Thursday, February 2, 2017

Famous Walls, Part 1

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The Great Wall of China


Stretching for 8.850 kilometres, the Great Wall of China, built in the 14h century, is the greatest man made barrier ever constructed. The Wall is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along the northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of various nomadic groups. The Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

Other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. The defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signalling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.

It is a myth that it can be seen from space.

It is also not true that it was built to keep the rabbits out. For overseas readers, click on the following link:

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The Western Wall, Israel, aka The Wailing Wall



The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites, sacred because it is a remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the "Wailing Wall" by European observers because for centuries Jews have gathered here to lament the loss of their temple. The Western Wall Plaza, the large open area that faces the Western Wall, functions as an open-air synagogue that can accommodate tens of thousands of worshipers. Prayers take place here day and night, and special services are held here as well. The Western Wall was built by King Herod in 20 BC during his expansion of the Temple enclosure, and is part of a retaining wall that enclosed the western part of Temple Mount. In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. During the Ottoman Period (beginning in the 16th century), the wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage, where they came to lament the destruction of the Temple. In 1967, immediately after the Six Day War, Israelis leveled the neighboring Arab district to create the Western Wall Plaza, which can accommodate tens of thousands of pilgrims.

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The Berlin Wall


The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to separate West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. Constructed without prior warning or notice, it divided families, friends and neighbourhoods. Imagine that your spouse is visiting family in North Sydney, or that you work in North Sydney, but live in South Sydney. Then a wall goes up that keeps you apart from 1961 until 1989, on pain of death. 

Erected by the East Germans, its official purpose was stated to be to protect the population from fascists. In reality the purpose was to prevent people fleeing to the West, prompting President Kennedy to declare in his 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.” It also prompted President Reagan, in his 1987 speech in Berlin, to demand “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Liberalization within the Eastern bloc and the breakdown of Soviet power in the Russian satellite countries saw the wall opened in 1989 and its dismantling in 1990, but not before 139 people lost their lives trying to get to the West and families lost loved ones.

Construction of the Berlin Wall



Berlin Wall Victims’ Memorial


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