Saturday, October 25th 2014

The Great Wall of China

Great Mao: He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man;and he who does not love the Great Wall is not a hero.

I was not too keen on visiting the Great Wall of China after seeing the herds of visitors to the Forbidden City (which we didn’t visit btw). But in the end we decided to go. The plan was to take a bus to some sprcific bus stop where we would negotiate with taxi drivers who would take us to the wall, namely Mutianyu village. We chose Mutianyu part of the wall for being less touristy. I prefer to visit less famous sites rather than spend time in a Disney-Land type of places with hundreds-thousands of people.

After negotiating with taxi drivers we were taken to wall. The place had all the attributes of a very famous tourstic attraction. Believe me I know what I am talking about I live in Prague, one of the most visited places in Europe. So it was full of shops and stalls, in general looked like a proper Disney Land.

There were two options to reach the Wall: 1) a liftchair, and 2) stairs. We chose the stairs. On the way we met two elderly men from Canada and Australia. They were making a trip from Turkey, via Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan to China. There had been travelling by buses and trains. It was interesting to hear their impressions. Once again Iran scorred the highest points. It is definitely on my list and its position have been rising as quite a number of people already told me they had the best impressions of that country.

But back to the great wall of china. Once we reached the wall itself great views opened in each direction.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The wall is running on tops of ridges in several directions like a huge snake. This great Chinese Serpent is said to be the only structure bulit by human civilization which can be seen from the outer space. There has been a lot of argument about this, and some claim that it can be seen only from the low earth orbit.The Great Serpent of the Wall of China

The history of the Wall dates back several thousand years. The Great Wall of China runs in general east to west through the entire northern part of China. The wall is made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials. It was built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic tribes or other military formations.  Some walls were built around the 5th century BC. These parts later were joined together and made bigger, stronger, and unified. Now the whole structure of is called the Great Wall.Map of the Great Wall of China

The Mutianyu part belongs to the wall which was built by Ming Dynasty who ruled between 1368-1644. It connects Juyongguan Pass in the west and Gubeikou Great Wall in the east. The wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557). During Ming Dynasty period it was rebuilt it in order to strengthen its defensive potential.Mutianyu part of the Great Wall

The Great Wall in Mutianyu

The Great Wall in Mutianyu

This is a special part of the Wall as it has features not seen in other parts. There is a higher number of watchtowers – 22 towers on 2km-long stretch of the wall.Towers in Mutianyu

 

A lot of towers in Mutianyu

A lot of towers in Mutianyu

The wall is wide enough for a car to pass but stairs at each tower make it impassable for cars or horse carts. So only possible way to reach different parts of it is on foot.

Both sides of the Wall here are crenelated with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides – a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall.

The Mutianyu Pass consists of 3 watchtowers, one big in the centre and two smaller on both sides. Standing on the same terrace, the three watchtowers are connected to each other inside and compose a rarely seen structure among all sections of Great Wall.Side tower in Mutianyu Pass

 

Side tower in Mutianyu Pass

Side tower in Mutianyu Pass

The wall winds up the hills to the West. I walked in that direction for several kilometers. The higher i climbed the less visitors and street…well, wall-vendors i encountered. The further it is from the chairlift the less preserved is the wall. Its parts are fallen apart, trees inside towers and bushes in the middle of the way. You will see the real Great Wall of China in my next post.

Chinese people are obsessed with marriage and weddings. You will see couples posing to cameras in every more or less beautiful place. And of course in any Must-see-for-each-true-Chinese. As the Wall is probably on top of this list you can easily spot a scene like this.

Wedding on the Great Wall

Wedding picture posing on the Great Wall

After a great day and a lot of walking you don’t have to walk down. You can chose an alternative way – wheeled toboggan. You can slide down into the valley through a winding metal track. This again adds to the Disney Land atmosphere.

The last glance on the wall and time to descend. I was trying to imagine how it must have looked hundreds of years ago. I wish i could time travel to see its past.

The past of the Great Wall of China

The past of the Great Wall of China

Next time if ever i will definitely go on a wall hike. Yes, you can spend several days walking the wall. And yes, you will sleep on the wall. I wonder how much time it would take to walk the whole wall…..

I would be very curious to see the non-touristy parts of it. Actually in my next post you will see the Real Great Wall of China. The wall as it is not as it is depicted on postcards.

 

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