Beijing (北京)

This trip to the capital city as well as traditional and cultural hot-spot China’s means a lot to me. That’s why I’m eagerly looking forward to writing down the experiences of the wonderful six days in the post-Olympic period during the Golden Week. Arriving on Sunday afternoon in the Beijing Youth Hostel opposite of the Beijing Railway Station we directly went to the Silk Street Pearl Market – which wasn’t very far from this place – in order to meet Kim and Rene. Felix got to know Rene coincidently on his flight to Shanghai. He is doing the rest of his civil service here in China, precisely Shanghai and we happened to be in the Beijing at the same time. Rene on the other hand knows Kim from University and visited her at her place of studies. Since she has been living there for about two years she already feels very familiar with the place and could give us some helpful information and sightseeing tips.

After a stroll through the chaotic idles of the Silk Street (which serves as an enormously famous fake market) and probably spending too much money for the fake stuff, Felix and me made our way to Tian’anmen (天安门) square. Normally this sight of course is the first thing to look at as a tourist and is referred to as the entrance of the forbidden city (The Gate of Heavenly Peace), so we were quite impressed of the wide-spread area of the apparently biggest square in the world. The white fences besides the streets and around the square sometimes give a feeling of being cattle as you hardly ever can walk direct ways there. As a result Beijing and its fantastic sights require a lot of walking and patience.

The next day we planned to visit Tian Tan (天坛), Temple of Heaven, which counts to one of my favorites and most impressing sights in Beijing. It served the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties as a Taoist temple to pray to heaven for good harvest. So far I knew ‘The Hall of Prayers for good Harvests’ only from pictures with a cheesy blue sky in the background. What a coincidence that the Golden Week in Beijing (national holidays) was blessed with terrific weather which caused some déjà-vu’s as I’m looking to the pictures in retrospective. After a lot of walking through the extensive temple area we had an appointment with Kim, Rene and two more Chinese girls at a very specific place for Beijing. That’s when the difference to Shanghai manifested further as I got the impression that the capital city is friendlier, calmer, has much charm and great art resources. Actually we had a lot of discussions which lead to the result that it’s not possible to compare Beijing with Shanghai. In fact I’m very fond of both places. What really surprised me is that people in Beijing seem to be happier and therefore more cooperative. On Monday we went out of the hostel to have a short look at the map. We weren’t standing there for half a minute till a Chinese man with perfect English offered us his help. The English skills also very much surprised us, because we didn’t count on anybody to speak English. Apparently the Olympic games had really good influence on the population in terms of open-mindedness towards foreigners. We kind of had the feeling of being appreciated and welcomed more in Beijing.

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