June 22, 2015

Travel Diary: The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is smack dab in the middle of Beijing. For more than 500 years, it served as the imperial palace. The 8,000+ buildings housed the Emperor and his very extensive household. The several thousands of concubines alone would need a lot of room. Most of the buildings are colorfully painted wooden structures, covered with yellow glazed tiles and based on greenish white marble.
The Forbidden City has just one entrance and one exist. Mao Zedong is looking down from the entrance and after you go through security you walk into the courtyard through a huge gate, where you buy your ticket of just 60RMB, which is less than 10 Euros.
It's there you get the first idea, just how impressive and big this Forbidden City really is. This city really is a city. You delve deeply into China's history, while walking on the rough cobble stone pavement and read the many signs explaining the various purposes the houses and temples served. You can not help but think of the movie The Last Emporer while strolling through the massive gates. Take a look.

The whole city is also connected by small bridges (and steps. Oh, those steps!). The middle part leading up to the building below actually displays stone dragons. The dragon is a symbol of strength and has always represented the Emporer. And only the Emporer was allowed to be carried over this dragon, in a litter of course, while his servants used the stairs left and right of the dragon display.

Red is again the dominant colour, followed by grean and blue. You do get the feeling that all the buildings are the same when you walk from one end of the Forbidden City to the other. And the in the middle of the Forbidden City you walk through yet another gate and you find yourself in the imperial gardens.

The exit leads you out to a major street and unfortunantelly right into the arms of hustlers. Young people approach you with a friendly "Hello". When you respond to them, you find out that they often speak English quite well. In my case even some German. Next thing you are asked to come to a gallery or drink some coffee with them. I wish I could say these are genuine offers, however they are not and you are warned not to go with them in various guide books and also with signs right outside the Forbidden City.  Be warned!

Since the Forbidden City is so present and central in Beijing. You pass the gates probably numerous times during a stay, just by walking though the city. One of my favorite views is in the evening when the gates are graced with lights. It looks so majestic and awe inspiring.

Wouldn't you agree?