The second big Star on the Beijing Show was the Mercedes Style Concept. An amazing Proportion and the typical high emotional surface entertainment made it a real "looker". The 3/4-quarter back view is working. The question will be how much is carried over into the production version. The Infiniti Emerg-e surprised me in reality with nicely down surfaces and proportion. Like.
Finally i managed to have a look at my very few photos from the Beijing Show. The Show was pretty fine and not too big. The international Star of the show surely was the Lamborghini Urus. It was a pretty good idea to show it here in the capital of China. People love it here because big is big. The general impression of the car is great, but some details are too busy in my opinion.
Honestly, did you play with Barbies? Do you like the new Mini? Everbody agrees that the new Mini is a classical girls toy. Decide on your own if you like it in pink. I learned it is cool, not funny!
If you don't like to drive a pink Mini you still have plenty of possibilties to be unique. You can add some bling bling decoration, add a second number plate or paint your wheels the fixed gear way. One of the famous Changan brings rally spirit on the streets, small and very wide vehicles joining. Choose your style.
Stranded in Beijing and little time to sniff up the vibes? This could be your trip, at least it was ours. A mini introduction after our first touch down. Nutshell. The Lama Temple is located in the heart of the city, north of the cities equator. A beautiful and colorful complex with a feast of details on roof tops. A moment of tranquility as soon as you enter the compound. Smoke and the smell of ceremony. Welcome to Asia.
From here it is an inspiring walk to the next landmarks. Slowly we work our way to the main axis of Beijing. It is just a mile, but we zig zag through the lively hutongs, drinking tea, stopping for pictures, watching the street life. What a contrast.
Finally we reach the Bell and Drum towers. Siblings out of ancient stone and wood. A tourist place with a view. Take the steep steps upstairs and the panorama will unfold. Beijing in widescreen, live and direct. Look south and you will see the Forbidden City, look north to spot olympic stadium on a smoggy horizon. The towers, a stepping stone for things to come. Next stop? We will see.
If you are close, you can't miss it. High risen and designed with the template of a kidney shape template, popular in the fifties for minimalist and sympathetic coffee tables. Back then the shape of the "Wirtschaftswunder", progressive and ellipsoid, the sign of a glorious future. At night the neon signs can be seen from afar. Sanlitun Soho, one of the many it-places of Beijing where lifestyle, work and shopping blend together in a modern mix of glass and concrete.
Another day in the grid of the city, visiting temples or strolling through bazaars. Over and again the same ritual when we jump into a taxi. The city map confuses, but the magic word will be our "Sesame Open" effect. Sanlitun, Saanlituur, San-Li-Tor. After a couple of vocal gymnastics our driver turns the key and off we go. Back home, our temporary safe haven in a hectic city. In the morning a look out of the window, down on the street a film crew in full action. A girl with a Gucci bag in front of a Ranger. A scene with a strong reference to past times. This is Beijing now and we are lucky to spend some time in the middle of the storm.
Once I read somewhere that in a perfectly balanced and comfortable world, art becomes a threatened species. Everything has being said, no statements to be made, no taboos left to be broken. The future of art may lay in the East where things are changing.
Beijing's 798 Art District turns this hypothesis into practice one might think. A lot to see and think about. A couple of years ago this place was a melting pot of opinions, the underground surfaced here. The edges are still sharp, but commerce starts to kick in, hence the many eateries and gift shops. Nevertheless, this place should be on your hot spot list. Go visit!
Fourth time in China - first time in Beijing.
And I am so lucky. A cheaper and earlier flight across, combined with a cancelled meeting on Sunday, buys me extra time in the Beijing region. And before I know it, the carfreax network has caringly absorbed this lonesome traveler. Although I manage to only catch one hour of sleep on my Moscow-connected flight, I decide to grab my chances - and after a damn' good cup of coffee I find myself on an orange (!) coloured designer bike, trailing closely behind my host, criss-cross past the Beijing highlights. Jetlag is for sissies! A snapshot tour, shooting from the hip. Three hours to go, the clock is counting. Yet, I am so lucky. Thank you Wout!
It is hard to believe that only six years ago, half of the Beijing population lived like this (source: Wikipedia). No sanitary rooms, no electricity. Such confrontation with the speed of development here. Yet, these are real pearls in the cultural necklace that is Beijing. Luckily, the authorities are aware.
We carry on and reach the Drum- and Bell Tower, two towering structures, which are even more impressive with the empty square in between. How different that must have looked, last week, when China celebrated its 'Golden Week' national holiday. This square is where China time was kept and communicated, across many dynasties, 'till way into the twentieth century when modern day clockwork finally replaced it. The soldiers of old are now frozen in time - like ancient Han Solos - while their modern day colleagues are busy exercising drills, a couple of miles away, inside the Forbidden City walls. This is Old Beijing's central axis, no longer the city's main north-south connection but certainly the cultural spine of the city.
We make our way back south, past the beautiful lakes where the top party officials live today. Tons of clubs and bars by the lakeside. I'll be back tonight, when this will be the center of activity. It's now or never.
Meanwhile it's 5 PM and this Cinderella is racing the clock. Sunset at six! We make it in time for the much-anticipated meeting with Chairman Mao, as he is overlooking the hugely impressive Tian'anmen Square. Together with huge flocks of Chinese tourists, we witness the flag lowering ceremony as the invisible sun sets over Beijing - and decide to call it a day.
It's the white against the red this time. Hard to choose sides.
One can walk into any international book store at our local railway station and grab an affordable Taschen book to have a view on art now! A full pack of images, a perspective on the world. Right now, we are in Beijing and tell our cabbie to take us to the art district. This is 798, a time zone out of the ordinary, a formally industrial complex that houses the creative spirits of China.
We will come back several times to soak up the energy, look and enjoy, getting in contact with the east. An endless area full of content and in between some good lunch opportunities. Mao is an icon and a missile at the same time. Temples are yesterday, this is the present. Unfinished business, we need more days to grasp the picture of this wonderful place.
Peeling of the onion skins in a Chinese kitchen. We are just visitors. How much can we see, how close can we get? Two weeks in China. This is our perspective, trying to understand this unknown culture. Big to small, the hutongs are the maximum level we can reach in this Tetris game, trying to stack the eastern building blocks onto each other.
Impressions. Within the scale of the city, the hutongs are the very atoms of society. Behind the walls of those small alleys there is some quantum mechanics going on. Every now and then you get a glimpse of that next level, the next onion skin, the neutrons that tie together the social network. Children chalk their dreams on walls, people sell their heritage as souvenirs.
For outsiders, this is the picture of China we can deal with. A scheme that fits into our slide show. It is also a view on the country that disappears as things move on. Modernity is a monster that bites itself into the city's core. Come back within a couple of years and things will look totally different.
Hutongs were yesterday, the future is bright. Once a Golf MK I was an old junker, today it is a classic. Will those hutongs survive the speed of change? Berlin Mitte is hip for tourists, for locals it is sooo 2005. We are just visitors, trying to spot the Prenzes, and the Kreuzbergs of Beijing. No chance. These are the onion skins one can only peel of as a local or an "alien visitor" that has managed to open a bank account, acquired a driving license and so on. Good luck to our hosts. Show us the Neu Koeln of your capital!
Beijing, days full of urban visual input, time out please. It is cloudy and a hot thickening layer of smog crawls across the skyline of the city. Jinghsan Park turns out to be the right spot to relax. High above the Forbidden City we get some fresh air as the fantastic panorama unfolds. Freshly painted temples, an oasis of nature in the epicenter of the storm called Beijing.
I have learned that here there are many shades of red, each with an own meaning. Today we will witness many of them. A walk through the stretched parks, up to the next landmark. The locals dance, paint poems with water on pavements. A mental slow motion in a hectic city.
Measuring the scale of the city. First, second, third, fourth. We travel the infrastructural rings of Beijing and everything in between. Extra large and extra small. Stuck in traffic on multi lane highways and up close with the people in the hutongs. Old meets new, small meets big. Landmark architecture over here, a collective call over there. Together for a happy China, for a better society, let's develop. At least that is what the colorful bill boards try to tell us.
The new China it is somewhere in between. The question is if you can scale up tradition. The new is now and so we end up in a freshly painted artificial hutong, south of the Forbidden City. The big tree is made out of plastic and the tram is a cardboard box on wheels. The original copy pasted, air conditioned , broader and better. Somehow it feels like Disney World, a polished dream.
Outbound looking for a sideboard. It is a long ride with the underground and train until we reach the outskirts of Beijing. One can travel so far on a single ticket with the standard price of two RBM. The landscape changes, but still, many high rise buildings are draped along the horizon. An industry zone with a dominating power plant connected to the big city by a salad of wiring.
This is Furniture City, a kind of outlet where you can find all you need for better living. This is not your usual sunday afternoon boulevard. It is more like stepping into a work shop, knee deep in wood chips. A place where work and living blends together, well maybe it is the same thing here.
Long dark shops full of cabinets. Hidden in the corners behind them employees wait for customers while little kids play under the table. Exotic woods from all over Asia, ceramics in many shapes. The perfect spot for film makers who need to decorate their sets, or designers who want to feel at home in their new "heimat". Of course everything will be delivered the same day.
Bright colors and smokey alleys. Life style on the streets. A village in transition. On the other side of the ultra green river the new China rises up. I wonder what this place will look like in a couple of years from now. It might be exactly the same as your local, global furniture boulevard.