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UPDATE Huh? Where did all my introduction to the post go? Really, WordPress, are you trying to be annoying today? Well, anyway, I just basically said that I went to the Forbidden City and, much as I expected, it turned out to be not that interesting at all. Now, read on!Tian'an Men Square - with the face of that *(&^#@)&^ Mao still presiding over it.

The Tian’an Men Square, still (of course) with a massive head of Mao presiding over it. Emerging from the metro station (Beijing metro may not be as modern as the Shanghai one, but it’s so wonderfully cheap – only 1 yuan per ride, wherever you go!) and seeing all the crowds, I experienced my first “let’s get the hell out here” moment. But I was tough and I stayed.

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The good thing was I still had my student licence from Hangzhou (hmm, I think it might have actually been the first time I used it in the whole year…) and so only needed to pay half the price. Also a nice surprise: despite the huge crowds milling about in front of the entrance, individual tourists like myself don’t actually have to queue up that long – there’s not that many of them and they’ve a separate counter.  IMG_5749

So this is it. You cross the Gate of the Heavenly Peace – and this is what you see, just like in “The Last Emperor” or “Hero”, only with guided tours instead of chanting soldiers.
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And then you cross the next gate, and there it is – erm, basically the same view…IMG_5756 And then again… and again… Seriously, it all looks the SAME. IMG_5763

So the first opportunity you get to escape into a sideway alley, you take it, and it gets more interesting straight away – but only for a second, because then it turns out those little courtyards also look exactly alike…

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The Hall of Abstinence, where the emperor would go for two days before making his offerings to Heaven and fast – by abstaining from wine, onions, chives and garlic. I mean – oh my, what a horrible and self-denying regime! I now understand much better why Heaven turned Its back on the Qing Dynasty and let it get such a beating (then again, I’ve read the palace kitchens were so far away that by the time the food got to the imperial table it was usually cold, so maybe the lack of these basic condiments was something to really bemoan…).IMG_5768 IMG_5779

See? The same!IMG_5781

I did like the colours, though, especially when set off be the green foliage (then of course the one courtyard with some greenery in it was closed for visitors…)IMG_5785

All in all – I had more or less known what to expect outdoors, but I had really been hoping for a glimpse of the court’s private life: the private chambers etc. – and in this I was thoroughly disappointed (it is possible there were some to see on the left, but I went to the right and it was just too bloody far to walk, so maybe I was just unlucky in my geographical choices). You know when you’re touring some historical residences or palaces and you’re wondering if you could live there (I mean, the view’s pretty, but what about plumbing?)? Well, the Forbidden Palace is the one place I had not even a shadow of a doubt that I might ever enjoy and I can’t imagine any sane person would either. Hell, I wouldn’t stay there for holiday, even if they paid me. It’s a thoroughly depressing place, designed only to impose and confine.

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But look what you find the second you leave through the back gate and cross the street! The old Imperial Garden, which is now a municipal park, entry – 1 yuan. So much nicer!IMG_5798

There’s a hill with a pagoda inside it, from which you get the view of the Forbidden City. It looks much nicer from the distance (this isn’t a representative view, since this photo was taken about halfway up).IMG_5808

Of course some people only seemed to have climbed all this way up so they could… take a nap…
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Seriously, don’t ask. I’m not even trying to understand… Maybe it’s here to stress the ancient Chinese history?IMG_5818

Nice and green, with a lot of shadowy spots to hide from the sun (and let me tell you, Beijing in summer can be pretty hot).

So, to sum-up: let this be a lesson to all of us, that the much-vaunted attractions are often not really worth the bother, whereas much nicer and more interesting places are usually sitting quietly just around the corner. Amen.

And no, I have no idea what’s with the weird layout on the top of the post, and why the photos organised themselves the way they did, but I have a serious cold and can’t really struggle with it now, so… let it be.

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