Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Eiffel Tower: What Paris Means to Chicago

December 25th, 2009

Let's travel back in time. Not just to 2009... but to 1851. The very first "World's Fair" exhibition of culture and industry was held in Hyde Park, London. An enormous "Crystal Palace" was built to show off England's prowess as a world leader in industry and empire. This became a symbol of the Victorian Age as the industrial era kicked into high gear and began to demonstrate what our species can do with our mastery of combustion, our artistic ability, and our love for the dramatic and grandiose. Inside each of us is a crowd junkie craving to be part of the herd, just hoping to catch a glimpse of our greatest glittering achievements. The Great Exhibition, as it was known, sought to exploit that craving to the fullest.

Across the channel on the continent of Europe, Paris was not going to take this sitting down. The Anglosphere had spoken and it said, "wake up Paris, we know you're in there!!" And so she did... in 1889 Paris threw her very own World's Fair on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The "Exposition Universelle" featured something even more dramatic and eye-catching than a Crystal Palace. Paris had a tower... the Eiffel Tower. Built as the entrance arch to the fair, the 1,063 foot tall tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world until the Chrysler Building was completed in New York in 1930. Indeed, Paris had shown the world that she was in charge of Europe and she was as relevant as ever in the industrial age.

Chicago was still a dusty outback to Europe, but there would be a challenge - a gauntlet thrown down. Little did most Europeans know at the time, Chicago was a bustling metropolis that was about to throw a massive World's Fair of her own. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' journey to the America's, Chicago threw the greatest World's Fair yet. Our challenge to the Eiffel Tower was the world's first Ferris Wheel. This demonstrated America's nature to the world: Your tower was great. Our wheel is better! We didn't just do something big, we did something impossible. Suddenly Chicago was on the world stage and she has never turned back - "laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth" - the world is still listening.

Back to that tower, though... since we were talking about my trip to Europe. We came out of the Metro station to find the clouds starting to clear up. The lines were extremely long to get into the tower, but we didn't mind the view from ground level. After taking many photos of the tower, we walked across the river and past the Museum of Man. Around this time I began to recognize Paris. She is not just a pretty tower, some broad boulevards, and a warm baguette. Paris has something... a vibe, a personality, an underlying brilliance that feels exciting and new - despite its 6,200 year history. I fell deeply in love with that personality, that brilliance.


Dubai dhow cruise said...

The outstanding Eiffel Tower is located in Paris which is one of the world most famous monuments. The Tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel that’s the reason called Eiffel Tower. I never ever visited there but I’d like to recommend everyone must visit at least once in life.

Lynne Jordan said...

I remember the first time I saw the tower. I was so annoyed. There were loud Americans from the South everywhere, I got small gravel inside my shoes and didn't even want to go up it. I did purchase a Limoge replica though... The Arc de Triomphe - that slayed me for some reason ... I must give the Tour Eiffel another shot...

Great photos & video BTW

Interlaken sightseeing tours said...

It's on the top of my list when it comes to places I want to visit.