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Throwback Thursday – The Great Wall of China

Semester at Sea

Leaving the smog of Beijing behind, we ascended 2,077 steps to reach the pinnacle of The Great Wall. The Mongolian warriors were waiting for us when we reached the top. Wanting to fight with honor, the Mongol tossed me a battle blade, and the fighting commenced. He was no match for me, and he cowardly retreated once I disarmed him.

That’s the caption for the above photo, at any rate. I paid him five yuan (50 cents USD at the time) to pose with me. We really did climb 2,077 steps, though! That’s more steps than in the Empire State Building! (which is 102 floors with 1,860 steps). It was worth the pain to be rewarded with the hilly views of the sinuous Great Wall and spattering of small villages on both sides.

The Great Wall of China

2,077 stairs: the ultimate quad and glute workout.

S’cuse the blurry photos. These were the good ole days of film photography!! Since I dug out these old prints but couldn’t find the negatives, I took photos of these photos to capture them in digital form.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall, the Ultimate Defense

Rising out of the mist like a great grey serpent, The Great Wall snakes across China’s verdant hills, separating it from Mongolia. The walls were resurrected to protect the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various military incursions or nomadic groups of warlike peoples or forces.

Under Qin Shi Huang in 220 B.C, the wall, originally built as a series of several smaller fortifications, eventually joined together to form a united defense system against invasions from the north. Construction continued through the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), and it became the world’s largest military structure. Because of it’s historic, strategic and architectural significance, it was awarded world heritage status and became what is today’s UNESCO World Heritage Site #438.

You can actually see this massive structure from outer space!

The Great Wall

Satellite image of The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China


China was one of ten stops on our Semester at Sea journey in 1999. I was inspired to share some of these Great Wall photos because my sister will be heading to China in about a week.

I have written about Beijing not being a very romantic place to visit, but there are just some things in this world that one must see. The Great Wall is one of them.
The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Lost in Translation

“Don’t be open ahead no going.”   Translation… no trespassing??

“Smoking and letting fire in the open air is forbidden”  Translation…. no smoking???

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

As if The Wall wasn’t spectacular enough, the alpine slide down the mountain was the icing on the cake! You board a little one-person sled with a pull-lever break and speed down the shoot. Exhilarating yet a bit scary, I made sure to hit the breaks on sharp turns.

That is… until this adrenaline junkie rammed me from behind. From the corner of my eye, I saw the impatient Chinese man, who kept yelling “Go! Go! No stop! No stop!” as he bumped up against my sled. I squealed, laughed (and might have said a curse word or two) and increased my speed. I wonder if this is still a method of departure from The Wall. Does anyone know?

Have you ever climbed The Great Wall? Please share!

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8 Responses to Throwback Thursday – The Great Wall of China

  1. Phoebe M April 4, 2014 at 12:58 AM #

    Great photos! I really enjoyed reading this post! I also went on Semester at Sea, so it was nice to read about a fellow SAS-er. Having lived in Beijing for the last three years, I’d say your photos are still relatively accurate and similar to mine.. add a bit more pollution and you’re golden! 🙂

    • Lindsay April 4, 2014 at 3:19 PM #

      Hey Phoebe! Thanks for the comment, and YAY SAS!! What year/semester did you go? OK, so I have heard that Beijing has gotten worse, but my sister’s friend lives there and apparently defends it as being “not that bad” anymore? I never know what to believe! It was pretty polluted when we were there in 1999. We’re talking soot coming out of the nose!

  2. alexraphael April 6, 2014 at 4:45 AM #

    I have never climbed it. Awesome pics though.I hope you stole those signs 😉

    • Lindsay April 6, 2014 at 10:19 AM #

      Thanks! Nah, didn’t steal anything in communist China! But that’s why we got the photos!!

  3. Chandler April 6, 2014 at 1:50 PM #

    Thanks for the TBT nod-I will take lots of pics and let you know how the smog is in….THREE DAYS! So excited-what time of year were you there b/c I’m thinking it will be chilly-def wearing lulu and tennies.

    • Marie-Elena April 6, 2014 at 4:55 PM #

      We went;
      we climbed and only made it to the first tower! We were smokers back then.(2010). It was definitely an experience. The “so called” bathrooms were atrocious!

      • Lindsay April 6, 2014 at 10:34 PM #

        Hey M.E.W! I don’t know if I remember the bathrooms up there. My memories of toilets in Asia, in general, were holes in the ground… what we fondly referred to as squatty pottys. I tell you what though, I can use a public toilet anywhere now! Not shy anymore! Glad y’all gave up the smoking too 🙂

    • Lindsay April 6, 2014 at 10:31 PM #

      Chan, we were there in late September/early October. It was warm but got chilly on the wall. I layered. Take notes! Would love a guest post from you! Or maybe we could do a collaborative Beijing and/or Japan post!

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