The Body of Chairman Mao

Getting into Tiananmen Square was hard enough. We joined a large crowd of Chinese people, shuffling slowly forwarded. We waited while people looked at us strangely, pointed at our feet and laughing, not knowing if joining the group was even the right thing to do. Eventually we arrived at a security checkpoint, where our bags were x-rayed and our passports checked.

We were in.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Monument to the People’s Heroes

Tiananmen Square was a large open space where traffic was prohibited and areas roped off from pedestrians with guard posts throughout. At one end Tiananmen Gate, which lead into the Forbidden City, where a large portrait of Chairman Mao hung.

The Body of Chairman Mao

 

At the other, Mao’s Mausoleum, a building built solely for the purpose of housing his embalmed body. Our first port of call.

But first we had to jump through a number of hoops in order to enter.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Guard in front of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

First we headed to an entirely different building, where we would have to check in any bags or cameras. While I was travelling in Vietnam I was able to visit the body of Ho Chi Minh so I had an idea of what may be required here in order to enter.

Back at the mausoleum we joined another queue, this one had a lot less people in it, and another security check point, this one just a visual inspection. As we approached the entrance there was a vendor selling white flowers. Almost every Chinese visitor in front of us purchased multiple flowers to take in with them.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Revolutionary statue in front of the mausoleum

Once we reached the entrance and went inside we were greeted by a large seated stone statue of Mao. In front of him a table so full of the white flowers they had been piled up on the floor behind. We watched as visitors placed their contribution with the others and then as a man with a large cart collected up the excess and wheeled them back out to the shop.

Moving through the corridors we came to a small room where the glass coffin was held. Inside lay a black haired Mao in a grey suit. It was a very strange moment which lasted less than a minute. We were ushered around the edges of the room before passing out the other side and into the gift shop.

The Body of Chairman Mao

National Museum of China

No one was prepared for Mao’s death. Like Ho Chi Minh he had requested to be cremated but after his death it was decided his body would be embalmed. Accounts vary but it is thought the process was rushed and ill prepared due to rocky relations with the Russians at the time. They were thought to be the experts as they had already used the technique to embalm the bodies of Stalin and Lenin, as well as assisting the Vietnamese with Minh’s body. It is said that instead they had to settle with verbal instructions from the Vietnamese and try their best.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Restricted areas and guard posts

Since 1977 his body has been here, in his purpose built mausoleum for the world to visit, with some days visitor numbers reaching well into the thousands. Today, who really knows if the body that lies there is in fact Mao’s. Rumours persist and it’s often thought that due to the process not being entirely effective the body had been replaced with a wax figure, highly believable as the process leaves the skin looking shinny and even wax like.

Further Reading:

Preserving Chairman Mao: embalming a body to maintain a legacy by The Guardian

A visitors account from 1997 Resting in Peace or in Pieces

Sibelius Monument

Jean Sibelius was born in 1865 and was a composer of classical music, his music is often credited with giving Finland a national identity as they struggled for independence from Russia. Sibelius’s image was on the 100 mark note before Finland adopted the euro and his national day is celebrated on his birthday, December 8th.

The Sibelius Monument was inaugurated in 1967 and since then has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Helsinki. The monument is 8.5 meters high and 10.5 meters wide with 600 metal pipes making up its vast size. The monument also contains a likeness of Sibelius seen on the right.

During the summer the monument is crowded with tourists posing next to the metal pipes and even putting their heads inside. Another popular photograph is to take one pointed up to the sky through the pipes. On this autumn day the area was empty except for a lone woman sitting on a bench just out of frame to the left.

Sculpture of Helsinki #16

Autumn in Helsinki

You can find almost 500 outdoor sculptures, pieces of environmental art and historical monuments in Helsinki and they are accessible to everyone. See more and search through the database at HAMhelsinki.fi.

Vanhankaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Vanhankaupunki or Helsinki Old Town is 5km from where the center of town is now situated. The town was established in 1550 by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, as Finland was under Swedish rule at the time. By 1570 it is thought that there were around 500 inhabitants. By 1640 the town was moved from this location to its current one, for better harbour conditions in order to boost the city commerce.

Now nothing is left of the Vanhankaupunki but in its place there is a beautiful wooded park. Though, there has been construction in the surrounding area the buildings are still very impressive, old brick buildings and wooden houses, some of which date back to the 19th century but nothing anywhere near as old as 1600 and nature is still a key element here.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Monuments of the Old Town

There are two entrances to the site of Helsinki Old Town. One on Vanhankaupungintie where, in the over grown bushes, you can find an sign of how the town had looked and what was there now to mark important sites. The other entrance is between two newly built houses and seems more like the access to the rear of one of the houses.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Stairs to Gustavus II Adolphus Memorial

Either way takes you to an excellent rocky lockout and a short walk through the natural surroundings where there are a number of monuments with historical significance.

Vanhankaupunki

There are three monuments in the Vanhankaupunki dedicated to the Old Town and its history, the 400th anniversary of the founded of Helsinki erected in 1950, the first church and graveyard, and the memorial to Gustavus II Adolphus.

The most interesting part was the site of the old church, now marked with a replica of a gravestone of a merchant named Hans van Sanden had been found here in 1866. The stone was carved just like the original and placed in the same spot in 1890.

From here it is a short walk up hill to the top of a rocky outcrop where you can view the surrounding area. To your west the city, to your east nature. You can see the water that was once a harbour and its not hard to imagine the ships sailing in many years ago when there was little else here.

© Our Shadows Will Remain

From the site of the Vanhankaupunki It’s a short walk to the red brick Power Station and turbine from 1890. The water levels were high and it rushed over the fall crashing at the bottom and sending a spray through the air. The roaring water was loud but 50m further the sound had gone and was replaced by tranquility as the Vanta River entered Vanhankaupunki bay.

Vanhankaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

From the Power Station buildings there is a beautiful walk around Vanhankaupunki bay, where great views of the buildings can be found. From here you can also find your way to Lammassaari Nature Reserve or take the bridge across to Verkatehtaan park and back to Arabia.

Don’t forget to sit and enjoy the view with the Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg statue.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Vanhakaupunki bay and Power Station Buildings

Three Nations Border Point

The Three Nations Border Point can be reached by ferry or an 11 km one way walk from Kilpisjärvi. There are a few different ways it can be reached of varying difficulty, I chose to take the ferry one way and return on the Malla Trail to Kilpisjärvi Via Pikku Malla making the total distance 16 km.

From the ferry drop off point the Three nations Border Point is an easy 3 km walk along the fenced border between Finland and Sweden. The exact point is located 10 meters into lake Goldajärvi and can be reached by following a planked walkway to where the monument has stood since 1926. The idea is that you walk around the monument and visit each country by doing so, this allows you to see it from every angle and with a different country in the background.

Three Nations Border Point

Norway, Sweden, Finland

Once leaving the border point the trail takes you through the trees and up onto the mountains. Once up the walking is fairly easy and continues with beautiful scenery over Kilpisjarvi and Saana which is unlike any I have seen elsewhere in Finland.

Would you visit or have you visited the point where three borders meet?

© Our Shadows Will Remain

The Three Nations Border Point features on my post 5 Things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer.

71° North

Nordkapp was once thought to be the northern most point of the Norwegian island Magerøya and has become the ending point for many peoples journey. But in actual fact Knivskjellodden point is further north and has become a popular walk for people trying to avoid the crowds and high entrance fees of Nordkapp.

7km south from Nordkapp is a small car park, from here it is a 9km walk one way to Knivskjellodden point at 71° 11′ 8″ North. With the parking spot being up hill it is a pleasant and easy walk down to the coast and along the point to where the monument stands. The route is one way which makes the return journey a little less exciting especially after you have reached your goal, to make matters worse it is a slow incline back to the car park that never seems to arrive.

There are many reasons to choose this walk over visiting Nordkapp but the reason I did it was because it was different and far from the usual. It does take more time and effort but once you reach the modest monument you are rewarded with beautiful views of the Norwegian coastline, the Barents Sea and the steep cliffs of Nordkapp, you may even be alone.

Enjoy my gallery of photographs taken from Knivskjellodden point and the monument, Nordkapp can be seen in the background shrouded in cloud.

What is the furthest north you have been?

© Our Shadows Will Remain

Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty has been in the news recently after a bomb threat causing an evacuation of Liberty Island. Since 9/11 the statue has had a rough ride. it was closed after September 11th 2001 due to security concerns, the statue underwent modifications that would make evacuations easier if it was needed. Since then Liberty Island has gone through various stages of being closed to the public. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City it caused millions in damages and was closed once again. Due to the aftermath of the hurricane I wasn’t able to visit in 2013. Now, the island is open but after continuous dangers who knows for how much longer.

Have you ever visited the Statue of Liberty? Or, like me has your trip been affected by closures?

Read more: National Geographic Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty

Statue of Liberty, New York City