In our last post we left you at the Pingyao train station. A nine hour overnight train ride later we arrived to the hectic train station of Xi’an. Our main goal here was to fulfil Lucia’s childhood dream of seeing the Terracotta Warriors – that she saw in a documentary when she was little – in real life. We didn’t have a lot of expectations from the city itself, but it turned out to be a very pleasant stay.
Xi’an used to be the capital of China and also was the start of the Silk Road that led all the way to Europe. We saw and read all about this on our first day in the Shaanxi History museum where we first queued up with about 400 other people for one of the 2500 free entrance tickets handed out every morning (plus an additional 1500 each afternoon). The ticket normally only costs 20 RMB (2,5 euro), but as you can imagine this became a matter of principle especially for the Dutch half of this couple.
After having spent the morning in the museum, we met Catherine (Cathy), a Chinese private teacher for elementary school kids, at her place early afternoon. This was the start of our second Couchsurfing (https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/about) experience (our first was in Beijing) and this time it was great! We had a few meals with Cathy, visited a few sites in Xi’an together, watched a few episodes of Big Bang Theory and How I met your mother on her projector and mainly had some interesting talks about Chinese/European culture and habits.
Like Pingyao, Xi’an still has city-walls but otherwise it’s not very comparable. For our standards it’s a massive city with lots of traffic, grey streets, noise and shops/restaurants. We did however especially enjoy the Muslim quarter as we walked through small streets filled with stands selling (Halal) food. It made us feel slightly at home again :-). In side-streets you’d also find the regular clothing stands (all real brands of course!) and countless souvenirs. We were especially intrigued by the Osama Bin Laden deck of cards next to the naked Chinese ladies deck. Not sure which one would cause a bigger issue at any Western airport customs.
We reached our main reason for visiting Xi’an – the Terracotta warrior museum – by bus on the second day and after having walked back and forth between the entrance and the bus-parking (where you buy the tickets) we started with an exhibition that gave us a bit more background. This taught us that the creation of Terracotta Army was ordered by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, in the second century BC. This emperor is buried in a mausoleum which is basically a big hill, over 50m high and he sanctioned the creation of the army to protect him in the afterlife. In the early seventies, farmers were digging a well nearby the mausoleum and then found one of the pits where the army was buried. Currently just under 10,000 soldiers, chariots and horses have been found, but many still remain to be discovered.
We followed the Lonely Planet’s advice and started with the smallest of the three excavation pits, pit no 3. This was good advice as you save the best (pit 1) for last and we could even feel the tension building… Pit 1 didn’t disappoint… seeing thousands of soldiers lined up all facing the same direction was really impressive. The detail of each soldier was amazing. The armoury, clothing and especially the faces (no single face is the same!) were so detailed! We had seen in the exhibition how they were made, but it’s only when you see all of them yourself that you really understand what a massive undertaking this must have been more than 2000 years ago. Especially if you think of the fact that originally all these soldiers were in colours. All workers involved in the building of this army were allegedly buried alive along with the warriors. Pictures don’t really capture the magic, but have a look in this album to get an impression.
After four days in Xi’an we said bye to Cathy and got on another sleeper-train again, this time to the largest city (by population) in the world: Shanghai
Pictures of our stay in Xi’an can be found here
V nasom poslednom clanku sme odchadzali vlakom z Malebneho starovekeho mestecka Pingyao. O 9 hodin vo vlaku neskor sme sa ocitli na rusnej zeleznicnej stanici v meste Xi’an. Nasim hlavnym cielom bol Luckin sen – vidiet nazivo Terakotovu Armadu, ktoru kedysi videla v dokumentarnom filme. Od samotneho mesta sme moc neocakavali, ale prekvapilo mas celkom prijemne.
Xi’an bol kedysi hlavnym mestom Ciny a zaroven i zaciatkom Hodvabnej Stezky, ktora viedla cez Aziu az do Europy. Vsetko sme si precitali a videli uz prvy den v Shaanxi historickom muzeu, na ktore sme si vystali radu 400 ludi, s ktorymi sme sa uchadzali o jeden z 2500 listkov zdarma kazdy den (plus poobede este 1500). Listky normalne nie su drahe – 20 yuanov (2,5 Eura), ale holandska polovicka naseho paru si moznost mat nieco zdarma nenechala ujst.
Po doobedi stravenom v muzeu sme dorazili ku Catherine (Cathy) – sukromnej ucitelke. Tu zacala nasa druha skusenost s Couchsurfingom (nasa prva bola v Pekingu). Tentokrat sme mali viac stastia. S Cathy sme stravili nejaky cas, navstivili par pamiatok v meste, vecer pozerali serialy na jej projektore a diskutovali o zvykoch a kulture v Cine a Europe.
Podobne ako Pingyao, Xi’an ma tiez mestske hradby, ktore dodnes stoja. Na nase pomery je Xi’an obrovske mesto s dopravnymi zapchami, rusnymi ulicami a mnozstvom obchodov a restauracii. My sme navstivili Moslimsku stvrt a uzivali si chodenie pomedzi stanky s (halal) jedlom alebo i suvenirmi. V bocnych ulickach sme objavili stanky so znackovym oblecenim, kde za Burberry alebo Polo tricko zaplatite 3 eura ;) Zaujali nas rozne kuriozity ako napr. hracie karty s podobami Osama bin Ladena vedla kariet s nahymi cinankami. Debatovali sme, ktore by sposobili vacsi rozruch pri odbavovani na niektorom z americkych letisk.
Nas hlavny ciel navstevy v Xi’ane – Terakotovu Armadu – je asi hodinku autobusom z mesta. Po zmatenom hladani pokladne, ktoru sme nakoniec nasli pri autobusovej stanici sme sa komecne dostali do arealu vystavy. Zacali sme v muzeu, ktore zaujimavo vysvetluje historiu tohoto archeologickeho nalezu. Zistili sme, ze armadu si spolu s dalsimi castami nechal postavit cinsky cisar Qin Shi Huang este za svojho zivota aby ju s nim po smrti pochovali. Cisarova hrobka je vlastne asi 50 metrov vysoky kopec so svorcovou zakladnou a armada, ktora ho ma v posmrtnom zivote chranit sa nachadza nedaleko od nej. Zaciatkom 70 rokov, farmari v tejto oblasti kopali studnu, ked natrafili na jeden z pitov, v ktorom boli terakotovi vojaci pochovani. V sucasnosti takmer 10 000 vojakov, koni a kociarov bolo vykopanych z ich miesta odpocinku. Toto cislo vsak nie je finalne, kedze sa predpoklada, ze v oblasti na nachadza nalezov este omnoho viac.
Pri prehliadke sme sa drzali doporuceni Lonely Planet a zacali sme s najmensim z pitov – cislom 3. Bol to spravny postup, kedze to najlepsie – pit c. 1 – nas cakalo nakoniec a napatie stupalo. A co sme na zaver uvideli, nesklamalo nase ocakavania. Vidiet tisicky hlinenych vojakov v sikoch jeden za druhym otocenych jednym smerom bolo uzasne! Kazdy jeden vojak je specialny – kazdy ma inu tvar, inu stavbu tela, oblecenie a vyzbroj. Je to ako keby pred 2 tisicmi rokov skamenela skutocna armada pod nejakou zazracnou kliatbou. Je takmer neuveritelne, ako tychto vojakov tak davno vyrabali. A to povodne bol kazdy jeden i nafarbeny. Vsetci remeselnici, ktori na armade pracovali, boli udajne zaziva pochovani spolu so svojim dielom. Fotky nedokazu popisat atmosferu, ktoru sme zazivali prezerajuc si ticho stojacich vojakov, ale snad ju aspon trochu priblizia.
Po styroch dnoch v Xi’ane sme sa rozlucili s Cathy a nasadli na dalsi nocny vlak. Tentokrat nas cesta zavedie do najvacsieho mesta sveta – Sanghaja.