Great Wall

Great Wall

The Great Wall it turns out cannot actually be seen from space; but it’s still a very impressive hunk of building. We walked a couple of kilometers along its 5000 kilometer length today and were impressed.

We went to the Mitinayu section of the wall, which is the middle of the three sections easily reached from Beijing. This section is supposed to be less crowded, but the -10 temperature probably had more to do with keeping crowds at bay. The Wall itself is accessed either by foot, which takes too long for our purposes, cable car, or ski lift. We opted for the latter, purely by chance and so wasted Callum’s latest awful joke: How do you get up to the Great Wall? By Kublai car!

It’s only really when you are standing on the Wall that you realize just how big it is. You can easily see how it kept marauding invaders at bay. The Wall itself is probably an effective military installation, but if I was an invading horde I’d think twice about taking on anyone who could get such a huge thing built in such an awkward spot. This part of the wall follows the ridge of a series of steep hills so the whole thing, Wall and watchtowers, are built at very steep angles. Some frightening number of peasant laborer’s bodies helped provide fill between the brick footings as the Wall was constructed.

The watchtowers are now guarded only by locals selling Coke and Oreos to the tourists, but the original guards must have had thighs of steel after a few nights patrolling the walls. The walk was invigorating after the drive out to the Wall, but the cold really got to poor Declan in particular so we retreated earlier than we otherwise would have.

Getting down from the Wall involved a luge ride down a metal luge track. It bore no resemblance to a cultural experience of the Wall, but it was a great deal of fun. At the bottom we were so exhilarated we finally relented and let Declan buy the Chinese fan he has wanted forever. Bargaining started at Y85 and ended 50m down the street at Y20. I’m sure the stall holder still came away happy, but we felt we’d achieved something on the negotiating front.

The Wall itself did, apparently, manage to withstand military attacks for quite some time. It eventually fell to the Manchu invaders when one of the Generals in charge decided the invaders looked like a better bet than the incumbent Dynasty and opened the doors.