Saturday, August 18, 2012


Back to Beijing, but not before exploring Qingdao for a few hours with Janni and Peggy. The city was a sleepy finishing village until the Germans came in 1898 and turned it into a major port, built churches and schools and, with the British, established the Tsingtao Brewery. There's a surprising amount left standing from these times and we duly traipsed around the old town ticking some of them off. Pride of place is the very well-preserved Former Governor's Residence (1903) which looks positively Wagnerian. Mao stayed here with his family on holiday and I remember Michael Palin visiting on his Full Circle tour. He described Qingdao as 'Bavaria-on-Sea'.

The nearby, nameless protestant church (1908) looks like a Grimm's gingerbread house on the outside but is blandly austere and just 'wrong' inside: plain white walls, a massive video screen and disco-lights. However, we were cheered by an informative sign: "The clock tower was set up in the main building with three clocks mounted on three sides of there tower [which] thus earned the popular name "clock tower".
Not far away from that is the Catholic Church (1934), which does have a name (St Michael's) but was closed for a wedding. An extremely tacky, if convenient, Wedding Banquet Restaurant sits opposite. 
But perhaps our most interesting find was the former home of Lao She, now a small but informative museum. Coincidentally I'm reading his Rickshaw Boy at the moment, which he wrote there in 1937.
We finished off by zipping round the Museum of the Tsingtao Brewery which, 100 years on, is still on the same site - though there's a much bigger one out of town too. And of course we sampled some. They do the regular amber colour, a dark stronger one, and a green one which contains something called spirulina which looked like a cross between radioactive coolant and pond water, but we tried it, and lived.

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