Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A journey into the Gothic Revival

I have been waiting to visit Strawberry Hill and to see the Gothic influence ever since I learned about it during my sophomore year of high school.

Horace Walpole was born Horatio Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford on September 24th 1717. He is partially responsible for the revival of gothic architecture that dominated Europe in the previous centuries. Horace Walpole was the first author to pen a text in what became known as the gothic style. His name is synonymous with Gothic literature thanks to his greatest work The Castle of Otranto. The Castle of Otranto laid the foundation of what the Gothic style should be for other authors that would follow. This would include famous authors such as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. It was Walpole’s home “Strawberry Hill” which provided him with the inspiration to write his first Gothic novel. “One night Walpole awoke from a dream and imagined he saw a giant armoured fist on the staircase and it was this that inspired the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto.” Horace Walpole was also an art historian, a politician, and an architect. His greatest creation in my opinion was the house that he had built in the old Gothic style, which he named Strawberry Hill.

Walpole constructed Strawberry Hill in several stages throughout his lifetime. Walpole did not have a finished design for his property and instead decided to add to the building as he saw fit. This would make construction for all involved an absolute nightmare, but allowed Walpole to make his dream a reality. It all began in 1747 when Walpole leased a five-acre plot of land in Twickenham, London. In 1748 Walpole purchased the house, which had originally been named “Chopped Straw Hill”. He had purchased the home with the intent of constructing a family castle. Walpole eventually expanded his land to a sum of forty-six acres. Walpole’s friend and amateur architect, John Chute, was trusted with developing the design of the exterior of the home. The exterior of the house featured a style that mixed Gothic designs with the castles of the day. This meant that the home would feature turrets and battlements while also containing arched windows with stained glass, similar to the cathedrals of the original Gothic Age. The interior of the home gained most of its character from Walpole’s extensive collection of antiquarian objects. This would include beautiful pieces of art, artifacts, and objects used for the construction of the house such as Robert Adam’s fireplace. The construction process of Strawberry Hill wasn’t smooth sailing to say the least.

It is a nightmare for anyone tasked with constructing a building to have to build the building in stages. Typically there is a complete blueprint, which allows workers to have a simple plan to follow, which allows for quick and easy construction of a building. While Walpole did have sketches and an overall idea of what he hoped to turn his home into, he did not have an actual blueprint thus complicating the entire construction process. By the end of the first stage of construction Walpole was well on his way to having completed “His little Gothic castle”.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Elgin Marbles


It's fun when our trips from different years and different countries begin to intersect.  Like when we visited Pergamon in Turkey one year, and more recently, Berlin, where a good chunk of the Pergamon artifacts had been set up on their museum island. Or when we visited the Tomb of Columbus in Seville, but found out that at least some part (parts?) of him still rest in the Dominican Republic. (Alas, I haven't been able to get there yet!)

 A few years ago, CC visited Athens, and of course, in Athens, climbed up the hill of the Parthenon.

To round out the tour, we also glimpsed the Acropolis Museum at the bottom of the hill, a modern structure with much interesting stuff, and a deliberate hole.  The Greeks are still more than a little eager to get back pieces of the Parthenon that are now in England, at the British Museum.  Specifically, the pieces that came to be called The Elgin Marbles.  No, not the marbles that Opie would play with back in Mayberry.  Rather the marble sculptures that once graced the Parthenon itself, before the centuries and various interested parties took parts home with them.

Here's how a Time magazine article spun it:
The Elgin Marbles receive their name from the British lord who craftily spirited them away from Greece. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — occupiers of Greece in the early 19th century — grew to admire the Parthenon's extensive collection of ancient marble sculptures and began extracting and expatriating them to Britain in 1801. Lord Elgin claimed his imprimatur from an Ottoman sultan, who said he could remove anything from the Parthenon that did not interfere with the ancient citadel's walls. Despite objections that Lord Elgin had "ruined Athens" by the time his work was done in 1805, the British Government purchased the marbles from him in 1816. They've been housed at the British Museum ever since.
This isn't exactly a neutral piece, titled as it is, "Top 10 Plundered Artifacts."  A British paper, The Guardian, takes quite the opposite view, in "Parthenon Marbles: Greece's Claim is Nationalist Rhetoric that Deserves to Fail."  The British Museum gives a bit more history, which takes more account of the disregard that the Ottomans and many others had for all this 'pagan debris.'  

I'm not sure whether our frantic schedule on this current tour will let us see the Elgin Marbles (sadly, the one thing in London I actually want to see...), but they certainly play into the course material for our British Romanticism course (ARTS/ENGL).  Benjamin Robert Haydon, a "big picture" painter, become an enthusiastic champion of the Marbles, and introduced them to his friend, John Keats, the poet. 

Keats himself wrote about the Elgin Marbles, as in "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles":
My spirit is too weak—mortality
   Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
   And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
   Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
   That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
   Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
   That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time—with a billowy main—
   A sun—a shadow of a magnitude. 
We are also reading Stan Plumly's The Immortal Evening  [see the NYTimes book review] , a book about a strange dinner party at Haydon's place, which included Keats, Wordsworth, and Charles Lamb, to unveil Haydon's current work, "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem."


The book itself is probably too detailed for our students' interest, but it gives a sense of the ordinary associations of these poets and painters and writers, who weren't at all legendary all by themselves in a lonely tower.  It's that London which I'd like to experience, the one that engaged and enlivened the arts, the one with quirky paths and surprising friends.


later, bob

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Strawberry Hill: the castle you ought to see

   So the countdown begins – 30 days till we are traveling to the UK. For me the day seemed like it would never come and then suddenly it is almost here. Prior to the trip I have been taking an accompanying class, British Romanticism: Image and Word, which has really helped prepare me for the sights we will be seeing on the trip. From paintings, literature, poetry, and architecture I feel that I will appreciate them so much more from this class.
    One interesting thing we learned from this class was the foundation for gothic literature. Damsels in distress, knights in shining armor, dark corridors, ghosts, mysterious villains, and gloomy castles all key elements describing the gothic genre. One such castle is situated right on the Thames in Twickenham, London called Strawberry Hill. This castle was the inspiration to Horace Walpole in his writing of the first ever Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto.
Strawberry Hill     When Horace Walpole first bought Strawberry Hill he called it just a little cottage, later, he transformed it into a magnificent Gothic inspired castle it is today. The dark corridors set the gothic mood and the open well-lit rooms contrast well and create an awe inspiring effect.  The vaulted ceilings, intricately detailed archways, stained glass windows, and crimson and gold interior is definitely a sight to be seen. The Asymmetric castle also has the classic battlements, flying buttresses, and gated entrance to gothic architecture but in a very original design.
Strawberry Hill Gallery
    Since the 1700’s Britain has restored the gothic inspired castle to the show piece it is today. Visitors will be able to see Walpole’s library, gallery, bedroom, and many more rooms including his Green closet where he wrote The Castle of Otranto as well as many others of his works and letters. In addition to the castle experience there is also a museum and artifact room that showcases writing, paintings, and technology used in the castle throughout its history. The gardens have also been restored as much as possible to its winding paths, grove of lime tree, and a vast array of flowers perfect for viewing on a spring or summer day.
    This would be an amazing place to visit if you are a fan of the gothic genre or if you have read The Castle of Otranto, but even if you are neither of those it would fit in great with what we will already be seeing while we are in Scotland and England. We will be visiting Stirling castle (pictured left) and Edinburgh castle (pictured bottom right), in Scotland, which do not specifically use gothic architecture, but these will show the dark, gloomy corridors that were present in The Castle of Otranto, based off of Strawberry Hill. Based on the pictures of Stirling castle, Edinburgh castle, and Strawberry hill you can see a resemblance between all three structures.
Also, while we are in London we will be visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral which has more in common with gothic architecture because it has the vaulted ceilings and pointed arches.
    Overall, I think we would be missing out on an amazing opportunity to visit such a beautiful site that shows many different historical influences of the time. It would be amazing to see all the different elements Walpole used in piecing together Strawberry Hill and it would be a very unique monument to experience in person with all its quirks and peculiarities. Moreover, I would love to get to see as many sites as possible while I am out there and Strawberry Hill is definitely on my list because of how much we have learned about it in our class. It would be a great life experience for sure. 

Find out more about Strawberry Hill visit their website: http://www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk/about.php
Contributors: Ally Baum and Hannah Marschall

Friday, November 20, 2015

Experiences of a Lifetime

In exactly 31 days I will be back in my small hometown of Callao, Missouri. I am overwhelmed with emotion at this thought. I have trouble conveying this to anyone who has not studied abroad. I miss my friends, family, and things in the U.S. that I can’t get over here (like crab rangoon). I miss experiences like lying under the stars at night with friends after a long day. However, Seoul has become another home. My stay here is temporary but a part of me will always remain in Korea. The lifestyle I have experienced is extremely different than in the states. Even though I have only spent a short time here, I am nervous about going back home. Studying abroad changes everyone, and I am no exception. I do not know how my family and friends will react to how I grown and changed.

I only have one month left in Korea. I will be busy two of these weeks with studying and finals. Therefore, I am traveling to a lot of places these next couple weeks. I am going to Lotte World (amusement park), Busan, Incheon, Mt. Yongmasan, Seodaemun Prison, and of course shopping for gifts to bring back to friends and family. Recently, I went to the DMZ, Nami Island, and Petite France. I keep trying to explain how I felt at the DMZ. However, there are no words to describe my emotions. The first part of the tour was going to the third tunnel. The third tunnel was discovered in South Korea during the 1970’s. This tunnel was built by North Korea (although they deny it) in order to invade Seoul. There are currently four known tunnels, however many more are expected to exist.

There are dynamite holes (yellow in the picture) all along the walls of the tunnel. There is a door leading to North Korea at the end of the tunnel (although you cannot go through it). Coming back up through the tunnel is no piece of cake. It is very steep! Additionally I saw North Korea (pictured below). 

The last stop on the tour was Freedom Bridge. Prisoners of war were exchanged on this bridge after the Korean War. The memorial to the POW's is located at the end of the bridge (pictured below). 

Nami Island or Naminara Republic is a beautiful island in Chuncheon. The trees were absolutely stunning, ranging from cherry, ginkgo, white birch, redwood, to white pine trees. There are multiple paths throughout the small island. The small island became more popular after a drama filmed there. 

Recycling is very popular on the island with a lot of the statues involving recycled goods in some way. These are two of the sculptures I found most interesting.

Today I went to Lotte World which is an amusement park in Seoul. Traveling is always a great experience. However, the people you go with complete the experience. I went with these three lovely ladies. A friend invited to go with her and two other people. Although I did not know them before today, they truly made the experience perfect.


Until next time,


Friday, October 16, 2015

Time Flies..

When I was in high school, all I could think about was how time was moving at a snail’s pace. I could not wait to go to college and it could not have come soon enough. Now, here I am in my senior year of college. I never truly understood how quickly time passes until I came to Korea. My journey in Korea is almost halfway over with nine weeks left. I realized this with midterms approaching and the stress of “the grade.” In Korea midterms are not a normal exam, they are worth almost half of your grade. While at Columbia College, I rarely had this feeling of stress from exams because I mostly write term papers. These different stressors of learning a new language, adapting to new teaching styles, and navigating graduate school applications abroad have helped me learn valuable skills within education and traveling. Not only have I experienced educational stressors but all of the unknown things I have experienced. For example, I had no idea what it would be like to be a minority. Sure, I am a women’s study minor and I have taken minority classes, read scholarly articles, and read firsthand accounts but I had never experienced it. Like others, I have had good and bad experiences.

Now for the most recent sights and adventures...

N Seoul Tower and Locks of Love is one of my favorite sights! N Seoul Tower, better known has Namsan Tower to the locals, is located on top of Namsan Mountain and is the highest point in Seoul! The panoramic views of Seoul are stunning and gorgeous, especially at night. I went here with one of my best friends here in Korea, Ahra.

The Locks of Love is another attraction on top of the mountain. Couples or families come here to place a lock (with a message on it) somewhere on the railings or on ornaments. I decided to put a lock on an ornament resembling a Christmas tree. For those of you who know me, this was the absolute perfect placement for me.

They had older items which people could play with to see how they worked.

The queen was carried throughout the entire parade by these men.

Lantern Festival: There were lights which lit up the shrubbery throughout the stream. 

The farthest adventure I have had from my university was the Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival, which was two hours away by subway and bus. This was an adventure because I had only been on a bus once with a Korean friend so I did not really know how the bus system worked. However, even with my navigation skills, we did not get lost! This was a three-day long festival with various activities, from parades to lantern festivals to music to crafts. They even had a reenactment of the tortoise and the hare with a twist (in Korean of course). Below are pictures of the parade. I was actually interviewed twice about my experience in Korea and about the parade, which was cool.

We also visited the Hwaseong Fortress while at the festival. This fortress was constructed from 1794-1796. The fortress is completely made out of Seokjae and Jeondol bricks. There are holes throughout the walls of the fortress in case of an attack. 

Until I visit the DMZ,


Monday, September 21, 2015

"Seoul" Searching

Hello all! I am Alyssa and I am currently a senior majoring in psychology.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

Destination: Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea

Korean Language: I do not speak any Korean.

Length of Study: August 2015-December 2015  

Why: I chose South Korea because I wanted to go somewhere completely different from Columbia, Missouri, USA. I wanted to see the differences between the collectivist and individualistic cultures, experience different traditions, and overall experience a different lifestyle. In short, “go big or go home.” I have always wanted to live in a hugely populated area because I have never had the opportunity with my hometown or my college town, having populations of 300 and 108,000 respectively. In contrast, Seoul has over 10 million people. Lastly, I wanted to study abroad at a destination where, without university affiliation, I might otherwise be scared to travel due to the language barrier and culture.

Side note: I have also never been outside of the United States so I did not know what to expect nor did I really have expectations. The idea that I chose to study abroad for five months in an Asian country shocked people when they learned I have never been outside of the country

Journey to Seoul
On August 23 I left my house at 3 a.m. in order to catch my connecting flight to Chicago and finally to Seoul. I did this after sleeping for an hour because I did not pack until 11 p.m. the evening before and spent my last few hours with my friends and family. After the 28 hour journey I ended up at Konkuk University on August 24 at 9 p.m. due to the 14 hour time difference.

I did not have jet lag like I envisioned. I transitioned fairly well due to my arrival time. However, I was quite tired after not sleeping during the entire journey so I was sleeping a lot during the day as well as night. Konkuk University does not offer any psychology classes. However, I registered for classes I thought would be interesting and of value towards my chosen profession. I registered for all of the classes I wanted to get into. The problem arose once I went to class and realized although the classes were supposed to be taught in English, they were not. I am currently in other classes, although I had to keep one class which lectures in English but the class discussion is in Korean. The last difficulty which I was not expecting to encounter was making friends. I am the only native English speaker in my classes but also the only exchange student in all of my classes except for one (Korean language). The Korean students are very timid to use English and seem to avoid speaking English as much as possible.

 The City of Seoul

Seoul is a beautiful city, the capital of South Korea, and has a bigger population than New York City. Apart from traveling to classes, I have explored the area around the university, went to parks, attended a concert and some festivals, and have seen some of the major sights of Seoul. Above is what a typical street looks like in Seoul.

I was excited to attend my very first concert and a K-Pop concert at that! For those of you who do not know me, I have listened to K-pop for a while and have wanted to attend a concert! The concert I attended was free concert in the Olympic Stadium and it had some of my favorite bands, including Girls Generation and Block B (among others)!

I also went to Han River with my friend Min, who was an exchange student at Columbia College. There was an amazing view and they have paddleboats which look like ducks! These paddleboats can be taken out on the River by anyone and I cannot wait to do it!

One of my favorite sights has been Grand Children’s Park, where they have a zoo and a fountain light show, among other things. The light show was absolutely stunning and like nothing I have seen before.

Thank you for reading! Until next time,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Musings from Museums

            Classes have officially ended. Final papers are due in about a week, everyone in the Oxford MOSAIC program for July has left, except me. I discussed staying extra days with my husband before I took off on this grand adventure. As he stated before I was even accepted into the program, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he stood by that the entire time. He agreed that staying a few extra days would be a good idea so I could really ‘get’ London and Oxford.  I had originally wanted to take a trip to Paris, but after much research I found that it was out of the question. (I guess that means I’ll have to take another trip across the Atlantic some time.) I am a little lonely as my roommates have all left and my family is still at home, but I wouldn’t trade the extra days of travel and experience for anything.  I have seen things in these few days that others can only wish they had seen. I’ve taken a trip through centuries and never left the modern world.  Today was a grand example of experiencing the culture of another country.

            My day started out as a typical English day, rainy.  It’s ironic as the majority of the time I have been in this beautiful country it has hardly rained and the locals say it’s a bit of a heatwave. For those of us back in the Midwest of the United States, 70-75 is a cool front in July, which is what the Brits call a heatwave. Anyway, I gathered my backpack, mapped out my route and set off to the train station in Oxford.  I stopped at the local Sainsbury market first to grab some snacks to keep me going through the day. I made the mistake of not taking snacks yesterday and wolfed down ¼ of a Domino’s Pizza when I got back to the flat that night. Talk about heartburn!

            Back to the task at hand, today’s adventures.  After boarding the train to London, I finished reading the first Alice in Wonderland book, as Lewis Carroll wrote the books in Oxford and based them off of a little girl named Alice that lived with her father at Christ Church in Oxford, I found it fitting as part of my experience here. The book ended before the train ride so I moved on to Lion Among Men by Gregory McGuire (I also saw Wicked while I have been in London).  The ride ended and we all got off the train at Paddington Station. As I had mapped out my travels for the day I knew where to go on the Underground (or Tube) and headed in the direction of the line I needed to get on so I could transfer.  I am proud to say I can successfully navigate the London Underground with minimal mistakes and am very proud of that! Have you seen the map of the Underground? If not, take a look at it. 
Yeah, I mastered that bad boy. 

          I hopped off the Tube and headed to the British Library first thing.  I didn’t allow myself to be drawn in to all of the books, because I would never leave if I did that. I love books so much! I headed up the steps and found the area of the Library where they keep the treasures.  I was excited to see things like the Magna Carta (which was off display because of a special paid exhibit) and the Gutenberg Bible.  I was NOT disappointed.  Not only did I see wonders like the Gutenberg Bible (which is quite large and beautiful), I was able to see some of Da Vinci’s notebooks, original scores from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Galileo’s Starry Messenger notebook, original writings of the Diamond, Heart and Lotus Sutras of Buddhism, original writings by Shakespeare, the sole surviving manuscript of Beowulf, original lyrics from the Beatles, and the writing desk of Jane Austen just to name some highlights.  The room was dimly light with the focus of light being on the works and photography was not allowed.  The room was filled mostly with adults and it was very quiet.  Everyone was taking in the history before their eyes. We all had a common goal, to absorb and appreciate the works of art before us. Works of art that are written are no loss impressive than paintings, live music, or sculpture.  I fear that some of that is being lost and it was wonderful to be in the same room with others that appreciate the written word.

            After about an hour touring the treasures of the British Library I decided to change my original plan (another visit to the British Museum) and decided that going to the Tate Modern Art museum was more important.  I had just been humbled by the written word, so I decided it was time to be humbled by paintings, sculptures and photographs.  I am a fan of modern art, I can’t really explain why, but I enjoy looking at it much more than paintings by some of the greats like Monet.  While at Tate Modern I was able to feast my artistic eye on the likes of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Salvador Dali.  As photography was allowed, I snapped a few photos of the famous artists works, but I also was moved by a few artists I had not heard of before, so I snapped a few photos of their work too.  I found Tate Modern to be the ideal modern art museum, very minimal, lots of white, black and glass, but I also found it a bit confusing.  There were no maps on the walls to help you figure out where you wanted to go, like most British museums I had visited so far.  They did have a paper map, for a pound. I didn’t have a pound and figured I’d wing it anyway.  I enjoyed the artwork I saw while at Tate Modern and I’m sure I would have enjoyed more, but I was beginning to get tired so I headed out in the rain once again.  I stopped at the front of Tate Modern and snapped a picture of the Thames River in the rain and the skyline.  I figured I needed at least one “typical” London picture. Ha ha ha! Back to the Tube station I went after the photo opportunity. I decided to deviate from my course one last time, as I had some time to kill before I could get on the train to head to Oxford. I decided to go to the Hard Rock Café in London. 
Marilyn Dyptich by Andy Warhol

The kind of weather I was expecting in London

            The Hard Rock Café London is the original Hard Rock Café.  It was founded by two Americans that wanted to create a place in London where people of all classes could dine together and enjoy their experience.  Eric Clapton enjoyed the Café so much he asked to have a plaque put above a specific table.  The owners/founders refused as it didn’t fit with their idea, but jokingly told Clapton he could donate something to the establishment.  He did! He donated a guitar, which is the beginning of the Hard Rock Café collection.  How do I know this? I read it while sitting at the bar drinking my wild berry smoothie in a collector Hurricane glass.  I didn’t take any pictures of the Café because it was very crowded and people were eating their dinner.  I did walk around and take in some of the amazing memorabilia that adorns the walls.  They had guitars from Eric Clapton, Billy Idol, and even Jimi Hendrix.  There were outfits or pieces of clothing worn by the likes of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jim Morrison Bo Diddley and Mick Jagger.  It was awesome to see such a collection in such a small place.  If I had the extra money I would have toured the Vault, which is accessed through the Rock Shop across the street to see Kurt Cobain’s guitar and John Lennon’s glasses.  I guess that means another trip to England someday so I can check those out too!
Wildberry Smoothie from Hard Rock Cafe
            While on this adventure to England I have learned a great many things and appreciated a great many more.  One thing I have come to appreciate the most is my family.  They have unconditionally supported the idea and trip.  Anyone of my family members could have said no and I would have listened.  I would have felt guilty for a very long time for listening, but I would have listened.  Instead, I have been graced with a husband, son, parents, in-laws, and close friends who have fully thrown their support behind me.  I am doing my best to experience this land for its many levels of beauty and history, but not experience it through a lens.  I have taken pictures, but I’ve also walked around and appreciated the wonder and glory that is another culture.  I see far too many people rushing from object to object in museums taking pictures but not really experiencing the beauty of which they just took a picture.  I have seen numerous selfie sticks (the bane of my existence) because people are so self-involved that they cannot remove their face from the wonder of history, art, or science that they are supposed to be enjoying.  I am guilty of taking some selfie pictures while here, but as a rule, I don’t really like them.  If I take a picture of something it is because I want to remember it for the rest of my life.  If I took the picture, I know I was there, I don’t need the proof of my face to make it any more real.  I hope that people can learn to put their cameras away, if only for a few moments, and appreciate the wonder and joy of what they are experiencing.  I think that is one of my biggest take-aways from my travels, learning to really enjoy life and the wonders that it holds daily.  Nothing can compare to standing in the same room as an entire outfit worn by Jimi Hendrix, or seeing a painting by Picasso, or reading the handwritten lyrics of “Ticket to Ride” on the back of a birthday card.  Each of these people were inspired at one moment and created something beautiful that is now preserved for thousands of others to enjoy and gain inspiration.  Why waste that time finding the perfect angle for a selfie, why not spend that time in awe of the genius that was just witnessed, even if it was 100 years ago.
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