Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Amber Room

Post-title is a preview of my answer for today's Reverb 10 prompt:
December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
I feel like some adults around me (including my husband) have an easy sense of wonder about them, but it seems like very few attorneys I know have that same sense of wonder though.  And I'm definitely in the latter group.  I just feel like I'm overly cynical and/or analytical.  There is little wonder in my daily life. 

For me, I suppose I cultivated my sense of wonder by traveling to new places, both to places I've always imagined going and to places I'd never imagined.  I felt a sense of awe and wonder when I was able to explore new places.  I suppose I cultivate this by planning my spending and vacation days to allow for interesting and wonderful travel each year.  Our current plan is going to Italy and one place near there about every other year, and going somewhere more remote on the other year. 

The place that I would say had the strongest sense of wonder for me this year (and probably ranks among the top for my lifetime senses of wonder) was Catherine's Palace/Pushkin outside St. Petersburg, Russia.  I love history (and have wished I'd majored in History like a blogger I read, Mary, did) and I spend most of my free reading time reading WWII non-fiction, which seems to hold the most interest for me, though I really do enjoy many different eras. 

So I'd heard these mysterious stories for years about the panels of the Amber Room in the palace, originally a gift from Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to Tsar Peter the Great of Russia.  The Room was originally located in Berlin, but Friedrich Wilhelm wasn't overly impressed by it (it had been constructed in the early 1700s by his predecessor), and when Tsar Peter was impressed by it, Friedrich Wilhelm gave it to Peter to cement an alliance between the countries against Sweden.  The room was moved to Russia. 

The Room was sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the World because it was so beautiful.  But then, during the War, the panels were looted by German soldiers (believing the room to have been made by Germans and for Germans), moved elsewhere and then disappeared during the war.  Then panels may still be hidden away somewhere, may be at the bottom of the ocean, may be under a castle where they were in the early 40s, maybe completely disintegrated, no one knows. 

So they have been painstakingly reconstructing the Amber Room pretty much the whole time I've known about it (and I think my interest in the Amber Room probably first started in junior high, when I read one of my favorite books, Nicholas and Alexandra, by Peter K. Massie, highly recommended!). 

In 2003, the reconstruction was finally finished and it was just a question for me of how soon I could get there.  Finally, in May of this past year, I was there on vacation with my husband, celebrating our first anniversary. 

Here are a few pictures of the outside of the palace, other rooms, and finally, the Amber Room.  The photo of the Amber Room isn't that great b/c it was taken covertly.  No photos allowed, but I thought maybe it would be okay for me to take just one since I didn't use flash and I think I'm one of the few tourists who'd had a strong desire to go there for about 20 or more years and was far more interested in it than most.  Maybe?  I feel bad trying to justify it (I'm usually such a rule-follower), but I have these visions of myself in 50-60 years, when my mind is starting to go, and I can imagine reading about the Amber Room and holding this photo in my wrinkly, shaky hands, knowing it was evidence I'd been there, even if I couldn't remember it anymore, and smiling at that knowledge.

One of the halls in Tsarskoe Selo:

Nicholas and Alexandra:

Pretty malachite columns in some of the rooms:

My secret pic in the Amber Room, the most readily identifiable source of wonder for me in 2010:

Outside of Tsarskoe Selo, Catherine's Palace, Pushkin, so grand!: 

Anyway, doing what it takes in my daily life to allow me to travel to places like that is probably the primary way I cultivate my sense of wonder.  That, and spending more time with my godson and his sister, the AC's godson and his brother, and other kids in general -- their sense of wonder is impressive and inspiring.  But for experiencing my own wonder, seeing new places is the key. 

Now, back to my massive hydrating efforts to be ready for the marathon tomorrow!

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