Korea Trip, part one

September: two weeks in Korea, two weeks sick. Have finally recovered from my cold and have a few minutes, so figured it was about time to post about our trip!

This was my second time in Korea. The first was the two months that I lived and taught there (see: adorable students) in the summer of 2006. It was the summer between my two years of grad school, and I was in somewhat rough shape due to a crazy school year and a very difficult breakup. Getting away from reality seemed like a great idea, and I believe it was the best way I could have spent that summer.

It was fun to go back 6 years later and in a much better mental state, to see how my perceptions of Korea have changed. One of the last things I did that summer was to go walking at Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Suwon, which was where I lived. I went by myself and spent almost three hours walking the wall, enjoying the sights and being pleased with how much happier I was than when I'd arrived (and getting an epic sunburn..).
This part always felt pretty Mario dungeon-level'ish to me

This time it was the first place I took Chris. We wanted to make sure we got moving on our first day to start combatting the jet lag, so what better thing to do than go somewhere that you can feel like you're walking through a video game?

So many stairs!

The fortress is about 3.5 miles long and has an impressive array of towers, battlements, gates, and views. It was built around old Suwon, but does not seem to have ever seen battle. A nice old gentleman (who spoke incredibly good English!) who was hanging out at the bottom of this staircase told us the story of intrigue involving a prince and the murder of his father that prompted the building of the fortress. 

Chris at one of the gates
 There are various places throughout that are designed to either hide things, or make things visible. This picture is of Chris at one of the gates which leads to a long projection off the wall that was to give the troops a way to see if their enemies were coming. There's a lovely pavilion at the end where some ladies were sitting eating their lunch and enjoying the view of Suwon.

Hidden entryway

Throughout the fortress there are several hidden entryways to allow scouts or provisions into the fortress. Pretty intimidating from the outside, and with a very steep staircase just inside the door. So please, watch your step and beware of falling!

The Northeast Pavilion is my favorite part of the fortress. It contains a garden and pond and was favored as an area to hold festivals. In the direction we walked it is one of the last sights of the fortress and I think that's my favorite way to do it. coming around the corner to see this is just magical..
Northeast Pavilion

One of my favorite things about Korea is its combination of modern and ancient, all smashed together. Korea is someplace that has grown, almost too quickly for itself, but has managed to maintain its respect for its cultural heritage. There are so many places where you'll see skyscrapers next to ancient burial grounds, or cars that actually go under the fortress gates. It feels like you never know what you're going to see when you turn the next corner.

Next up: a couple days at a cabin in the forest, and one adorable boy's 2nd birthday!