Day 1 in Qingdao, sort of

25 04 2010

OK, actually we spent the first night on the sleeper train from Nanjing, arriving at Qingdao at 6 in the morning, so it wasn’t REALLY the first day, but you get what I mean. The sleeper train was fine. We were unable to purchase first class sleeper seats, so we ended up getting second class (hard seat) sleeper berths, but they were both on the bottom bunk. In reality, on the slower K train in China (I know this is boring, but I’m almost done), there isn’t a huge difference between first- and second-class sleeper berths anyway, except that if you get stuck on the top berth, you’re about 9 feet above the ground, which would make me a little nervous. One drawback is that Chinese trains are full of smoke and coughing, spitting Chinese people, so a result has been that Missy is a bit sniffly today. Moving on …

So every guidebook I read uses the term “breezy seaside town” to refer to Qingdao, so I will as well. This breezy seaside town was taken over by the Germans in the late 19th Century, when it was in fashion for European countries (and the U.S., to an extent) to dominate great swathes of the country, using it for greater access to trade and vice and have giant harems of Chinese women, which is a big reason why China is so hell-bent on taking over the world now, in my opinion. The Germans took off when the Japanese came into town in World War II, but the town (If you can call a city of 4 million or so a town – well, in China, I guess you can) retains, at least in its old town, much of the German architecture from that period, which is great, since so much of China is ugly, gray blocks of apartment buildings. So that is the part of the city Missy and I chose to explore on our first day. Since the train arrived around 6 in the morning, we didn’t have a room available at our hostel, so we decided to have some breakfast, then wander around the German concession.

Like with most historical areas, the German concession is a bit haphazard in planning, so we never actually found the building we were trying to see, an old villa built by the Germans that Mao stayed in a few times, but we made it down to the bay, where we saw one of Qingdao’s famous beaches, creatively titled “Bathing Beach No. 6” (Yes, that’s the name in Chinese as well). We also saw the Zhanqiao Pier, which is Qingdao’s landmark (It’s on Tsingtao bottles if you look at them), but I thought it was surprisingly small, though it is interesting to see old Chinese architecture on a pier, I guess. We didn’t end up inspecting the pier all that much, though, electing instead to wander over to the Chinese Naval Museum, which resulted in us following a tour group through what was basically the rubble of a ruined factory in the middle of the city.

The Naval Museum was fun, though. They had plenty of old Chinese tanks (I know, it’s supposed to be the Naval Museum, but this is China), airplanes, and of course, boats. There were four boats, I believe a destroyer, a communications ship, one with a helipad, and … I don’t know, another boat with guns, all of which you could climb around on. We were almost decapitated by a 3-year-old kid manning one of the anti-aircraft guns. After walking around on only one of the boats (the one with the helipad), we decided to check out the submarine you could walk around on, which was pretty cool, then we headed back to the hostel for lunch and an afternoon nap.

Later on, the hostel had a free barbecue on the roof. The hostel is actually an old observatory which has been modified into a hostel. Pretty neat. The barbecue fare consisted of some grilled meat, bread, some Chinese pancakes with either red bean paste or honeydew and salad. It was good. We met a couple American students who were traveling and an Australian guy who liked to talk a lot, but was really nice. Oh, I should mention this: Before we went to the barbecue, we walked up to Xinshaoshan Park, which was a little hill with the remains of a German signal station. Part of the hill had a “lover’s bridge” where couples place heart-shaped locks to represent the never-ending nature of their love, which probably works out pretty well in China, but I’d advise 50 percent of American married couples against doing it. (But not us, of course) Unfortunately, the lock-seller was gone, but we got a picture of us on the bridge, featuring a cameo from Clueless Chinese Person Ruining Photo, who seems to pop up quite often. More later!

-Jeremiah

Pictures:
1. The setting sun reflects of a statue of a dragon in a pool at Xinshaoshan Park.
2. This one is for Missy’s dad.
3. Missy poses on or near more Chinese military equipment.
4. Jeremiah emerges from the bowels of a Chinese submarine.

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