Flying to the fairy land

Its such an amazing feeling to live in a hot country when other parts of the world are freezing cold…

When I was little I’ve been told that even birds are running from the winter, migrating to the “warm countries” but at that time I thought “warm countries” represent a fairy land and not a real place on the map. My parents and teachers never named those places maybe not to destroy the mysticism or simply because they never asked themselves this question: “Where are the warm countries?” Few days ago I asked my mother: “Mom did you ever wonder where the birds migrates for winter?” After few moments of deep thoughts she answered me dry “No, they never told us”.
Almost 30 years of my life I ignored this matter myself, being too busy or to careless to find an answer. Every October I observed the number of pigeons multiplying on the beaches and streets of Abu Dhabi and I even heard stories of magical pink flamingos wandering the desert.
I am blessed to live in the fairy land of the warm countries where hundred species of birds find their refuge every winter.
Sharing my little friends antipatie for rainy, cloudy days I find myself relaxing under the gentle sun of November with no desire to return to my cold, grey country, Romania.

Stangers in Moscow

“Moscow is the city where if Marilyn Monroe should walk down the street with nothing in but shoes, people would stare at her feet first.” John Gunther

I am walking down the Red square admiring the beautiful mixture of Sovietic arhitecture and new era design and even if is not my first time in Moscow I am still stunned by the greatness which surrounds me at every step.

Surprisingly, even if its the end of september the weather is still warm and I decide to leave behind the winter clothes that I brought with me “preventive”, replacing it with something more “fashionable”, trying to keep up the rythm with the elegant russian ladies wandering the streets of the Capital city.
Most of my colleagues are in Moscow for the first time and I tear up with regret my long list of museums, decided to be their guide outside of the Kremlin walls.

Saint Basil’s cathedral

We start our short visit with the famous, colorful landmark situated right in the heart of the city: the cathedral of Vasily the blessed commonly known as Saint Basil’s cathedral. The unique construction was finished in 1561 and incorporates 10 side churches, the last one covering the grave of the venerated Saint Vasily.

While some “critics” would say the cathedral reseamble a bonfire pointing the infinite sky I did find a more creative description: a giant ice cream with rainbow flavor. If in my previous visits I tried to behave the best way possible, right now the child inside me is ready to taste the havenly cup even if it means crushing some religious boundaries.

While the moscovits are throwing me a surprised look, (“how am I capable of such blasphemy?”) I set up a new trend and just couple of minutes later few other rebels following my sinful behavior start “licking” the domes of the holy church.

Lenin’s tomb

Its time to stop our silly photoshoot trying not to disturb the eternal sleep of Vladimir Lenin who is resting peacefully just few steps away from us.

The body of the imposing sovietic leader had been on public display shortly after his death (1924),  russian authorities making great effort to keep his appearance intact over the time. The mausolem is visted daily by a huge crowed who is subject of high security measures at the entrance and is required to pay great respect to the dead leader once they are inside: hats, hands in pocket, talking and photography are strictly forbiden.

Moscow always feels like home

Moscow always made me feel like home giving me that feeling of similarity, of belonging and everything seems just right: the grey comunist buildings outside of the Red square, the countless churches whispering their prayers towards the sky, the candles lited inside of the cathedral with their believers kneeled in front of the holy icons, the people struggling to convert strong communist concepts into modern beliefs, the “babuska” (old lady) who won’t refrain from judging with loud voice two teenagers kissing on the street, locals still struggling with the english, reluctant to the foreign tourists visiting their country.

Kazan cathedral

We step inside of one of the most proeminant church in the Red square, the Kazan cathedral, some of us for a brief prayer while others curious to discover what is hidden under the roof of an ortodox worship place.

Soon after, we are about to be kicked out by an angry christian who feels insulted by a colleague attempt of taking a picture inside of the holy church. Russians pay great respect to their religion like any other believers in the world, fact which should be known by everybody, especially when a big sign with “photography prohibited” is hanging on the outside door.

Outside of Kremlin walls

We leave behind the majestic Red square,passing  through the Ressurection gate where a bronze plaque is marking the kilometer zero of russian highway system.

Here, hundred tourists and locals on both sides are gathering around the plaque, waiting impatient their turn to make a wish. The legend says that throwing a coin over the shoulder will bring you great fortune but only if the coin will land in the bronze circle. I tried my luck…

You can never force your faith but you can definitely add a “shot” of hapiness to your life…and meanwhile in Russia the good mood is not measured in glasses but in barells of…vodka: “Nostrovia”

We continue our walk outside of the Kremlin wall towards the Alexander’s gardens where million blossomed flowers are spreading their fragrance in the air but the only smell that we are interested in right now its the one of baked bread coming from the restaurants situated alongside the bridge.

Vintage dinning

The sun is about to settle down and we decide to end up the evening with a traditional dinner in a pleasant location. Once inside, we step back into the past where everything around reminds of sweet years of childhood: vintage furniture, black and white tv, creepy dolls and the unforgettable flavors of mulled wine and grandmas food.

Surprisingly russian food is not very similar with my country’s food (Romania) even though our past is so close connected. I open the pages of the “slavic magazine” which serves as menu card and I choose a soup and a main course based on the pictures displayed.
Russian food is definitely not on my preference list but I totally enjoy the atmosphere and the two glasses of aromatic mulled wine responsible with my red nose and the big smile on my face.

Moscow by night

Outside everything changed completely, the majestic empress is now ready to shine in its ceremonial clothing.
Moscow by night is full of magic, its fascinating and enigmatic. Beside that, now its the time when the locals start gathering inside of the fashionable shopping malls situated not only across the square but also bellow it (underground).


Facing the Red square is GUM department, a building with a fascinating history like everything else in Russia, built in 1893 and unique for that time due to its glass ceiling, functioning in present as a shopping mall.

Its time to end our visit and while my colleagues try to avoid the terrific traffic of Moscow walking towards the hotel, I prefer to wait for the shuttle bus, paying a visit to the famous Bolshoi theatre on my way.

P.S: the photos were taken during 3 different visits in Moscow, some of them in 2017 while others in 2014 but all the places mentioned above can be visit in just few hours, being located extremly close to each other.

Spasiba mother Russia!

The angel from the train

I got on a train to Dusseldorf (Germany) together with few other colleagues heading to the city center when an unpredictable encounter changed my entire perspective about the day ahead and the life in general.
A man with poor appearance, a homless or a begger (judging by his clothes) jumped inside of the compartment right before the doors were closed for departure. He sat on the seat  beside us, setting up his muzical instrument and singing with a passion hard to describe. He wasn’t singing for money neither for audience…he was singing for himself.

First the travelers seemed to ignore him but with every station they became more interested and intrigued by the man singing on the train. After he finished his first performance me and my colleagues were clapping, truly impressed by his talent.
The man was so happy that someone is appreciating his work and he decided to engage us in a conversation. Our effort to pick up some german words was in vain and we tried to end the conversation: “Sorry, only english”. Then unexpectedly, the man start talking in english, not a perfect one but better than what a regular italian or german might be able to express. He shared with us the story of his life and when I realized that emotions are taking over and is hard for him to relate in english, I shifted the conversation to Italian which seemed to be his mother tongue.
Most of us tend to believe that people with a lower social background are ignorant or just not worth listened to because if they couldn’t  sort out their own life how could they be meaningful for my own? You would be surprise to find out that this man and other million like him are capable of deep thoughts, have strong beliefs and once…they were like us…they were part of the society.
I dont know this man real name, he calls himself Angelo fortunato (lucky angel) but the way he oppend his soul for me in 20 minutes ride made me fell that I knew him all along.
Angelo’s mom died when he was just a child, hit by a car while his father took his last breath in his arms, slain by a cruel disease. With all those he didn’t lose his faith and even though there were moments in his life when he would just give up on suffering he decided to go on. “And if I would ever decide to take my life, would I be hanging a bomb from my neck and take you and all those innocent people with me? Would it be fair in the eyes of God to punish you for my sins?”
The batery of his instrument is over and while trying to warm it up in his palms he is starting a new life story, every time wrapping up with a piece of advise. “And when my batteries are over you know how I sort this out? I just flip my hat and people who likes my song will help me buy new ones”.


I am just listening in silence, stunned by the beautiful songs composed by himself , some of them ages ago. I dont know what made him end up on the streets of a German city but I do know that once Angelo was a handsome italian man, walking on his arms a beautiful lady on the streets of Torino, he was a son, he was a father, he was a complete artist.
I wasn’t feeling well that day, my heart was teared apart and my life seemed to have no meaning. “Stop looking for the right man because you will never find him. The right man will come and find you, listen to me Michela, never put yourself below a man, because men are assholes, they will take what they need and they will leave you without looking back”.
What surprised me the most was that he never asked for money or contribution of any sort. We crossed paths, learned a lesson and continued our journey throughout the life.
Be mindful with who you talk because they might be angels send by God.
If you are curious about Angelo fortunato you can find few of his street performance on youtube.

Dream and nightmare in Santorini

Our ferry its about to make its final stop in Thira, Santorini and hundred passengers are waiting inpatient to reach the main port of the beautiful island. The crowed stacked in pairs and holding hands in front of the huge iron gate takes me back in the past to the Noah’s legend and his ark where million species saved from the devastating fload are brought safe to the shore. Among them its also us, the happy survivors of 3 days in Mykonos, the island where the party never stops.

Oia the pearl of Santorini

The road to Oia is quite long and we are trying to kill the time “admiring” the view out of the bus window: narrow streets, arid earth and fragil enviroment…nothing of the beauty displayed on the pages of touristic magazines. I can read a trace of disappointment on Abdulla’s face and even if my heart is shrouded in fear I am trying to raise his morale “come on babe its gonna be alright”.

After more than one hour, the driver stops us in front of a white pedestrian street pointing in the direction of our hotel “Kima villas suite”. I cant see it just yet being stolen by the beautiful scenery of white and blue constructions “carved” meticulously above the sea.

Hypnotized by the divine canvas depicted in shades azure, levitating on the stairs below me, I am woken up by a stranger voice…”Kalimera (good morning!), welcome to Santorini”.
A bottle of chilled champagne and fresh grapes placed in front of our door are responsible for our good mood and the tiredness is immediately replaced by a state of excitement, having no doubt that we are going to enjoy our short stay.

The hotel location is so perfect that we could have spend the rest of the day stucked in bed or relaxing in the tiny pool, dreaming about the lost Atlantis or mythological stories meant to describe the mysterious charm of the volcanic paradise.

The legend of the lost Atlantis

While nowadays geologists studies confirmes that Santorini is the result of a natural volcanic eruption, the ancient Greeks used to give a more meaningful explanation for a phenomen inexplicable to humans at that time. According to them, Santorini was created out of a miracle when Euphemus (son of Poseidon) coming back from an expedition by the sea, dreamed of making love to a nymph, the daughter of Triton (the sea God). The nymph got pregnant and advised Euphmus that throwing a clod of earth in the open sea would create a safe place for giving birth, far away from her infuriated father. The island was named Calliste meaning “the most beautiful” while their son was named Theras (from where the place got its name later on as Thera).
The island gained even more popularity after being related to the most mysterious and well known myth, the lost Atlantis. Atlantis was first mentioned in a book by the greek philosopher, Plato, being said that God punished the Atlantians for their arrogance, vanishing their island in one night leaving behind only masses of mud.

The best sunset in the world

Another story claims that Santorini has the best sunset in the world and determined to find its veracity we join the hundred other curious tourists spread all around the cliffs, waiting for the perfect shot. The inevitable happens and I lose Abdulla in the crowed, too focused on chasing the orange sun which is about to settle behind the volcanic rocks.

After a long search I return to the hotel alone, asking the receptionist for a second key, admitting with shame to have lost my boyfriend in what was supose to be a romantic evening. Abdulla is relieved to find me safe in the hotel room and we celebrate our encounter with a late dinner and a bottle of greek wine.
Food in Greece didn’t impress me much and after trying a large variety of local food in the authentic tavernas, I got stuck with the same choice every day: greek salad and grilled fish, always shared with the fluffy guests around the table.

Second day: Abdulla experinced food poisoning

Next day in the morning we are supposed to go on a boat trip around the island but our plans are canceled when Abdulla experience severe stomach ache.
Georgia, the hotel receptionist is preparing a delicious breakfast for us and even if my baby is scared to touch any food, he cant say “no” to the delicious home made croissants and muffins. Every morning, Georgia is baking different cookies and breads and sets up the outside table for a memorable culinary experience with a paradisiac view.

http://www.kimavilla.com/

In great pain and with no energy, my baby doesn’t want to ruin our stay in one of the most beautiful places in the world being ready to endure the heat from outside to accomplish my wish: the famous donkey ride on the Santorini hills.
We stop time to time on the way, admiring the surroundings and trying to immortalize the ireal beauty on our photo camera. White buildings with blue cupolas and tiny windows are attached together on the vulcanic hills as giant pieces of a colorful puzzle.

Eternal love in Santorini 

Santorini is one of the most picturesque place in the world, reason why countless brides and grooms are climbing the white roofs everyday in search of a perfect wedding picture.
This is definitely the perfect place for honeymooners or couples in general and visiting the beautiful island alone or with a group of friends might be quite depressing.
Another legend says that couples who visit Santorni will either get married or will break up… the volcano fault probably which is responsible with the level of energy and emotions.

While weddings in Santorini might be something common, the ballet is definitely not. A beautiful balerina moving her body in the elegant rythm of the ballet dance is catching the eyes of the tourists who stops for a moment to admire the two greatest creations: women and nature.

We take a last refreshment break, in a terrace located above the mesmerizing blue sea. I must admit that I never loved mathematics but the Alpha seems to be my new favorite “equation” while in Greece.

Riding a donkey on Santorini hills

The donkeys are close by (I can say by the smell) and we are descending the stairs careful not to step in their poo which is spread careless everywhere.

Not surprisingly the price for the ride is fixed like everywhere in Europe (5 euro) and we don’t need to worry about being ripped off or having to bargain to obtain a decent price. However, I am about to regret the ride even before starting it when I realize that the poor animals are doing a huge effort carrying on their back silly tourists (like us). The caretaker is right behind, slapping the animals whenever they are stopping in order to regain their breath. I shout at him, forbidding to touch my donkey “dont even try”.

I am saying goodbye to my beautiful friend after a tough ride ready to go back to the hotel but not before of discovering more misteries well hidden on the tiny streets of Oia.

White and blue

Although Santorini is a rather small island it is overrun with religious monuments such as chapels, churches and monasteries depicted in white and blue. The two colors seems to have a highly importance for the greeks representing not only the national flag but also the sky and purity associated with the christianity.

Like everything in Greece, the myths and stories behind the two colors are countless but the more realistic explanation is that being built by using dark, volcanic stones the heat was unbearable and whitewashing was the perfect solution to keep the inside cool while the blue was cheap and available everywhere (a common agent used for washing clothes that most household will have in hand). The government found the idea quite patriotic and mandated that all buildings must be painted in white and blue if they weren’t already.

Sailing around the volcano

We decided to extend our stay in Santorini with one more day, time allocated to discover the hidden beauty of the volcano and its unique beaches by boat.
First stop, the hot springs interesting when watched from the comfort of the boat, far away from the shallow waters with dangerous levels of sulf and rocky bottom. The currents are quite high as well making the swimming almost impossible while the sulf is leaving a permanent mark on your favorite bath suite.

White & red beach

The boat stops in few more location, including the white and red beach, where I decide to refresh myself jumping in the cold waters while the lunch is being prepared by the crew. The two beaches are relatively close to each other and both of them can be easly described as original and spectacular. The volcanic lava red rocks, pebbles and red sand that surround crystal clear waters, create an amazing scenery that you won’t find anywhere in the world.

Right after the lunch i start feeling dizzy and sleepy and my health is visible damaged once I reach the hotel and I am not being able to walk without my baby’s support. The beautiful dream si replaced by the nightmare of a cruel food poisoning which keeps us awake the whole night and drain the last drop of energy from my body. Dehydrated and more dead than alive I manage to board two different aircrafts and continue my convalescence under the safe roof of my home. Now I keep wondering either we didn’t like the greek food or the greek food didn’t like us, eighter way I don’t think I am going to search for the answer too soon.

Waiting for Hope

I used to believe that “waiting” its a matter of choice. Why shall I wait for someone or something to happen when I am fully in charge with my time?
The real life though, seems to disapprove my theory completely. What would you do if waiting would be your only hope?

February 2017…I landed at Ivato International Airport with big hopes, ready to discover one of the biggest island in the world: Madagascar. The reality hit me hard once I passed the immigration counter, realizing in the moment that life is not an animated cartoon where the characters happily share the same Paradise but more a jungle where the battle for survival is daily and …crucial.

Waiting for food…

Its very common for malagasy people to sell their goodies next by a main road or in special open markets. However beside the vegetables and fruits, perishable items are out for sale in the heat and surronded by curious flies and mosquitos. Proper supermarkets are only visited by “rich” people and the bunch of kids begging outside of the doors are the only “mortals” which, time to time receive a sweet treat from the tourists.
Me, on the other side I am just waiting for the departure day, with more than 6 kilos lost in the 5 days adventure on malagasy land where cup noodles and bread were replacing my breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Waiting to grow up…

It must be difficult to be an adult but its impossible to be a kid without a childhood.
Since they are very young, malagasy kids are learning their parents crafts waiting for the day when they will be able to earn their own money.
You would think that poverty made them heartless but on the contrary, the little souls share their goods with everyone around, even with their less human friends.

Waiting for the school…

Wearing clean, celebration clothes the scholars are ready to start their daily classes. The road to school is not easy but they are decided to overcome any obstacole, hoping for a better future.

Waiting to be clean…

Its weekend and the locals are celebrating their days off with ….more work.

Fresh cleaned linens are hanged everywhere around the house and next by the rivers hundred ladies are waiting for their clothes to be dried by the sun.

Waiting for a ride…

In the era of technology and development there is a place in the world where “slavery” is considered to be a job. The main way of transportation in Madagascar is the rischaw, which allows to the wealthy to be carried by the less fortunate in exchange of few coins so vital for survival.

Some of the drivers upgrated their vehicle in order to obtain costumers satisfaction: less effort, more speed.
On the other side of the road, vintage cars are waiting to start their rusty engines.

A fascinating story about my adventure in  Madagascar is waiting for you here…

Madagascar, between hell and heaven  – Gone with the wind

https://mihaelaida.com/2017/04/11/2859/

India through my eyes

Few things to do in Bangalore

First thing that you should bare in mind when planning a trip to India is…that you might want to reconsider your choice. However if you are one of the few people fascinated by poor living conditions, have a strong stomach ready to digest exotic spicies or maybe you are just an unlucky cabin crew forced to spend a layover in India, these are few things that you must do or not while in Bangalore. Thats totally up to you.

Tuc-tuc ride

First thing that comes into my mind when I think about India? Street noise, horns and millions small weird devices on three wheels, called Tuc-Tucs. The motorized rickshaws represent the main way of transportation cheap and efficient, but not very safe in my opinion, alarming traffic reports unfortunately sustaining my beliefs.
However you can not leave India before trying the inedite experience of a tuc-tuc drive on the crowded streets of Bangalore. Take care of your belonging though, many incidents involving naive tourists being reported daily. The price of the ride…depends on your bargain skills.

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Shopping

Fascinated about Bollywood movies, indian colorful fashion or shinning jeweleries? I bet you aren’t. However if you want a new, different shooping experience there are few areas in Bangalore where you can find an wide variety of traditional clothes (basically an area where you can choose between buying a sari or a choli which is more or less the same thing). I visted one of these famous street myself, leaving obviously empty-handed and…in rush.

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If you want to follow into my footsteps I must admit that I have no clue about the street name as I dont have the slightest desire to ever return.

Hindu temples

The major religion in Bangalore is the hinduism and therefor lot of colorful temples are rising along the streets, from where the Hindu gods can throw a careful eye to their worshippers sins. Nowadays Brahma, Shiva and other holy figures are working in a tight partnership with the local police trying to prevent a series of misbehaviors: ignoring the traffic signs, relieving the physiological needs in public spaces, slipping hands in the wrong pocket etc.
The cows are scared in India and therefor you may encounter them walking unabated on the streets of Bangalore. However the holy bovines are not that safe everywhere in India, in two states (Kerala and West Bengal) the cow slaughter being perfectly legal.
Intrigued by the weird importance shown to these animals I decided to visit one of cow’s relatives worship place: The Bull temple.

Stepping inside the holy place) after I removed my shoes), I am immediately greeted by one of the hindu priests who seems to perform a sacred ritual which involvs a tray with candles, red powder and…money. He is vaguely explaining me the history of the temple and then he request a “contribution” for the Gods blessings. I place on the holy tray 100 rupies, ready to run towards the exits but he follows me insisting to mark a red dot on my forehead. Very common in Hindi culture, the bindi dot is believed to open the third eye which offers a certain level of wisdom and concentration. To me it felt uncomfortable and out of ordinary reasons that determined me to clean it up as soon as I was away of the Gods view.
Trying to retrive my shoes I am informed that I must pay another “tax”. I place in the collection box the only 2 coins (20 rupies each) that I am carrying at this time but it seems to infuried the old lady who made a job out of guarding the tourists belongings, pulling my hand aggressively and shouting “money, money”. I turn my back taking my coins back…and my shoes. Namaste!

 Palaces

The only palace that I visted in Bangalore is the Tipu sultan summer palace, an impressive oasis of tranquility right in the middle of the city.
I knew nothing of the place and one of the locals observing my lost gaze starts asking me some history related informations, followed by his triumphant preach on how the palace opens its gates for ignorant tourists every day. As I am about to find out the proeminent landmark of Bangalore was finalized in 1791 under the command of Tipu sultan, depicting islamic style arcades and used as summer residence for his highness.
The palace was named “Envy of Heavens” and even if hundred years passed by, the place indeed preserved its incontestable beauty with green gardens, exotic birds and…hindu neighbors.

 Lal bagh gardens

The access/exit to the garden is made through two natural tunnels composed by arched roots and green leaves.
Lal bagh botanical garden translated as “The red garden” was finished by the same Tipu sultan and it host India’s largest collection of tropical plants. Luckly enough I am about to assist to one of the shows dedicated to flowers only twice per year (26 January and 15 August) which also coincide with the India independence day.
Outside of the garden, thousands indians wearing colorful traditional clothes are celebrating the liberation from the U.K governance, clicking a picture in front of the heart arches, most certain inspired by the Miracle gardens of Dubai.

Moving forward, a huge rock protruding high above the ground captures my attention and I climb right to the top, admiring the sunset settling behind the park.

Apparently the Lalbagh rock is declared a National geological monument, dated 2-3 billion years back and often visited by tourists all over the world. Today, many families are gathering together united by the same feeling: freedom for the country.

 Vidhana soudha

Vidhana soudha is an administrative building, which combines the ancient and modern architectural design in one of the most imposing construction ever known in India. It can easly compete with the Washington Capitol, the House of commons in UK or The parliament building in my beloved Romania. The entrance is decorated with 4 headed lions (the national symbol of India) while 4 domes placed in each corner stands as prove at its greatness. Pretty cool!
Opposite Vidhana Soudha is standing another famous but more “stylish” landmark, the High court of Karnatka, probably inaccessible for the curious eye of the tourist.

Parks

What I love the most about Bangalore are the numerous parks where you can take a well deserved break in the lap of the nature. Cubbon park (named after the longest serving commissioner at the time) is located right in the heart of the city, often visited by the tourists and locals interested in picnic, casual walks or the 6000 different plant species populating the park, a piece of heaven in the middle of the chaos.

The libraries

At the edge of the park, the State central library opens its doors and pages for everyone interested in its stories. The beautiful red construction attracted my eye like an magnet and I would have spent the rest of the day discovering its misteries if a gang of strays dogs would not have blocked the entrance. Few busses perfectly aligned in front of the building are ready to start their engines in order to spread happiness and knowledge around the city. Great job Bangalore!

 

 

The great wall and other wonders of China

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”  Kurt Vonnegut Jr.



I arrived in Mutianyu after two hours drive from Beijing (the capital of China) ready to accomplish an old childhood dream: walking on the great wall of China. The weather seems to by on my side today, the grey polluted sky of the capital being replaced by a blue, clear sky where few fluffy clouds are trying to temper the burning sun.

Some colleagues decided to accompany me in what is about to become an unique life experience, even though they don’t seem at all excited to face one of the New world wonders, fact which disappoint me a bit. I decide to ignore all the negative behavior that might ruin my excitement and enjoy this page of ancient history which openes its pages right in front of me.
The construction of the wall started as early as the 7th century B.C and its purpose was mainly to protect the country from the invasion of the nomadic tribes. The wall is often compared with a giant dragon which streches for 21.000 km, having his head in Beijing and his tail in the desert of Gansu province.
We choosed to visit Mutianyu today, one of the best restored and well maintained sections of the wall, with numerous watchtowers (not so commun in other sections), built in Northern Qi Dynasty (500-570) and only 70 km away from the capital.
In present, the danger of nomadic invasion faded but the wall still spread fascination amoung the tourists, attracted by its great history and beautiful location.
To reach the top of the mountain, we have to adventure in a 550 meters cable car ride which normally takes only 5 minutes but it seems to be an eternity if you dare to look bellow your feet. My hands are sweaty and my heart is beating fast…in the end of the day who can trust a cable car made in China?


I am finally on the top, mesmerized by the greatness of the wall which gained its name of the longest cemetery on earth, after million lifes were lost while building it. The primitive technique of construction, using rammed earth was gradually changed with bricks and stones, making the Ming Dynasty construction stronger and more elaborated but even more difficult to explain.
Mutianyu is made out of two different section, one is steeper while the other one is lean. My colleagues, as I mention before, are responsible to ruin all the fun and we agree to split in two different groups. Some of us could explore the challanging side of the wall while the others could relax away from the sun, sipping a refreshing beverage in one of the terraces located on the wall.

“I didn’t say it would be easy, I said it would worth it”

People of both genders and ages follow my example, unafraid of the burning sun pursuing their dream. Most of them are exhausted and grab the side of the wall in dispair while others give up on climbing, taking a well deserved break on the stairs.

Me, on the other side, I am walking resettles, stopping time to time in one of the watching towers to admire the beautiful landscape over the Huairou county. As I move forward I realize the wall structure is similar but so different in the same time.

As much as I want to discover all the 5,4 km  of the Mutianyu wall, I decide to show some consideration to my non-athletic colleagues and join them for a beer before our departure.

A funny Chinesse man is inviting the costumers for cold drinks using a megaphone and unexpectedly an almost perfect english while the waiters are trying to convince us to buy some overpriced souvenirs, bringing it directly to our table.

We are ready for the next adventure, this time together: the toboggan. At first I was a little bit sceptic regarding this method of decending the wall, but then I realized it is a safe, comfortable and fun device which use the gravity to make coasters drive along the mountain. Beside that, the thrilling device is 100% made in Germany and if Michelle Obama was brave enough to try it what harm could happen to me?



At the end of the ride another surprise is waiting for us…few retaired warriors in red armor and contemporany sneakers, are offering their rusted swords for an inedite picture in exchange of 10 $ fee.

Along the alley, few bars and shops beautifully alligned are selling their goods 10 times more expensive than eveywhere else in China. Our driver is waiting for us in one of these restaurants and we are ready to go back to the hotel, a little bit afraid for our life. The man driving skills, freeze the blood in our veins, whenever he ignores the traffic signs or speeds uncontrollably and neighter of us is brave enough to occupy the front seat.

Once we exit the parking a tick rain starts watering the earth and I smile greatful to the divinity who listened to my prayers, protecting our trip from bad weather. Now I can close my eyes relaxed…

“My home is in Heaven…I am just traveling through this world”. Billy Graham

The day is far from being over and I decide to explore other wonders of China. I take a shower fast and I meet down in the lobby other colleagues ready to get lost in the big capital of bicycles, Beijing.
The rain stoped but the sky is still grey, covered with a veil of smog making the air unbreakable.
After almost an hour wasted in traffic, our female taxi driver finally stops in front of a gate announcing in a poor english the entrance in the Temple of Heaven. I don’t know much about the place but Alex, my colleague, assure me that the palace worth visiting, especially in this time of the year, when the nature is more splendid than ever.

As I am about to find out, the temple represent a complex of religious buildings with similar appearance,  built in 1406, during the reign of Yongle Emperor. The symbolism of the construction is pretty amazing but as I am used already, my work mates interest in history is bellow the sea level and there is no argument strong enough to convince them to queue in front of the entrance in order to discover “boring” hidden meanings of ancient walls.
Odd numbers possess heavenly signifience for the temple, especially number 9, which is used obsessive in creating the doors, windows, the stairs and balustrades while the round top is projected on a square base, representing the Heaven on Earth.

We move forward, admiring the circular buildings from outside, were dark blue roof tiles, symbolizing the Heaven, seems to open its holy gates for us. On the other side, a blonde girl with blue eyes and red dress is just a rare in China as a goddess felt from the open sky and even in this sacred place I can’t escape from my admirers, who are pulling my hand for pictures, meant to imortalize this divine encounter.
The temple is surrounded by 267 hectars of typical Chinese parks, a real oasis of pace and tranquillity were the Confucian design is beautiful combined with modern elements, ancient trees and powerful vibrations.

Chinese people seems to have a close relationship with each tree from the park, often hugging it or just raising their arms in order to recharge their body with positive energy. One of the trees captures my attention as the 500 years old Juniper has a trunk with grooves which resembles dragon climbing up into the sky. I raise my hands, trying to imitate the other travelers. I close my eyes and I am waiting…waiting…

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

Outside the park, hundred yellow bicycles are beautifully aligned along the street and it would be a perfect occasion to sharpen my childhood skills, however in China nothing is that simple as it seems. Even though 430 million people are owning a bicycle in China and few other millions are to be rented from the street, the system doesn’t favor the tourists, the whole process being quite long and complicated.

We give up on the idea, being sure that taxi is a simple and more convenient way of traveling in the modern days but again we are about to discover that is not so easy.
A friendly chinese man, after a deep comunication through the signs language, is stopping a cab for us and we can finally breath relieved enjoying the short drive towards the forbidden city, another must see objective on the touristic map of Beijing.

“Magic happenes in the threshold of the forbidden.” Maria Tatar

The taxi driver drops us in Tiananmen square, one of the largest city square in the world, well known for its pro-democracy movement in 1989 which resulted in a massacre of several thousand civilian.

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              https://www.britannica.com/event/Tiananmen-Square-incident
An unknown “rebel” stood that day in front of a column of tanks in order to stop their advance, his picture becoming even more famous than the demonstration itself. Now I am the one sitting in the middle of the square not so brave as my precursor but happy to defeat the army of thousands modern Chinese who decided to spent a sunny weekend in the square.

Across the street, right in the heart of Beijing is located the Forbidden city which was hosting the imperial palace for almost 500 years. The city was built as heavenly residence on earth exclusively for the emperors of Qing and Ming dynasties and totally forbidden to the ordinary people.
Nowdays the forbidden city its actualy permitted to anyone who is willing to pay an entrance fee but the new generation seem to care less and less about its cultural value.

Tired and hungry we decided to enjoy a local dinner in one of the restaurants located outside of the forbidden city. Big mistake…The food is awful like everywhere in China (and don’t understand me wrong, I am a big fan of chinese cuisine), the waste bin located next by each table is waiting unpatient to be fed and the toilet…is right in the middle of the pedestrian street in a small, plastic box.

We run as fast as we can withouth touching the food or relieve our physiological needs, trying desparate to catch a taxi back to the hotel.
As we are used already the taxi drivers are totally ignoring us, not interested in touristic faces (I am still trying to solve this mistery) until a kind Tuc-tuc driver decides to give us a ride through the busy streets of the capital, Beijing.

 

In the end, all is well that ends well.