The mountains. I was impressed by the architecture of the Gyeongbokgung Palace but it was really the mountains that I found awesome.
We’d been in Korea for a few days and I knew there was some steep terrain because we’d climbed more than a few hills. (More on that in my next post.) I wasn’t prepared though for the mountains, so I was awe-struck and needed to take that in for a few moments. Later on, we came to this spot where I could really take it all in.
Walking through the gates of the palace, I felt transported from a very modern world to a very old one. It was amazing to see how the ancient palace grounds, where people seemed to be spread out and moving quietly, fit right in with the busy city and its crowds of people all moving quickly. Seoul is a growing, vibrant city, and there was almost a constant noise of new construction everywhere. It seemed weird to have this so close to this ancient palace, flanked by the mountains, yet located within walking distance of the subway and many new buildings.
The Koreans still love their buildings to have angles.
South Koreans have a reverence for their past. They recognize the importance of sharing their history with residents and visitors, so they have preserved this ancient site, while building newer museums on its grounds. The museums depict the folk culture and art as well as the history of the country.
This 15th Century palace has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times over its history. Everything, from the dress of the palace guards to the furnishings in the halls, has been meticulously replicated. The hand-painted artwork, roof tiles, and stone walls may show their age, and have been replaced in parts of the palace, but the traditional building style has been preserved and respected.
After spending a couple of hours at the palace, we took ashort walk to the Insa Dong Market, one of many markets we were to visit. It featured both modern and traditional, or traditional-looking, items. Clothing, housewares, food, and artwork are all here. We were at the market on a Saturday, likely one of the busiest days, and all of the activity was a sharp contrast to the tranquil settings of the palace—so close, yet so far away in time.
Ancient-looking stone sculptures greet visitors to the Insa Dong Market
Of all the things that we saw and did that day: at the palace and walking through the market, it is that first sight of the mountains that remains etched strongly in my mind.