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Beijing

October 2014

My second visit to China's heart and soul after a couple of years. The old China still lives on in small gaps between monstrous skyscrapers and malls, but even in the proud capital times are changing faster and faster.

Makeup

Hutong areas are the old quarters of Beijing with narrow roads, one-story courtyard houses and a chaotic street life. Four years after my first visit to Beijing, their appearance completely changed: The streets, the walls, the infrastructure is all brand new. But after all, the laid-back charm of these neighborhoods stayed the same.
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Cycling

The bicycle is still popular in Beijing – and in the narrow Hutongs the only reasonable vehicle. With huge cycleways along all major streets, Beijing even is the most bike-friendly city i have ever seen.
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Markets

The Walmarts and Carrefours are still far out of the city center, so cozy markets ensure the fresh food supply in the central Hutong areas. Prices are open to negotiation – therefore always more expensive for foreigners – and the variety is just amazing.
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Food

Mmmh, all those little street restaurants! Those with photo menus where usually our first choice, as Chinese menus are still a mystery to us and the restaurants with English menus are better to avoid. A Beijing noodle soup with a Qingdao beer is heaven on earth for Asian food lovers.
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Public Parks

Live takes place in the public in China, even in the mega cities. For the older generation, there is no better meeting point than the public parks. You will find Beijingers doing all possible and impossible kind of activity there, everyday, every time. Singing, playing, dancing, knitting, bathing, tanning, fishing, photo shooting or just showing off – there is just nothing you won't find in a Beijing park.
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Wedding Photos

Did I talk about photo shootings? The number one location for wedding, engagement, couple or whatever kind of photos is the Temple of Heaven. Couples and their photographers wait in line to get a picture at the best locations.
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Tiananmen Square

A place of history indeed. The best reminder of what happened here, is all the effort that is made to suppress the remembrance. There are hundreds, if not thousands well equipped security guards around the square. One scary detail are the omnipresent fire extinguishers – for those protesters, who set themselves on fire…
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Forbidden City

If you manage to leave the Tiananmen Square and all its guards behind, and maybe even some of the tourist crowds, you enter the Chinese emperors' home. A whole town within the city for one single person – the last of them just six year old, when the Xinhai Revolution swept the imperial dynasty away.
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Wangfujing Market

A delicatessen market for the hard-bitten. Snakes, seahorses, starfishes, cockroaches and scorpions are on the menu – not to mention all the things we could not even identify. I have asked myself this question years ago, and still don't have the answer: Is some of that stuff really traditional food or was it only created as a tourist attraction the recent years?
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The Poor

In a country moving so fast, there are always the left-behinds. In Beijing you see them sleeping in underground passages or looking for food at the one place where probably more is thrown away than eaten: Wangfujing Market.
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Photo Bar 3798

A lovely place to hang out and discover the street photography of Jia Yong - a native Beijinger, who is documenting the life and change of Beijing's old Hutong quarters since the 80's. My decent attempts to follow his footsteps are unfortunately far away from his work.
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Beijing 2.0

The Olympic Games 2008 have changed the city's face completely, but six years later, everything is a big construction site once again. The Water Cube is refurbished from scratch and the Bird's Nest needs more than just a spring cleaning. At least at night this architectural milestones shine bright.
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The Great Wall

No visit to Beijing without the Wall. We caught a perfect late summer day and managed to walk far enough to get rid of the crowds of Mutianyu. The only thing to regret was not spending a night there.
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Bye Bye, Beijing

The grand capital was an amazing host this time, with nearly perfect weather (only two days of smog!), lovely food and all its cultural heritage to discover. Not our last visit, that's for sure.
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© 2017 Benedikt Altschuh