Sunday, December 18, 2005


China Flash Back: Xi'an City Wall

City Wall

Hey! It's Sunday, and I just finished baking a bunch of Christmas cookies. (Macaroons, Oatmeal Scotchies, Brownies, etc.) Now that I'm done, I find myself stewing over Congresses actions last week (and how they'll create a lot of work for me in the weeks ahead). So, what better way to forget my troubles than to dive into the recent memories of my China vacation. Today's stop, the ancient capitol of Xi'an. Xi'an, China's first capitol, is home to the famous Terra Cotta Army and has one of the largest and best preserved old city walls in the world.


Unless you're a history/archeology buff, you probably haven't heard of Xi'an. Xi'an was China's first capitol (have I said that enough already?!) and is located in the north-ish central part of the country in Shaanxi Province..kind of like St. Louis is in the U.S. Folks have been living in and around Xi'an since about 1100 BC, when it served as the Capitol of the Zhou Dynasty. Sometime around 582 AD, the Sui Dynasty decided to move the city to the present location and to enclose it in a large city wall. Now, I've seen walled cities in Europe, but they don't come even close the the scale of the walled city of Xi'an. The wall, which is 40-ish feet high and about as wide. It encloses as total area roughly 1/2 the size of Washington, DC. You can rent bikes and ride around the entire perimeter of the wall. (The people at the desk in the lower left of the picture are the bike rental folks). Note that you can't see the end of the wall, this picture was taken from the main gate located smack in the middle of the long, North side of the wall. Also note the pollution.

Main Gate:

To get up onto the wall, you enter through a stairwell located in the main gate (picture). Oddly, the Main gate is not in the center of a large traffic circle and to get to it, you have to literally wade into the bustling traffic. Buses, trucks and cars are all hurtling around the circle and as it is a circle, it's really tough to see when it is safe to go. Many aborted attempts to cross, which greatly amused the locals. When I was in Vietnam, you pretty much had to do the same thing, but in both Saigon and Hanoi, most of the traffic is mopeds, here it was cars, buses and trucks. We'd venture out, then I'd shout "Abort, Abort!" and we'd run back to the curb. Finally we shadowed some locals across, found the ticket both and scaled the wall.

After checking out the City Wall, we made our way to a nearby shopping street. One could imagine in the summer this street being chock-a-block with western tourists haggling over trinkets. But it was pretty much just us and the locals. Got a good deal on some terra cotta warriors (Note: Midgie, I'll bring yours to LA in January). Lots of street vendors selling all sorts of yummy looking treats, from candied crabapples, crepes, and roasted chestnuts. Sadly, if there is any possibility of getting sick off this stuff, it ALWAYS happens to me. So, despite the fact most of the food stalls looked pretty clean (better than the hot dog carts here in DC), I passed for my own protection.

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