As I walked toward the citadel, I realized, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
We approached the wrong gate… actually we approached from the right gate, it was amazing. Three arched gates with three arched windows. Each of them covered in sculpted dragon heads, with painted details in bright yellow blue and red but it was not the entry gate. We walked the perimeter in the rapidly warming morning light to the entry gate. It was even bigger, but had far less detail.
After making it through the locals-only line and being escorted to the proper foreigners line, we entered the citadel. A huge courtyard stood ahead.
The Imperial City
Buildings and statues from empires long gone surrounded. We had moved through the borders of the citadel and were now in the imperial city. Every bit of it from the roofs to the gates to the carved branch under the carved bird’s foot was impressive.
So many of the places we visit are full of people from Europe and Asia, on their vacations or gap years. The imperial city was, instead, full of Vietnamese people. This was their heritage.
A place full of history. Chinese rule. French influence. Torn by war. Empty, pensive, anticipating, slowly mending. This place is theirs.
We moved slowly, quietly through the grounds where once 160 buildings stood. Now only ten major buildings and a few smaller items remain. Huế had been the capital of South Vietnam before the communist North took over. During one of the Tet offensive attacks the battle of Huế was fought and more significantly than any building many lives were lost of both Vietnamese and American people.
Now, there is a hollowness to the space, a quietness even where there is pride. The architecture fascinating, every detail beautiful and meticulous, everywhere you turn inside this ancient city is something stunning.