Stories, seven wonders and the world as we knew it

14th century Italy, ten young men and women flee Florence to protect from the Black Death or plague epidemics, and find a shelter in a remote villa in the countryside. During the two weeks they spend there (14 days of self-quarantine sound familiar to anyone?), they come up with an idea on how to pass the time in the evenings. Each day everyone in the group has to tell a story based on the selected topic for the day. That is how Giovanni Boccaccio starts “The Decameron” and the collection of about one hundred stories.

Almost 700 years fast forward and we are in a similar situation again, looking how to protect from another pandemics. As they say, history and economy go in cycles. We do have more tools to fight the virus and more options to pass the time, yet the “story telling” equivalent would have to be on-line, as ten is already a too big group in the current context.

You probably also see a lot of activity across the social media, people telling stories about their quarantine or confinement, suggestions what to do at home, sharing tons of information about the coronavirus itself, and so on. While Japan has not yet imposed any nation-wide quarantine or lockdown measures, residents in Tokyo and a few surrounding prefectures have been asked to stay indoors this weekend. Depending on how it goes, other measures may be considered. Many companies are just starting to implement work from home from the coming Monday.

Nature seems to collaborate with the government as the forecast suddenly promises snow for tomorrow, despite the +22C earlier this morning. With no travel plans in the foreseeable future, I have started to review the vast photo archives accumulated during the years.

If we were to follow the 700 years old example and share a story, with a condition that it is not linked to pandemics in any way, the first topic on my mind is a memorable journey you have had to date, whatever comes to your mind first. Review your photo collections and you may be surprised. Also, memorable does not necessarily mean the most distant or exotic. Feel free to share in the comments.

As impressive as it looks, the Great Wall of China.

For me, apart from Mt Fuji climbing overnight (see here), one of the most memorable trips was a short, unplanned and unexpected escape from the office and Beijing to hike the Great Wall of China. I cannot explain why it affected me so much, but I could have wandered up and down that wall for hours. Actually I am glad that I did not have that much time, or else I may not have been able to move at all the next day.

Don’t think I was the only person there! Walking and continuously searching for that moment to snap a photo with no people around.
If walking along the Great Wall of China sounds romantic, please note it has a lot of stairs, and I mean, a lot.

It was like a siren’s call: go until the next watch tower, then until the random structure in the distance, then yet another watch tower down the path, and before you know it, there would be no energy left to go back.

It is hard to stop and turn back, you always have something calling you to go further…

I realized later that The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven (new) Wonders of the World. The list is relatively new, compiled only in 2007, and includes: The Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Roman Colosseum in Italy, Taj Mahal in India, and Petra in Jordan.

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World

The Great Wall China is in fact a series of fortification systems built across the historical northern borders of China that spans approximately 8,000 km and is considered the world’s longest man made structure. They say, the first walls were built as early as in the 7th century BC, while the most well-known sections – by the Ming Dynasty in the 14th-17th centuries. Apart from protection, it also served as boarder control mechanism, allowing to manage trade and people flows and impose duties along the famous Silk Road (we talked a bit about silk here).

Would like to see it on a clear day, with blue sky and no smog.
Morning is your best chance to have some “alone” walking time.

I bet the views are much better now than in my photos, pollution was pretty bad at the time. However, despite the smog and crowds, walking the wall was one of the most memorable experiences that I would like to repeat one day. As someone said, the world as we knew it was cancelled, and we are yet to see what it will be once all this is over. In the meantime, adventurous souls have a “Marco Polo” series on Netflix 😉

That’s my kind of exercise!

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