Once upon a time, there stood a tranquil hilltown ribboned by a shimmering river, where sturdy soldiers guarding the castle against the enemies and the king respecting citizens from all walks of life. Yet, you don’t have to flip over a fantasy novel to imagine this story content anymore. Just visit Toledo, you would picture knights of Castile fighting with the Moors near the Alcazar, both wishing to gain a firm foothold in this central heartland. You will leave adventurous steps on a labyrinth of steep alleyways, where you will have to find the correct path to your destination. Most importantly, you would be amazed by this fairytale-like city, by its harmony of Christian churches, Islamic mosques and Jewish synagogues in the Middle Ages.
Hardly would anyone think of visiting this city when staying in the UK. However, just less than one-and-a-half hour train from London, there lies this eclectic heart of England, a tranquil city in the county of West Midlands. Without the skyscraper view and the hustle and bustle of the capital, here you will find yourself marching towards the pedestrian zones, visiting a wide variety of shopping quarters touting all daily necessities, and arriving at the doors of the medieval Guildhall and the landmark Cathedral.
On the extreme western edge of China, along snow-capped Qilian mountain peaks, lines of sturdy soldiers were standing high in the Jiayuguan Fortress, carrying a goblet of fire, staring off the distance all day to guard their own territory. Strategically located at the narrowest point of the Hexi Corridor on the Silk Road, this last major stronghold of Ming China is celebrated as the first and also the greatest pass under heaven, beyond which only faces boiling Gobi desert and vast terrains towards Central Asia.