blue Danube

This post will be a lot different from my other posts and probably from my future posts, too. As the cold weather finally arrived, it got me thinking about my previous summer holiday and you guessed it: this will be a huge throwback to my time in lovely Vienna.

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“In Vienna I will dance with you

in a costume with

a river’s head.”

That part from Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz” will be used out of context here, (you should definitely check it out though!) but we cannot deny that the river referred here is the Danube (fun fact: Danube is actually not the original name of the river. It is Donau and I’ve learnt it the hard way). My recent fascination with the poem together with the fact that for the past couple of days I cannot seem to stop myself from humming “The Blue Danube” by Strauss (you may want to check that as the video takes place in Schloss Schönbrunn), who happens to be my favorite composer, compelled me to write a piece on how awesome Vienna is with the addition of the photos that I and/or my Queen Biyoncos took as proofs.

Since I have already mentioned Danube, I can perhaps start from there. First of all, my first view of it was a little bit anticlimactic to be frank. I have pictured Danube as something grand, huge and endless, probably because of Strauss and it was actually quite narrow, as you can see in the photo above, and people swam and crossed it. And I was expecting many cafes and restaurants filled with people around it and shocked to find it bare except for that one pub that closed up way early at nights anyway. But, once I sat down by the water and just took in my surroundings as it is, I realized how amazing that fact is. There were no lights and very little voice and I could just sit there and watch the first Vienna (I stayed in the twenty-second and it was neither close nor far away from the center) and have some peace and calm. My days were packed with activities but at nights we went there with some coffee and brownies and talked for hours. Danube is the heart of Vienna, it flows through it and creates a very lively city life, but at the same time it is also the heart of the nature that calms the individual; it’s both very close when you seek some peace and very far away if you prefer the city life.

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This is probably my favorite photograph and aptly sums up all the aspects of Vienna that I have fallen in love with: the beautiful city juxtaposed with beautiful nature. We also rented a boat and went around the river for a bit, the weather was nice so was the rowing team *insert heart-eyed emoji here* and I also actually went into the water with my dress Virginia Woolf style. Although I have visited every available tourist attraction, I can confidently say that Danube is my favourite and this nook particularly.

When Vienna is involved, you cannot not include Schloss Schönbrunn, the fancy palace that you can see in every tourist guide about Vienna that is famous for its Princess Sissi.Processed with Rookie Cam It is absolutely gorgeous on the outside, that’s for sure. The garden, the gloriette, the labyrinth… It reflects the arrogance of the royal family quite well actually. I mean look at that wallpaper and the couch. We went through the grand tour that included 44 rooms. There were some studies and ballrooms and even some maids’ chambers but other than Processed with Rookie Camthat it was basically filled with unnecessary rooms. Literally. Some of them had no purpose, so they decided to give each room a specific color for as a purpose. You know like “This is our cream colored, filled with cream colored expensive furniture room that has four different sets of door that open into it which makes everything pretty much useless.” While the exterior looks kind of humble, the interior makes up for the lost detailing. They even have the gloriette which is an extravagant dining room at the top of a hill that overlooks Vienna and the palace itself (the photo of the palace was actually taken from on our way to the gloriette.) Sure, it would have been really cool to attend a concert in the palace, and aside from the perfect view of the city this place didn’t do it for us. It was too extravagant and arrogant, we couldn’t enjoy it.

Now I want to talk about my favourite building which can almost compete with Schönbrunn in terms of extravagance. I am talking about the National Library. Generally you picture a boring, dull place when somebody mentions libraries, but this is not your average library. I was awestruck and wanted to read the titles of every book and use the ladder to go on to the upper level. Although it was forbidden to extend and use a selfie stick, we became friends with the guard and he let us do as we pleased, so that’s something. It is almost juts like how I have always imagined the library of Hogwarts, with multi layered bookcases and gigantic tomes. So, it was pretty magical for me.

Processed with Rookie CamThis photo is Biyoncos’ favourite and it will give you an idea on why I loved the place. While the idea of having a secret door embedded in your library would be awesome, just the warmth the  overcrowded bookcases give is enough to love it. It has this element of mystery in it as well. We can never know where the door leads to and to what purpose, but I am picturing another room which is filled with very rare pieces, even some first editions or personal belongings of some authors. Or maybe it is like Vatican Archive and has all kinds of secret governmental stuff of Franz Joseph, who knows.                                                           Processed with Rookie Cam

This is the main entrance to it. See how fabulous it is, with its huge columns, various statues and paintings? The main piece on the domed ceiling is my favourite I think.

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Since I have broached the issue of paintings and statues, I may as well continue with the main two museums: Art History and Natural History Museums. The cool thing about them was that they were planned to be museums. At first I thought they were some kind of palaces for the royal family as one cannot have enough palaces, but I was informed that they were meant to be so and their floor plan is actually a proof of that.

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I mean look at this beautiful building. This looks like a place in which a princess could easily live. I actually took this photo inside the Natural History Museum and that building is the Art History Museum. Not only they look dope, they are across one another and it makes it very easy for a tourist to find and visit.  Between the two of them, I like the Natural History Museum a bit more, because it had dinosaurs in it! And they actually had real dinosaur bone and shit in it and I got to  touch them both (maybe this is not something to be proud of).

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Art History Museum had so many things to look at, we actually could not finish it. But the coolest thing happened whilst we were in there: a painter was painting the paintings on the wall and we got to watch him work. The sad thing was, the place was not crowded and we had the opportunity to take stupid selfies with statues without the judgmental looks from strangers.

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There are so many things that I want to write about, but it has gotten quite long already and I realize that no matter how long I write it won’t be long enough. So, I want to end with one of my favourite photos (you may have to disregard the fact that it was taken by a toaster.)

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This was taken in Kahlenberg, a little hill just outside Vienna. It has a panoramic view of the city and it looks breathtaking. I could see every place that I have ever been to in my one week visit, from Danube to Schloss Schönbrunn (the palace is not by the river side, which very curious. Won’t you want to look at the river? It makes a beautiful view.) With the lights on, the city intertwines with nature and creates a magical aura. That is why I fell in love with Vienna (and maybe also for the fact that my best friend lives there). If you ever plan on visiting Vienna, make sure that you book longer than you intend to. Once you arrive there and walk in Stephansplatz or go boat riding on Danube or be a stereotypical tourist and visit all the museums, you’ll realize the reason why there are songs and poems about it.