Terracotta Army

My first night on my own passed without incident. I was ready to face the world and after a coffee I was also awake enough for it. The tour to the Terracotta Army started at 9am. We were quite an assembly from all over the world. Half of Europe and America were on that bus. I shared my row with Jeff, an American “green” environment consultant from Portland. He came only for the tour to Xi’an down from Beijing. While sitting next to him he proved to be a fountain of travel information since he had been to China already a couple of times.

We arrived after a two hour drive at the excavation site and started our tour. First we went to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. From it you can only see the man-made hill. Since he took mercury in minimal dosage to reach longevity, he kept at it in his death. He had a river of mercury laid around his grave. So although they know where the grave is, they cannot excavate it due to the high mercury level. We were told only 20 more years and then we could come visit.IMG_1979
If you are wondering it’s the little hill in the back, I just wanted to show that it is a World Heritage Site.

From there we walked back to the actual pit sites and started with site number 2. Here the only intact archer was found. All other statues have been painstakingly put together again. This was necessary because the roof caved in due to earthquakes.IMG_1980 IMG_1982 IMG_1984 IMG_1989 Please read how moderate they are about the chrome plating technology.
There are five different kinds of soldiers they found but the kneeling archer was the only one which was found whole. Probably because he knelt and there was less breaking surface.IMG_1987 IMG_1988 IMG_1990 IMG_1992 IMG_1995 IMG_1996 IMG_1997
Please note the details on the shoes. The nail imprints mean that he was married and his shoes were made by his wife.

In pit number 3 we could see a chariot and horses. Mongolian, which are the smaller ones, and Chinese. All figures were hollow by the way and had a hole somewhere for the steam to go out while they were burnt in the kiln.IMG_2006 IMG_2010 IMG_2013
Finally we went to pit number 1 with the biggest and most important find. Here the soldiers were initially found while some farmers were digging for a well. The different faces were noticeably and while the body was done by a mold the head was done by an artist. Every worker on this project got eternalized in the face of a soldier. And afterwards they were all killed.IMG_2014 IMG_2015 IMG_2017 IMG_2018 IMG_2021 IMG_2023 IMG_2025 IMG_2027
We then watched a movie for 20 minutes about the history of the emperor and the unification of China and then went for lunch. I was starving by then since I had had only coffee for breakfast.

After lunch we slowly made our way back into the city. Apparently there was a lot of traffic since the autoroute was closed.

A plan was hacked on route to go bicycling up on the old city walls and our tour guide let us out at the gate. A short while later we started to cycle on top of the wall.IMG_2030 IMG_2033 IMG_2034 IMG_2037 IMG_2038 IMG_2041 IMG_2043
After the cultural impressions during the day the sporty part was just the perfect ending to this wonderful first day. But more was to come. We walked from the gate near the hostel to look for the mosque. Which we actually never found, but an amazing food market instead. Yours, Pollybert

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Goodbye Tibet

Our last day in Lhasa started without breakfast. Due to the lack of guests there was no Chinese buffet waiting for but actually only an empty dining room. But somebody must have noticed because after a while we got some tea, coffee and Western breakfast (fried egg, bacon and grilled tomato). Not the start I would have wished for, but what can I say.

At 11:30 our guide and driver arrived to bring us to the airport and after a relatively easy security check we were waiting for our plane. This was delayed as every other flight that day, but eventually we boarded and left Lhasa.

Three hours later we arrived in Xi’an where I got off and Sylvia changed plane to Urumqi.

I helped her to check-in since she was taking my warm clothes back home and then she came with me to the airport shuttle. It was time to say goodbye, we hugged (actually quite often) and then I was on my own.

The shuttle came and I got my first idea how it will be with the Chinese. There was no lining up, there was just ‘who is first on the bus’. Clearly I had the wrong tactic but I managed to store my backpack and get a seat on the bus.

Although the hostel had a description on their website on how to get there, it was not as easy. I got off in the city with everybody else but then couldn’t find the 603 bus station to get to the hostel. At least I could see it driving by and I just followed in its wake. When I found a bus station that looked like the ones in Lhasa, I stopped and hoped for the best.

The best was then a young couple who asked me in English if I was waiting for the bus. I had been forewarned that all approaching Chinese are scammers and just want to steal something so I tried to keep my distance. But they insisted and also told me to take care of my belongings since their phone got stolen the day before, so I just followed since the stop I was waiting at was clearly not the right place.

And here I have to apologize to them because they brought me to the right stop and were really helpful! I got on the bus, and after two stations and some more running around in back alleys I found my hostel, the Han Tang House where a dorm bed waited for me.

I loved the good start to my traveling adventure. Let’s see what else it holds in store. Yours, Pollybert

Walking through Cesky Krumlov

Saturday it was cold and windy. When I looked out of the window I saw grey skies and lots of terraced houses.

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The plan was to enjoy a lazy breakfast and then make our way into the center to join the Free Walking Tour. The meeting point was right at the main square.

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Our guide’s name was Ondrej and he did an excellent job. We walked through the village and the castle while he told us little tidbits about its history and showed us his favorite places.

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While walking the weather turned sunny and finally hot, which did wonders for the pictures.

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20140709-235328-86008877.jpg We were back on the way to the castle, this time we went all the way up to the gardens. Not without stopping at the last bridge again to enjoy the view in the village.

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20140710-000836-516070.jpg Meanwhile we were hot and sweaty and ready to take a break. We had about an hour to kill before our first guided tour of the castle. So we walked to the nearest beer garden within the castle complex and had a small lunch. Mini pancakes which were delicious and a trout that tasted like a carp. After this description I gladly declined to taste it.

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Sylvia and I had decided to buy tickets for two of the four available tours. I probably won’t be coming back here, so it us better to see as much as possible (a lesson learned, Cat!).

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20140710-135130-49890262.jpg We went altogether for coffee after the first tour, Sylvia needed some cake to invigorate herself for the second tour where we saw this long indoor gallery. On the picture above you can see that the castle actually had three galleries which connected the different buildings and the one on top was going directly to the gardens. Maximum decadence!

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After the castle tours we had one more museum to visit, the Schiele museum. Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter whose mother was born in Krumlov. He liked the village and lived here for a while. Hence the museum. He painted a couple of pictures here as well from the village, but these were not exhibited here.

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After the museum we really needed a break and sat down near the river, reveling in all the impressions we enjoyed that day.

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Leaving the scenic place behind us we walked again to the dingy hostel to watch some football, this time the second half of Argentina vs Belgium. Our patience was rewarded with a goal in the extra time. For the wrong team again, I bet on Belgium. At least I didn’t get my heart broken this time, it didn’t feel as bad as the loss of Columbia or Mexico before.

For dinner we went to a real Czech place, no hint of any Italian influence. Which turned out not to be such a great choice. The food was heavy and tasteless, and all in all a waste of good calories. At least the beer was good.

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It was worse than it looked except maybe for Sylvia’s potato pancake. But I have never heard her complain about any food, she is definitely not a foodie.

We started to watch the last quarter final Netherlands vs Costa Rica in a bar, but left after the first half due to the mute transmission. 80’s music doesn’t make up for lack of tv reporting. I have noticed that football without all the background noise of the fans actually turns into a snooze fest.
We agreed on watching the game in the B&B, all four of us in one double bed with Evi and I actually watching and Sylvia and Karin slumbering next to this exciting game with a Czech pass by pass description. Only when the penalty shoot-out started could we wake them, with no joy from Sylvia’s side though. She would have preferred to be long asleep in her own bed. I think though I contributed enormously to her general education and maybe in later years she will thank me for it.
Yours, Pollybert