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Dennis West, publisher of the Beacon, our local paper, not only ran the pic of me reading his rag on the Great Wall, but he ran in the very same issue, on the opposite page, another not so hot shot of me reading it in our suite overlooking Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district. A “twofer,” indeed. Befitting the relationship between any good PR person and the media, I bought him lunch at a nearby Asian restaurant, as thanks.

is called Chongqing (you remember Chung King frozen foods?). The population of ChongQing is 34 million, but it does cover a provincial sized area. The urban center, pictured here at night, is “only” about 15 million — is that 3 or 4 or 5 Chicagos? It’s an industrial capitol, especially for autos, with one of the most polluted atmospheres to be found, but they’re working on it. Chongqing is located in central China, and is on the Yangze River (the Chinese don’t call it that — they know it simply as the ChangJiang, or Long River, since it runs 3900 miles from the steppes of Tibet to Shanghai and the Yellow Sea. One third of the 1.2 billion Chinese live in the Yangze River Basin. The river divides the north and south of China, both geographically and culturally. The Three Gorges Dam reservoir, runs from ChongQing to Wuhan, the three-plus day scenic route we followed on the cruise ship the Yangze Explorer, in late October. The recently completed Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydroelectric facility, the equivalent of 24 nuclear reactors. We went down 536 feet in the 5-stage locks of the dam, an awesome experience.

Lower Manhattan became famous, as it has for so many things when in the 30s, more than 200 skyscrapers (of more than 20 floors) were built there in a decade. Since 1990, when Chinese Premier Deng proclaimed that Shanghai would build a world-class financial district on the mud flats across the river from Shanghai proper, some 400 skyscrapers have been built there. We recently visited, and viewed the awesome day and night skyline of the Pudong district, as it is known, both from our hotel rooms at the Peninsula Hotel on he famous Bund, across the river, and down from 93rd floor restaurant the Shanghai World Financial Center, in the Center of Pudong, now I believe the world’s 3rd tallest building. A Chicagoan, Marshall Strabala, is the lead architect of the Shanghai Tower, now under construction there, which will soon soar above the Financial Center. Seen from across the river, Pudong resembles a space-age version of the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. If architecture can connote such a thing, we may be looking at the world’s financial capitol of the 21st century.

Nearby the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a deep underground structure the size of a Wal-Mart, the Basilica Cistern, that built in the 6th century under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, where one can have lunch where once 7 thousand slaves labored to provide a safe place to store cool, fresh water for the Great Palace of Constantinople, fed via 2 aqueducts from forest streams outside the city. With a capacity of nearly 3 million cubic feet of water, the cistern’s walls are 13 feet thick and the vaulted roofs are supported by 336 30-foot high columns, brought from throughout the country and a few, like the two columns with sideways and upside-down Medusa sculptures, are thought to be from Roman ruins near the site. The cistern was once traversed by tourists in boats, but today a network of raised walks enabled those who find it to wander through the hauntingly lit columns. The cistern has been repeatedly repaired through the centuries, and was last used to supply water to the Topkapi Palace, but today only a few feet of water remain. Two contemporary films have used the cistern as a setting, From Russia with Love in 1963 and The International in 2009. It’s a nice place to cool off anfter a tough day of shopping in the bazar. .

In the Bosporus (or Bosphorus) Straits connecting the Black Sea on the North with the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles and hence the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean on the South, the Rumelian Castle (pictured in my previous post), built by the Ottoman Pashas in the early 1440s, was part of their plot to isolate Constantinople, before retaking it from the Christians in 1453. The Rumelian castle is located near the mid-point of the Bosporus on the Western European side and another similar castle was constructed for the same purpose across from it on the Asian side.
The 3 towers of the Rumelian were each named for one of the Pashas who invested in the castle, which was built in just over 4 months, a schedule those reconstructing the site of New York’s Word Trade Center could surely not comprehend.

When Vicki and I cruised the Bosporus in fall of 2009, some 55,000 ships a year were making a toll-free passage through the Bosporus, something the Pashas would have abhorred, many of them transporting Russian oil.

March 2023

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