Jaza's World Trip

Paul's Harvard tour

We haven't seen much of him so far: so today, my dad and I went and met up with Paul; and he took us for lunch, and also treated us to his own special tour of Harvard. Since Paul is currently working at Harvard, as a professor, it was much more unique and memorable than the standard tour that we went on last week. Lunch was great, too.

We rendezvoused with Paul at the Harvard Faculty Club, where we dined for lunch. And oh yes: this is not a place where you go; this is a place where one dines. Very fancy shmancy indeed. You can't even get in unless you're part of the Harvard staff, or a guest of a staff member — that's how elite it is. Anyway, they do quite a formidable buffet lunch — I imagine that it would be fit even for the Sultan of Brunei himself — plenty of smoked salmon, grilled lamb, home-made mousse, and other goodies.

It took some time to thoroughly stuff ourselves at the Faculty Club — and to catch up over lunch — but we did stop eating eventually; after which it was time for the tour. Paul's Harvard tour consisted of showing us quite a few different faculty buildings, museums, and libraries — as well as his own building, the Center for European Studies.

The glass flowers exhibit, in the Natural History museum, would have to be one of the most memorable stops on the tour. What they've got in here is quite spectacular: literally thousands of model flowers and plant stems, which were made about 100 years ago, and which are composed entirely of the most delicate and carefully-stained glass imaginable. They were made by a group of biologists and expert glass-makers, and were commissioned by the university, for the university. You have to see it to believe it: basically, the flowers look so real, and they're so ridiculously detailed, that I find it very hard to believe that they're all made out of glass. Nothing less than a miraculous feat of artistic construction.

Also of note was Paul's tour of the Widener library, the largest and most important of Harvard's (no less than!) 99 various libraries. Paul took us down to the 4th-level basement, which he explained was until recently a famous spot for Harvard undergrad students to get their rocks off, amidst the endless and largely-unlit shelved volumes. So common was the practice, he told us, that it became something of a "tradition", or "rite of passage", here at Harvard. Anyway, a few years ago they installed motion-activated lights in each aisle of the basement shelves, making the traditional practice significantly harder to carry out. My dad was also very impressed with the Judaica section of the Widener library: it's filled with thousands upon thousands of Jewish texts, in English and Hebrew (amongst other languages), religious and secular and everything in between.

Paul's own building, the Center for European Studies, is also quite a nice building, if a little kooky and out-of-the-way. The Germanic museum is very freaky: feels like walking into Transylvania, what with its grey-black gothic displays and all. The fridge was a big highlight of this building: Paul explained that it fills up quite impressively over lunch on most days; and that 4pm is the prime time to dive in and "mooch" (i.e. shnorer).

Filed in: BostonToursUniversityFamily