&#91FOUNTAIN&#93The example of Versailles

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[FOUNTAIN]The example of Versailles

One site is at the top of the list of things that must be seen for tourists who visit France. After sightseeing in Paris they inevitably travel 23 kilometers (14.4 miles) southwest of the City of Lights to the Palace of Versailles. The palace, the best of all the palaces in France, which has maintained Europe's most flourishing tradition of royal grounds, shows the essence of the court culture in the age of absolute monarchy. The palace, a representative of baroque-style architecture, is on the world heritage register by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco.

The Palace of Versailles was originally a hunting lodge that Louis XIII built in 1634. His son, Louis XIV, the "Sun King," expanded the building for 50 years, beginning in 1661. Louis XIV, who said, "I am the state," intended to show off the majesty of France. But the Palace of Versailles has not only the history of glory but has also the history of humiliation.

The Germans, after winning the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, crowned Wilhelm I (1797-1888) as kaiser of the new German Empire at the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. It was revenge for the trampling on German territory by French forces led by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). But the Germans were later humiliated at the same place. After defeating the Germans in World War I, the French with their allies made the Germans sign the punitive Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Through the treaty, Germany lost Alsace and Lorraine and was forced to pay 132 billion gold marks in reparations. Such heavy reparations, which were impossible to pay, caused the rise of the Nazi movement. In 1935, Adolf Hitler pulled out of the treaty, leading to the outbreak of World War II.

The eternal rivals of Europe, the French and the Germans, recently met again at the Palace of Versailles for another historical event, the extraordinary joint session of the French and German parliaments. The leaders of the two countries, President Jacques Chirac of France and Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and 900 lawmakers from the two nations participated.

The relations between France and Germany can be compared with those between Korea and Japan. Reconciliation begins with tolerance and respect to each other. But Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, seems to have no respect for Korea, as he visited the controversial shrine that honors his nation's war dead.


by Yoo Jae-sik

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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