Our next stop in Beijing...The Great Wall of China, and great it was! We decided to go to the Mutianyu section of the wall which was about 2.5 hours from downtown Beijing. We hired a driver to take us to the wall and wait until we finished touring, it was pretty convenient.
But first, Ella started her day with wonton soup, of course.
We chose the Mutianyu section, because there was a gondola to take you up to the wall which is at the top of a mountain, and also a slide to take you back down.
The girls were very excited about this, as was I!
We got a bird's eye view of the slide from the gondola.
Getting closer to the wall....
We made it!
It was so thrilling to actually be standing on the Great Wall, a place that I had learned about in school and seen in pictures, but never dreamed I would actually visit. And pictures don't do it justice!
There are many watchtowers along the Great Wall, and they were built about every 10 to 200 steps, according to the defensive necessity of the location. The original function was to provide a place to send smoke signals to other parts of the Wall, to announce an attack. (So, thankful for modern technology! Speaking of which, we had no access to social media of any kind in China, as well as difficulty googling just about anything. The government heavily regulates information. It was frustrating! Again, let's protect our freedom of speech!)
We were able to climb to the top of a few of the watchtowers.
Can you spot Ella?
This section of the wall was first built in the year 550, and strengthened in 1368-1644, and is made mostly from slabs of granite.
The wall was initially built to keep the Mongols and other enemies from attacking, and to allow the Chinese to impose taxes on goods transported by way of the Silk Road.
There were certain parts of the wall that were almost straight down. Watch your step!
I can't even fathom how they built this wall, it truly is one of the great wonders of the world. Many people suffered tremendously, lost their lives, and are even said to be buried right inside the wall. It was sobering to think about the cruelty the people faced and the girls asked many questions on the subject.
Off in the distance, the Wall stretched as far as the eye could see. Incredible!
The surrounding view was pretty incredible, as well.
Time for a quick family selfie. We're getting better!
From a window of one of the watchtowers, we could see ruins of a section of the wall that has not been maintained. And with about 5,500 miles of wall, that is to be expected! It's MASSIVE!
It was interesting that most of the Mutianyu Wall area was made up of small steps (about 2 inches tall),
to very large steps (about 1 foot tall). There was not a lot of just smooth ground, which was unexpected. And a work out!
But we finally found a more stair-less section. This is more of what I pictured the Wall to be like.
Lots of slanted staircases too, which kind of threw your stability off. It was an unusual sensation.
Late March was a lovely time to visit, the weather was perfect and there was no crowd. We had certain moments completely to ourselves.
After a great morning exploring the wall, there was still one more adventure to be had....
the toboggan ride to the bottom!
It was very "at your own risk". What you see is what you get!
We were told not to crash into anyone, that's it. Safety first! This gal couldn't wait, and was annoyed a that the man in front of her was slowing her down. (Maybe the slow man was a good thing?!)
Eva was a little more cautious and rode her brake all the way down.
But she loved it! It was actually a pretty long ride, too.
There was a Subway at the base of the Wall (yes, very authentic) and they were blasting the BeeGee's and "Disco Inferno", as we left. I enjoyed it immensely. Maybe it truly is a small world after all.
We had hired our driver for the day, so after the Wall, he took us back into Beijing to the Summer Palace. Along the way, we passed the Bird's Nest from the 2008 Olympics. I wasn't able to snap a pic because were in the car, but it was fun to see. Since I am a self proclaimed 'Olympic Junkie', I would like to explore this area next trip.
Summer Palace was initially built in 1153, and served as a home/vacation home for various emperors. It has changed hands many times, but is now mainly a tourist attraction.
The palace and surrounding grounds have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for being a great example of ancient Chinese architectural/garden design.
We really enjoyed walking around and exploring the grounds.
Loved all of these red ribbons at one of the shrines.
I felt like we were still in Japan, with the paparazzi swarming the spring blossoms!
Another great day! The Chinese culture dates back thousands of years! It was really fascinating to see some of this history firsthand, and reminds me of just how young the United States really is in the grand scheme of things.
(***Side note- At the hotel happy hour that night, I thought this was a very cute and creative way to serve watermelon.)
Up next, we fly to the city of Xi'an to check out the Terracotta Warriors which were absolutely fascinating!