Saturday, 18 June 2016

Great Wall

I am sure that you can all understand my excitement on the day when I will proudly take you to the Great Wall of China! The Great Wall is a series of fortifications, meant to protect the ancient Chinese states from various invaders. The archeologists say its total length can be estimated as 8,850 km, though if all branches would be added, this could be up to 21,196 km, being more than half of the circumference of the Earth. Obviously, we will not walk the entire Great Wall, not only because it would take us months but also because it is largely destroyed. We will visit only its Mutianyu section, which is located around 1.5 hour drive from downtown Beijing.

If you do not speak Chinese, I would recommend you to look for an English-speaking guide. Otherwise, you may get a little bit confused.

Luckily, the most important information is provided as a biligual notice - the Great Wall has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List back in 1986.

The Great Wall winds up on the top of the hills. To get there you can use a hiking trail, a cable car or a lift. This section of the Great Wall is dotted with numerous watchtowers.

I propose that we skip the tiring walk up the hill and jump of the lift. Looks a bit like a ski lift, doesn't it?

The metal pipe below the lift is a tobbogan trail that can be used to go down the hill. To make the descent safe and allow the toboggan to loose distance, the trail is very curvy. It basically goes on the ground ...

... but in some parts it is located on tall, bridge-like, metal structures.

The mountains around us are surprisingly high.

Though we are quite high above the ground as well.

Finally, here it comes - the Great Wall!

We will get out of the lift close to the Zhengguan Terrace or Watchtower No. 6. It is 40 meters long, 30 meters wide, and 20 meters high. You can see from there the Great Wall winding up.

Down in the valley lies a village called as well Mutianyu. As you may judge yourself, over ninety percent of the area is covered with with woods.

And on top of the hills, you can see the Great Wall and its watchtowers. I must say I have no clue how they managed to built it there. Please rememeber that the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall was first built by the Northern Qi Dynasty in (550–577) so over 1,400 years ago. No buldozers, no cranes or heavy lifts. No lorries, no planes. And still, the Great Wall is here.

It is even more impressve once you realise that the Great Wall is not a straight line. It has many branches that cross each other, sometimes meeting on different levels of the same watchtower.

Moreover, it is surprisingly steep. Actually I was not sure if I prefer to take the road down (I hope you are not afraid of heights) ...

... or up. I just cannot imagine how a soldier, even in light armour, could climb these stairs. Definitely, the Great Wall (at least the Mutianyu section) was not designed for horses either.

You probably noticed already those square-shaped structures on the top of both sides of the Great Wall.

The are called parapets and they were designed to allow to protect the soldiers from ennemies. And to attack the ennemies as well, of course.

If you want to have an idea of  what it felt like to guard the Great Wall (and the whole Chinese empire), from one of these parapets, you can stand nxt to me.

If you are succesful, you will be able to keep the red flag high.

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