Halfway through our Seoul trip already, yet still so much to see. We have not managed to visit the Namsan tower and today, again, we won’t get to see it from up close.
The good thing about renting an airbnb flat is: the feeling one might actually live in that city. We enjoyed a very decadent breakfast and slow morning watching K-pop on TV, dancing around the flat whilst enjoying the sun shining brightly over the mountains surrounding Seoul. On the preliminary plan: Deoksugung palace and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
But before heading to Deoksugung, we decided to take the tube to Seochon quarter to check out that very quiet and nice neighbourhood and grabbed bubble tea from Taiwan on the way exploring Seochon. Instead of taking the underground to Deoksugung, we decided to enjoy a walk in the sun passing Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbukgung Palace and then visiting the Gwanghwamun statue incl. the museum beneath the statue of Great King Sejong, who was a respectable, by the folk-loved King, and who introduced Hangeul to Korea so that everyone can speak and write the language despite level of education.
The Deoksugung palace sits alongside a series of western highrise buildings, that made the surrounding scenery more unique. It belonged originally to Wolsandaegun (1454 – 1488), who was the older brother of King Seongjong (1469 – 1494) of the Joseon Dynasty. During the Japanese occupation (1952), this place became a temporary royal residence after all the other palaces were destroyed by fires. Though Deoksugung was a considered a palace in 1611, it later played no important role until the end of the 19th century, when Changdeokgung became the main palace after rebuilding. The emperor Gojong, who established the Great Han Empire moved to Deoksugung in 1897 and lived there till his death in 1919, even after his reign was over. The restoration work of Deoksugung Palace started in 2007 and is still ongoing. After the next tour around Deoksugung, we entered the Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art, which exhibited Yoo Jongkuk’s arts at that time as well.
Since we wanted to have some street foods and also the vibe of Korean’s street markets, we decided to walk to Namdaemun Market, passing by another pretty gate in Seoul called Sungnyemun Gate.
The Sungnyemun Gate, also known as Namdaemun Gate during the Japanese occupation in the 20th Century (Gate of Exalted Ceremonies) is an important historic gate in central Seoul, which was designated the firsts National Treasure of SK in 1962. During the reign of King Taejo, this gate was built using wood and stones in 1395 and was later rebuilt in 1447. The purpose of Sungnyemun was to greet important foreign visitors, controlling the flux of people getting in and out of the city and using Siberian tigers to keep invaders from entering. Restoration works began 1961 after the damages it suffers during the Korean War. The poor things suffered quite a bit of damage over the years, with the latest damage happening in 2008, when an upset person started a fire, which eventually got out of control and destroyed the structure. The restoration in 2009 cost SK roughly 20 billion ₩ (~ 14 million USD) and was finished after 5 years of work. Since 2013, Sungnyemun is open to the public again. When we passed by the sunset was beautifully illuminating Sungnyemun Gate and I felt a special aura, if you will, surrounding that gate. Particularly the round-about traffic seems to isolate Sungnyemun and make it even more special.
After Namdaemun market, I decided to pay a visit to Lotte Mart closed to Seoul Station while D. went home after the long walking tour we had during the day. Another thing I realised was that Chinese people seems to be everywhere. At Seoul Station, when I went to the wrong platform and was checking the direction again an old man approached me asking where I wanted to go. I told him I need to go to Mapo, he check the underground map with me and asked where I am from. I told him I am from Germany, which maybe did not help much, as he might be able to speak Chinese but not German. In the middle of explaining the way he probably thought it’s easier to show me instead and indicated me to follow him. He took me to the right platform and bid farewell, looking back to check if I am going down the stairs and left. I had the pleasure to meet really lovely old ppl in Seoul 🙂