Republic of Korea

Monday July 22 – Thursday July 25

Many thanks to my host Eonyoung, who gave me the best tour of Seoul that one could have, especially given the short duration of my time there.

Seoul is a harmonious blend of new and old, at times feeling like New York City with its broad avenues, shopping districts, and variety of national and international epicurean delights.  At other times it reminds you of the centuries upon centuries of rich history:  for example, there are five carefully preserved palaces from the Joseon dynasty that enable you to step away from city life and disappear into another era.  I left feeling enriched by this city and its culture, while also wanting to come back for much more…

The Republic of Korea has been invaded and occupied by nearly all of its neighbors at one time or another, and for long periods — from the Mongol invasions to occupation by Japan.  There was the Korean war in the 1950’s, and challenges and changes to its leadership in the years since.  Only as recently as 1991, the Republic of Korea joined the UN, in fact.  And yet, the city of Seoul looks and feels like any grand metropolis, with the vastness and depth of the most established of cities. 

The character and personality of Seoul is quite evident, while at the same time it invites the world to share their own as well, as evidenced by the many restaurants, shops and cultural centers from other countries that can be found throughout Seoul.  In my limited time, though, I focused mainly on sites having to do with Korean history — touring two of the five palaces from the Joseon Dynasty from 14th century:  the Deoksugung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace.  I especially like the photo of the pond filled with lotus flowers, as it was explained that the lotus is appreciated for its beauty and ability to grow in a challenging environment.

Deoksugung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace

Seoul manages to find balance and harmony in so many ways — ancient with modern; sharing its own culture with that of others; and also in the way it balances city life with nature.  I loved seeing plants and flowers throughout the city.

They even manage to balance in work-life, “somehow”… Even though parents can work very long hours, family time is quality time and you can see this in the joy and happiness of the children:

I cannot finish without mentioning the food.  With meals stretching more than 16 courses (of small dishes), I tasted so many wonderful things presented in combinations of flavors that I can hardly describe — except very simply as tasty.  Extremely tasty.  See the foodie page for more…

Thank you once again Eonyoung for the most fabulous tour of Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Additional photos can be found in the Journals menu — see the blog post on Seoul.