We were on a bus seventy kilometers outside of Beijing when we caught our first glimpse of the Great Wall of China, firmly perched on a tall ridge in the distance. We were visiting the wall at Mutianyu, a bit more rugged and less popular than Badaling, where most tourists go. We hopped on the gondola at the base of the hill and were swept up to the top in no time.
The first thing that strikes you is how big the wall really is – it’s 25 feet tall and seems to go on forever. The section at Mutianyu stretches for 2.5 kilometers through dense forest. It doesn’t sound far, but with the steep hills and 22 watchtowers it takes three or four hours to see everything.
This portion of the wall was reconstructed over an earlier wall dating back to the sixth century. The solid granite fortifications that make up what you see today were added 300 years ago to keep out the nomadic tribes to the north. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall wasn’t built all at once in a continuous line.
The section at Mutianyu remains largely intact, unlike some sections that were dismantled for use in other building projects. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960′s and 70′s, people were actually encouraged to take bricks from the wall for use in their farms and homes.
On the day we visited it was practically free of visitors. So we got to take a lot of silly photos like these.
It was SO hot that day that we were really thankful for the little stands selling Tsingtao beer.
We also liked Mutianyu because in addition to the gondola ride up you can take a toboggan ride down. In this heat, the less effort the better!
At the bottom there’s a string of stalls selling souvenirs, paintings, and “ObaMao” t-shirts.
And after returning to Beijing we celebrated the Great Wall by finding Great beers.