Sonntag, 13. Mai 2012

May 13 - Seoul

This morning wasn't better than the night before. Next to our dormitory was a dorm where a school class "slept" for one night and these students went wild in the morning: Slamming the door every 10 seconds, ringing the door bell, screaming and yelling from 6 a.m. on.
My alarm clock rang at 8 a.m. but unnecessary to mention that I already was awake at that time:-) I was so tired that I thought a short moment about skipping the goodwill program... Anyway... I got up as the first one of our room and took a shower. When I came out the French woman Gabi was already waiting for me. She went into the bathroom and stayed there for about 1 hour. I actually wanted to dry my hair (hairdryer was in the bathroom) and the other roomates got up one by one and all of us were waiting for her. When she finally came out after an eternity we realized that she hadn't only taken a shower but also had washed and dried her clothes in the bathroom... (there is nothing more to say about this behaviour....)

I had breakfast in the cafe affiliated to the YH and met my goodwill guides at 10:00 in the lobby. When I had asked Hailey about my first-day-guides I had been very surprised. I asked her how many people were going to guide me. She had replied: 4. Then I asked her how many foreigners would join the tour and she said: only you. Four guides only for me!!!!! WOW!
I was guided by 2 women: Susan (17 years old) and Kyungmin (16 years old) and 2 men: Hongsun (23 years old and "the leader" of the group) and Jongmin (17 years).
Jongmin had spent over one year in Germany (Muenster) and his aunt and uncle still live there. So he was eager to speak German with me. Kyungmin had just started to learn German and understood a few words. Susan and Hongsun spoke English very well. So I had to speak either in German or in English, depending on whom I was talking with.
After introducing each other they first took me to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. On the way there I was interviewed by several student-groups: I had to taste some food and drinks and to rank it into "very good" or "bad" and I was taught that the Sea between Japan and Korea is not called the Japanese Sea (as shown in many Japanese maps)!
Actually compared to Japan a way more people talked to me on the streets or interviewed me for projects so my first impression of South Korea was, that Korean people are much more talkative than Japanese people. Because of all those interviews we were late for the free English guided tour at the palace but Susan had been born and raised in that area and so she took the leadership position and taught us about the palace.

trying on King's clothes on the way to the Palace
kind of promenade in front of the main gate "Gwanghwamun" of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Change of guards

guard and me
 Gyeongbokgung Palace

The following information were taken from the brochure we got at the Palace:
Gyeongbokgung (Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) was built in 1395, 3 years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded, and it served as the main palace for more thand 500 years. With Mount Bugaksan to its rear and the Street of Six Ministries outside Gwanghwamun Gate, the main entrance to the palace, Gyeongbokgung stood in the heart of the capital city. It was steadily expanded over nearly 300 years before being reduced to ashes during the Japanese invasion of 1592. For the next 276 years the palace grounds were left derelict until finally being rebuilt in 1867 under the leadership of Prince Regent Heungseon Daewongun. The restoration was completed on a grand scale, with 500 buildings crowded together in a labyrinthine arrangement. Within the palace walls were the Outer Court, offices for the king and state officials, and the Inner Court, which included living quarters for the royal family as well as gardens for leisure and play. On its extensive premises were other palaces, large and small, including Queen's residence and the Crown prince's residence. 
As Gyeongbokgung was the symbol of national sovereignty, it was demolished during the Japanese occupation. In 1911, ownership of the land at the palace was transferred to the Japanese Government-General. In 1915, on the pretext of holding an exhibiton, more than 90% of the palace buildings were torn down. Following the exhibiton the Japanese leveled whatever still remained. The Japanese also built their colonial headquarters, the Government-General building, directly in front Gyeongbokgung. Restoration to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990. The colonial Government-General building was removed, and Heungnyemun Gate was restored to its original state. The inner Court and Crown prince's residence were completed.

Four Gates tell of the dynasty's glory
Gyeongbokgung Palace is surrounded by five-meter-high walls that extend over 2404m. The walls are pierced by 4 large gates which names symbolizes spring and wood, summer and fire, autumn and metal, and winter and water, and originate from the yin and yang concept and the theory of the 5 elements.
Gwanghwamnun Gate (east gate), the main gate, has 3 entrances and a board, 2-story pavilion.
Gwanghwamun Gate
Seosu, an imaginary animal on Yeongjegyo Bridge
 Heungnyemun, the 2nd gate

 Geunjeongjeon and Vicinity

Geunjeongjeon is the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung. The name means that "all affairs will be properly managed if Your Majesty demonstrate diligence". The king's affairs of state, including meetings, receptions with foreign envoys, and most importantely, the coronation ceremony, were all conducted here. From the outside the hall appears to have 2 floors, but inside a lofty ceiling reveals a magnificent one story chamber.

the moon and the sun also stands for yin and yang and queen and king.

inside Geunjeongjeon
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
Gyeonghoeru was where the king threw formal banquets for foreign convoys. The king and his party went up to Gyeonghoeru to enjoy a sweeping view of the palace and Mount Inwangsan.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
my guides from the left: Hongsun, Jongmin, Susan and Kyungmin
Jagyeongjeon, the Queen dowager's residence

Jagyeongjeon, the Queen dowager's residence

Jagyeongjeon, the Queen dowager's residence
On the wall surrounding the rear garden is Ten Longevity Chimney. 

some information about Jagyeongjeon Chimney with 10 Longevity symbols

Jagyeongjeon Chimney with 10 Longevity symbols
 Hyangwonji and Hyangwonjeong
In the rear garden of the concubines' quarters is a square pond named Hyangwonji, in the center of which lies an islet. A pavilion named Hyangwonjeong stands on this islet. Hyangwonjeong was created when King Gojong built Geoncheonggung in 1873 to forge political independence from his father.
pavilion "Hyangwonjeong"
my zodiac, a dragon
 When we left the palace area we were really hungry. The guides had chosen a typical Korean restaurant for me and we ate a potatoe pancake, a kind of noodle soup and different sorts of Kimchi. Except the Kimchi I could eat everything:-)

our restaurant
"noodle soup"
 Directly after the lunch we ate our dessert in a cafe:

waffle with whipped cream plus ice cream => we shared!:-)
We had a really warm and sunny day and I was sweating a lot. But after the waffle there were more places for us to see. First we stopped at Bukchon and took a closer look to the area where all the Korean-style Hanok houses were. I should mention that there are still people living in theses houses so we were asked to consider that fact. The girls and I stopped by at "Donglim Knot Workshop", a place producing, exhibiting and educating various ornaments, wall mounts and accessories suitable for contemporary costumes along with traditional knot. 
my guides and me at Bukchon
 On the way to our last sightseeing point, Insa-don, I saw that took that - for me unusual - picture of a tree in the middle of the ciy, having an infusion.

Insa-dong was home to the aristocracy and public officals working for the king. After the end of the Joseon Dynasty, antique shops opened and sold the possessions of fallen aristocrats and noblemen. Numerous galleries soon followed, exhibiting and selling art. Today, the area is an established street of tradition and art, where local people and international tourists come to browse and buy. If you wanna treat yourself to traditional Korean cuisine, try one of the restaurants in the area. 
More than anywhere else, Insa-dong is the best place to buy souvenirs.

Szamziegil, Insa-dong's newest and hottest attraction, a design gallery that exhibits and sells the art of nationally recognized artists.
taking a rest and listening to street musicians
making Korean sweets

street food: dried fish in the front

Korean traditional clothes

last picture of my guides and me
My guides took me "home" to the YH and we said goodbye at 19:00 after a really nice day and lots of talking. THANK YOU GUYS FOR YOUR GOOD WORK, I REALLY ENJOYED A LOT!!!!

That evening I talked 1,5h with Christoph via Skype and had dinner at 22:15 at the cafe, affiliated to the YH. Afterwards I went to bed and that night I only had 3 roomates and all of us were really tired. So I slept good without any interruptions.

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