Sunday, 17 October 2010

Another brick in ...

A few years ago, a private Swiss company set up a massive global vote for the new seven wonders of the world, which ended up being Macchu Picchu, the Great Pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal, the Colloseum, the Great Wall, Christ the Redeemer in Rio and Petra. The Pyramids of Giza (the only one of the original seven wonders still standing) were inducted as 'honorary' seven wonders.
Now, I've already grizzled that the Redeemer statue, while undoubtedly very impressive and in a fabulous setting, made it in rather than much worthier candidates on the shortlist like Angkor and the Alhambra (which have the added glory of being visited by us). Sadly, there's a lot more Brazilians and general fans of Jesus than there are Cambodians. Such are the flaws of democracy. You can see them in the shortlist for the seven natural wonders of the world - a random Taiwanese mountain and Korean island, but no Mt Fuji or Mt Kinabalu? And please, Vesuvius is cool, but there are three more impressive volcanos in New Zealand alone. Guess Ngaruhoe or Taranaki should have wiped out some Roman towns.
But the thing with the seven wonders lists is that they are lists, and lists of awesome things, and therefore we love them. The Great Wall was the fifth (counting the Pyramids) we've been to.

The Great Wall is Lauren's favourite out of the Wonders we've seen. I find it hard to rate them, as they're all amazing in distinctive ways, but the Wall is definitely the Wonder we had the best time visiting. It's the most interactive of them, because you can climb up it and walk along it for hours (or days if you wanted to). You get a real feel for it, with the bricks under your feet.

We had a particularly good time because we went to Jinshanling, a section some three hours drive out of Beijing, in steep, forest-covered hills. It was wonderful to get into the wilderness and even more wonderful to be somewhere with clear skies. The views were, well...

Lauren enjoys some solitude

To add to the atmosphere, there was not a massive amount of tourists as there are at Badaling - the site closest to Beijing - so you could take a moment to enjoy things. The wall, which dates from the Ming Dynasty, had also not been as heavily reconstructed as at Badaling. That made climbing it a bit more fun.

The Great Wall is a truly staggering piece of building. It stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, winding its way along ridgelines, up hills, down valleys, until it disappeared into the distance. It's possible to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai, which is about 10km away, but sadly the Simatai section was closed to we walked for about an hour then walked back. It was an unforgettable day.

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