Zibo is as flat as an ironing board but the "Shan" in "Shandong" means "mountains." ("Dong" means "East"), so in other words, a mountain range or two is contained in this province and most of the places we traveled through had small or larger mountains or even huge mountain-sized --- um, not sure what to call it..... slag? Slag heaps? Yeah, slag heaps. No pictures to show you, though, since the bus windows were typically grimy. The bus ride was also memorable for the times when the driver crossed the double solid line and drove in the opposite lane, honking at oncoming traffic to get out of his way. Ross says Chinese bus drivers should have their own Nascar circuit.
The locals are proud that China's first lady, Premier Xi Jin Ping's wife, Peng Liyuan, is a native of Heze. She is an accomplished classical and folk singer.
So, on to the flowers! Heze is traditionally a major center for the peony. They are grown not only for their beauty, but for tea, oil, food, cosmetics and medicine, which fortunately meant that during the Cultural Revolution, Heze gardeners managed to save some of their beloved plants from being ripped out of the soil by the Red Guards. From 1966 to 1976, ornamental flowers were condemned as bourgeois affectation but plants grown for medicinal purposes were spared. Can you imagine living under a government that tells you that you can't have flowers?
At the exhibition grounds, there were so many beds of peonies, it was just overwhelming. From white, to the barest pink, to deep coral, to dark red, more than 800 varieties on 1100 acres. I searched for the famous black peony but couldn't find one; It was early in the festival and perhaps they weren't in bloom yet.
In the middle portion of the video you'll spot some red palanquins bobbing up and down. You could buy a ride in a palanquin, the same kind that are used to carry brides on their wedding day from their parents' home to their new families. (We didn't, though).
The voice saying "oh my god" is one of my students, not me. Two girls from my second-year class who are Heze locals made the trip with me.
Above right, my two travelling companions, riding the handy quadricycle. The safety rules include: "riding while drunk and bad health," and "minor and old person need the guard of the family!"
Below, colorful scarves flutter in the breeze and calligraphy scrolls and paintings are for sale in a traditional building. Note the beautiful ceiling.
I spent a glorious day at the park. Incidentally, of the thousands of people I saw that day, I was the only foreigner I spotted. And I was pretty easy to spot -- I'm the one who sometimes pinches myself and thinks, I'm leading a charmed life!