The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made object that can be see from outer space. It extends thousands of miles and cost millions of dollars and thousands of human lives to build and never really accomplished it's primary task, that was to prevent invasion...a wall is only as strong as the men (or women) who guard it.
There are two sections of the wall easily accessible to tourists from Beijing. Badaling is the largest and most popular section. Although the trinket vendors and hawkers are everywhere the wall is still a magnificent example of human engineering. Imagine living on the wall hundreds of years ago, in the middle of winter, as the first line of defense for the capital city of Beijing about 50 miles away. The height of the towers would seem to provide adequate protection from animals and casual marauders but not from a determined enemy.
Although the wall failed to protect, it did serve as an efficient transportation system to move armies and materiel from place to place. But sometimes when I realize how steep some of the rises are, even that must have been a difficult task.
My favorite section of the wall is MuTianYu. The wall seems to wind through the mountains like a dragon along the tops of the ridges. It also seems to be steeper in most places than the wall at Badaling. The approach to MuTianYu is more difficult because you have to climb quite a ways just to get onto the wall. Fortunately, there is a chairlift up to the wall so you can save your strength to climb the wall itself.
About every 200 meters, a tower rises above the wall providing a safe place to view the surrounding area. Inside most of the towers, there is not much room, just enough to temporarily escape the elements. Others however, afford much more space, probably for storing supplies, weapons and ammunition.
After enjoying the view and the exercise, its time to go down. At MuTianYu the chairlift only brings you up. You either walk down or pay about $4 to take the mountain slide. I've been to MuTianYu a number of times and really enjoy the walk if you have enough time. If not, I'd recommend the slide.
One of my most memorable experiences in China was New Years Eve, December 31, 1999, when four friends of mine and I camped out on the Great Wall at MuTianYu to watch the dawn of the new millennium from a structure that has existed for two already. But that's another story.
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