Cycling Xi'an CITY WALL
Cycling along the full length of the ancient Xi’an city wall has to be one of my more exciting physical feats this year. Xi'an, you are probably asking, where is this? It is the capital of Shaanxi province, and one of the oldest cities in China. With more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty and has had quite a number of name changes over the years. Xi’an is one of the four ancient capitals of China, having been the capital under several previous dynasties. The inland city is at the eastern end of the Silk Road and home to the famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
To pronounce Xi’an it is best to say “Chi an”. My visit was to research for a feature I am writing for our sister publication Travel Digest.
On my last day in Xi’an I took up the opportunity to cycle along the top of the Xi’an City Wall. This is quite an ancient wall, started by the Ming Dynasty in 1370 and cycling along the top is a fun 14km of cycling ecstasy. Fortifications along the wall, I am told, represent some of the oldest and best preserved of Chinese city walls.
Once you climb the steps to the top of the wall, it is then a case of hiring a bike – either a basic bike or a tandem bike. I chose a basic bike. There are no gears, nor do you need them. The wall is paved with flat cobblestones, with a few ramps where there are steps. Fellow journalists in my group chose to just go for a short joy ride, but not me. We didn’t have much time to spend on the wall as we had a plane to catch, but I went “hell for leather” and broke away from the group on a mission to cycle the whole wall. It didn’t help that I had a handbag over my shoulder, but I soon worked out the bag straps slung over the handlebar was the way to go.
I must say this was a very scenic way to see the ancient city. A little scary in that I didn’t know how long it was going to take me. You could hand the bike back at a number of cycle stations on the wall, but it got to the stage where the bike stations looked all the same and I began to think that perhaps I was cycling around the wall for the second time!
There were a few stops along the way to look through the castle-like slots in the wall to see what was on the other side and also to take photos, but I did manage to cycle back in 55 minutes, with just enough time to make it back to the hotel and head out to the airport.
– Roy Morgan Research, June 2012.
Lorraine Thomson Publisher / Editor