Originally published: 18 July 2017
For the past few years, Donald Trump has been bombarding us with promises to build a wall along the Mexican border with the USA. So just for a bit of fun, we’ve put together a selection of famous, infamous, unique and downright weird walls around the world that you can visit on your travels.
We’ve also included how successful they were/are and – in our humble opinion – whether or not they’re a good thing. Maybe the US president can visit one to get inspiration! But here at Etramping, we’re not big fans of building walls at all. As travelers and in general life, we prefer to build bridges instead.
The Great Wall of China
First up to bat we’ve got the Great Wall of China, which needs little introduction. It’s an enormous divide running some 21,000 KM (13,000 miles), and it was built to keep out the marauding, nomadic tribes of the Eurasian Steppe. You’d also want to keep out screaming barbarian types who liked nothing more than killing and plundering – probably because they were bored and it was a fun thing to do. It’s definitely the oldest and longest entry in our famous walls pageant.
Success rating: Not bad at all. China was only invaded twice since its construction.
Is it a good thing? Today it rakes in over 10 million visitors every year, so for the Chinese tourist economy, it’s definitely a good thing!
Hadrian’s Wall, England
Staying with the ancient walls we move to England to see what kind of effort the Romans have come up with. Hadrian’s Wall was constructed under the rule of Emperor Hadrian, who was very imaginative when it came to the naming his walls. Built for similar reasons to its Chinese counterpart, the wall was designed to keep out unruly barbarian hordes in Scotland, and work began around 122 AD. Running around 80 miles from coast to coast, today the wall is a popular attraction for walkers and hikers.
Success rating: It did its job up until the Roman legion left and nobody was there to defend it.
Is it a good thing? Yes. Hadrian’s Wall is a popular attraction in the north of England, and is pretty much the first thing mentioned when you open a history textbook in a UK school!
The Western Wall, Israel
Also known as the Wailing Wall, this ancient, limestone construction is located in the old city of Jerusalem. Erected by Herod the Great, it attracts thousands of people each year who come here to pray, and is one of the holiest places of worship, with many coming from far and wide on a lengthy pilgrimage. Apparently, you can write a prayer or a wish on a piece of paper and leave it in a crack in the wall, and every few days someone collects them and buries them in the Mount of Olives cemetery. A beautiful tradition – whatever your faith or religion.
Success rating: It’s not a military wall and as such not built to keep people out or in. But as it’s stood for thousands of years, we’d say that’s pretty successful!
Is it a good thing? For the many peoples of faith that visit annually, what gives people hope surely isn’t a bad thing.
The Berlin Wall, Germany
Over to Germany now and we examine the notorious Berlin Wall that stood from 1961 to 1989, dividing the city into east and west. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), it was erected to prevent mass immigration from the communist eastern bloc and was pretty effective at its job too. One side prospered over the next three decades, while the other wondered what a banana looked like. It thankfully fell in November 1989, there’s not much left of it, and Berlin has never looked back to become one of the coolest cities in the world.
Success rating: Extremely. It segregated an entire city for thirty years.
Is it a good thing? Not when it was up, but now that it’s down – it has played its part in the formation of a truly epic capital.
The Lennon Wall, Czech Republic
It’s all about peace and love on the Lennon wall in Prague in the Czech Republic! Beginning in 1980 after the famous former Beatle was assassinated in New York; this normal wall has become a shrine and memorial to John Lennon, attracting some beautiful art work, song lyrics, and inspirational quotes. It’s a constantly evolving work of street art, promoting peace, love, and unity that we’re sure the man himself would have been proud of.
Success rating: Much like similar memorials, many people draw a great deal of strength from the sentiments therein, so we say it’s a success.
Is it a good thing? It’s definitely one of the nicer walls in the world!
West Bank Barrier, Israel
Back to Israel and a stark contrast is possibly the most controversial inclusion in our list of walls, the West Bank Barrier. It’s considered to be security and protection to Israeli’s, but a violation of human rights to Palestinians. We perhaps wouldn’t exactly call it a tourist attraction – although people do visit – but it certainly has caused a stir since its conception in 1992. Featured famously in music, art, and film, the barrier is never far from being the topic of heated debate. We hope in the near future that differences can be settled on both sides and there will be no more need for such constructions anywhere.
Success rating: Depends on which side of the fence you sit on.
Is it a good thing? See above comment – a matter of opinion.
Walls of Troy, Turkey
Possibly the greatest city that ever existed, the story of Troy has long captivated the imagination of the world. Part architectural site and part mysterious legend and work of fiction, nonetheless the once commanding and now crumbling walls of Troy have become a popular visitor attraction on the west coast of Turkey. Once believed to have reached almost to the heavens, these impenetrable walls supposedly fell only because of the cunning of the Greeks, and a certain large, wooden horse.
Success rating: Pretty good unless you come bearing gifts.
Is it a good thing? Some might be disappointed they’re not as massive as Homer’s Iliad led us to believe!
Gum Wall, USA
Situated in Seattle you’ll find one of the most unique and unhygienic entries in our list – the Market Theatre Gum Wall. One of the newest contenders in our battle of the walls, it’s a wall of chewing gum, which began around 1993. Punters visiting the theater would stick gum to the wall upon leaving, and it became something of a tradition. So much so that the wall of gum was several inches thick in some places, running for 50ft at 15ft high – before they were forced to have it cleaned. That’s a lot of gum! No sooner had they cleaned it off than is sprung up again, and once more become a popular landmark and tourist attraction. If you’re in Seattle, stick around and check it out!
Success rating: Various. Some people think it’s fun, others think it’s disgusting!
Is it a good thing? The sugar in the gum is slowly eroding the theater brick work – so probably not!
Walls around the world come in all shapes and sizes, all heights and lengths and all uses and requirements. Some are meant to keep us apart, and others are meant to bring us together, but we know which type we prefer! As a traveler, walls can often be a problem when you’re trying to get in somewhere, so hopefully, we see less of the ones trying to keep us out, and more of the ones we can paint on!