This past weekend we hopped over to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China. That sounds crazy, right? Well it was, kind of. I truly never imagined that I would “hop” over to China. But it was fantastic.
The Great Wall is certainly great. Construction of the wall began in 221 BC under the direction of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Further construction was accomplished during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). It is now 4,000 miles long. Urban legend holds that the Great Wall is the only structure on earth that you can see from outer space – but the actual astronauts who have been in outer space seem to dispute that. I’ll go with what they said.
So the Great Wall is up, up, up on top of the mountain – that means if you want to climb it, you must go up a lot of stairs – and by a lot, I mean A LOT. We climbed stairs for about an hour and a half. That was mostly because I way dumbed us down and took a long time getting to the top. My kids probably could have done it in an hour no problem. But, did I mention, it’s a lot of stairs? And stairs that were built a very long time ago – so some are really tall and some are not so much tall and some are crooked. And the handrail was meant for people with not very long arms. So, it is not like stairmaster stairs or escalator stairs. It’s more like Dr. Seuss stairs. Tall stairs, small stairs, and crooked stairs too. Up some, down some, and over some too.
And I learned this about China. Most of the doorways in the older structures have a step within them. I was told this is because they believe that evil spirits are short and cannot enter a doorway with a step in it. Okay – I am not one to point out minor details – but if an evil spirit has to climb, let’s just say 1,000 steps to even get to the doorway, it seems a wee bit redundant to put one more obstacle before him. But, hey, better safe than sorry on the “keeping evil spirits out” philosophy!
We did not have time to go see the terra cotta warriors while we were in China – so it was fun that these guys were there. Too bad he wasn’t available to carry me up the stairs.
And I think you should heed this warning.
We saw these locks lining the walls. I wish I had known that they were the “locks of love”. Couples come and add their lock to the chain, then throw the key over the side of the wall. I would have totally done this with hubby!
There are a few pit stops along the way – a couple of places to buy a drink or an ice cream or souvenirs. But there is only one “bathroom”. So go before you go. Or you will be squatting for all the world to see. This picture will surely totally confuse some of my western readers. So, I will answer a few questions – yes, this is the women’s restroom. No, there are no doors. No, there is not toilet paper. Yes, it is at least inside a room – a room with windows – but a room. Yes, be thankful this is not a scratch and sniff blog.
The girls and I went in thinking it would be a good idea to take advantage of the facilities and then we decided that we could wait for a better option. But on the way back down, I wanted to get a picture for you dear blog readers. So, armed with my camera, I turned the corner to take a picture and a woman was – let’s just say busy – so, I quickly stepped back out. It was really hysterical when she came out and tried to explain to me what the “bathroom” was. I just said, “yes, I understand, bathroom. Just wanted a picture – not willing to actually use it.”
This is me – totally ready for the adventure…
And this is me about half-way up thinking “how much further?”.
Just a few tips. You don’t need to carry your purse. You won’t really need a lipstick at the top of the wall. A water bottle is a good idea though. And I did start off wearing a sweatshirt with a light sweater underneath with a t-shirt under that. I was glad to have the layers. We were there in early April and it was chilly starting off. But as we walked up more and more steps, we were glad to shed the sweatshirts. I was also happy to have my sweater to put back on as we went back down the stairs. It turns out going down is much, much easier than going up.
This sign either says “Great Wall” or “do you have any idea how many steps that is?”
It was interesting also to see that there were no first aid stations or anything like that. So, really be careful if you decide to take this hike. I am sure most people are fine – but take breaks when you need them – and do eat a good breakfast. Truly, just when I thought we were getting close, we turned around another guard tower just to find more steps. Steps that were going up.
The views were spectacular.
And if you do make it all the way to the top, cartwheels are absolutely in order!
And going down is much easier when you “slide” down. 😉