by Roaming Panda
The Great Wall of China. Arguably one of the most arduous architectural undertakings ever attempted in the history of man. At its peak, it stretched for over 13,000 miles if you counted every rural area it cut through. Think about that...13,000 MILES! The distance from Maine to California is only a little over 3,200 miles. This means the Great Wall would stretch back and forth across the continental United States 4 times! Most of what still stands today is left over from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Originally built as a defense against northern attacks, the Great Wall now stands as 2,300-year-old monument to the accomplishments of Chinese ingenuity and architecture.
This is the second time I've visited the Great Wall. The steps of the wall are extremely uneven with some just a few inches high and others nearing a foot or more. Throw in the steep incline of the mountain and you're in for a full on work out. The mountainside was green with lush vegetation and the tourists were out in full force. Many people had to stop and take breaks half way through a single section just to catch their breaths.
Once you get to the top of a section though, the view is breathtaking. You can see other parts of the wall stretch across neighboring mountain tops and cars and buses look like little Hot Wheels. I only scaled the first section of the wall because quite frankly, you're up high enough, and going higher wasn't so much the issue as it was coming back down. I wonder how many tourists have tripped and rolled down these steps. It's a dizzying descent down and if you have an aversion to heights, it might be even more challenging. I was gripping the handrails for dear life as I have no trust in my own balance.
I highly recommend putting the Great Wall on your bucket list. As I stood atop one of the watch towers and looked around, I tried to place myself 2,000 years back in time before cars, tourists, and modern machinery to think how grueling it must have been for workers to construct this wall across centuries. It's almost incomprehensible. A definite must see.
The Great Wall is a tough act to follow. Our next stop in the afternoon was to the Beijing Olympic Park. These were the grounds built to host the 2008 Olympic games. Today, it stands mainly as a tourist attraction. Aside from checking out the Beijing National Stadium (constructed to resemble a bird's nest) and the National Aquatics Center, there isn't much else to do here. The McDonald's and gift shop on site were probably the highlights for me. Worth a visit if you've never been.
I'll be honest, at this point of the trip, I'm exhausted. Long 14 hour days filled with non-stop walking and oppressive heat is starting to take it's toll. As tiring as it all may be, I am extremely thankful for everything that I've seen and for all that I've had the opportunity to experience. The next post will probably be the last to focus on the travel as we wrap up our final days in Beijing. Thanks for sticking around. To check out the rest of the pics from the Great Wall and Olympic Park, click HERE.