After having had an afternoon to rest, the morning following our arrival we visited the centre of the renowned Chinese empire; the Forbidden City. The 7am wake up call wasn’t too early as thankfully the jet lag came to our rescue. Instead, once I arrived to the breakfast lounge most of the students had already seated with a variety of typical Chinese foods filling their plates. Ranging from shrimp dumplings to chicken noodle soup to ‘mantou’, the journey towards cultural discovery had already begun.
By the time we arrived to Tiananmen Square, everyone had already experienced many significant slices of the Chinese culture. No time could be wasted. The two days we would spend in Beijing of course were limited given the vast history of the city.
Pushing our way past dozens of thousands of tourists, we passed Tiananmen Square and the many gates that once isolated the Imperial Residence.
Now, crowds barely fit within the city walls. So great was the number of people that at one point we realized that the line we had been walking along for a about a dozen minutes continued to extend and become exponentially more intricate. Every single member of our group was astounded by the seemingly limitless number of people in line to see the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Speaking with the teachers, I was able to finally grasp the kind of support this leader had among the Chinese people. The only place where I have seen so much veneration was towards God in the Basilica of San Pietro.
When we exited the Forbidden City it was only midday, but I was pretty sure that I had filled my storage with every picture I had taken. My reason behind every photo was: “so much too see and so little time to properly observe, save it for later.” Our next stop would allow for a little rest at a formerly royal garden called Beihai Park. While some decided to ride a boat on the lake, others decided to unwind on top of a rocky hill under the shade of trees.
The sight was incredible but of course we needed to keep moving. At this point it was dinner time, and both students and teachers were once again encouraged to exit their comfort zone by tasting radically different ingredients and recipes. As I had expected, once we reached the hotel, most of us hit the bed exhausted but glad to have seen such an extensive amount of Beijing culture and history.