Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blog 59 - 23rd December

As we prepare for Christmas, it is curious to witness a different cultural experience. The photos above are the Christmas market at Express Bus Terminal where over 300 shops sell everything from trees to ornaments, ribbon, paper, lights, bells, serviettes and tablecloths. It was so overwhelming I had to return a second time!

Anyone remember Bullwinkle and wonder what happenned to him? He's been hiding out in Seoul all those years!

Friends from work got together here for dinner on Sunday night for some wonderful Christmas eating and drinking. Some things remain the same! Thanks to Damien for his new recipe of mushroom and pesto pasta. We also introduced them to that special Australian sweet, coconut ice. Thanks to my book group friend, Suzi, for making it from especially imported ingredients. Sorry - it all went so quickly there are no photos!

At the European Christmas Fair we were able to find German stollen, mulled wine, Dutch treats and French goodies that are usually impossible to find here. The Korean yodelling choir was a surprise performance, especially this old man who could not resist dancing!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blog 58 - 20th December

The campus of Seoul National University is vast and home to 30,000 students. Living nearby affords us easy access to wonderul walking routes. While Damien goes swimming in the university gym most days, I get up at the same time and walk a loop of the campus. A long lap takes an hour and a quarter and a shorter one takes an hour.

Every morning there are many people who sweep and clean the campus and our complex before the day begins.

The entrance to our apartment will be familiar to our visitors.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blog 57 - 19th December

Nakseongdae is the area in which we live. It is a middle of the road surburb about 10 kilometres from the centre of the city. Not many expats know this place however when we tell koreans where we live, on campus at Seoul National University, they all say the same thing. 'The air is so good there!' The meaning of fresh air takes on a new meaning living in a city of 13 million ( I thought it was 10 however figures have been recently updated) The number of foreigners has also increased according to the Korean Immigration Service. The total number of foreigners in Korea is record high of nearly 1.4-2 million or 3%.
So here is a profile of Nakseongdae, subway line 2 on the Green line. This is the second oldest and is a circle line cirmventing the city. Our subway is always crowded, however always safe and often faster than driving, bus or taxi as underground is not reliant on the vagaries of traffic conditions.
Nakseongdae means "the place where a star was fallen" in classic Chinese. It is originated from the legend that General Gam's mother bore him after she dreamt that a star had fallen to her breast.

Gwanak San (mountain) is spectacular every morning and overlooks the campus. This was taken on my walk this morning, walking up the hill from the shops.

Esther and Damien even found some books in English at our local second hand bookstore!

Our local park has temples and gorgeous trees, plus exercise equipment and lots of seats for old people to sit and chat.

The streetscape to our supermarket.

Our subway exit 4 and signs to Nakseongdae Park.

The traffic at 7.15 this morning was already getting busy. It remains a mystery here that Monday morning and Saturday afternoon are the peak traffic times.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog 55 - 10th November

Autumn continues with unseasonal warmth. Yes, I know I have been going on and on about autumn, however, after a very short autumn last year and such a long hot and humid summer, this season, here called the man's season, is a welcome respite before winter. My favourite tree and fruit at the moment is persimmons. This photo was taken outside the Persimmon Cafe at Seoul Arts Centre. I wonder how our perssimon tree in our Adelaide garden is going? Damien gave it to me for my birthday last year after the sad demise of persimmon tree number one.

We are regulars at the Seoul Arts Centre. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is coming next week so of course we have tickets.

These images are from the foyer of the Cultural Instute of Italy in Seoul where we were invited to a concert to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Nino Rota. We had never heard of him, however, we enjoyed the modern clasical music and seeing inside this wonderful building. The seat above is designed by the world famous Iraqui born architect Zaha Hadid. Not sure how comfortable it would be!

The staircase from a foyer view.

Can you see the glass lift ascending to the 5 storey height?

Seoul Forest was formerly a racecourse and is now converted into a huge park and located in the centre of the city. We walked around for hours and felt that we were really away from it. Here is Spiderman climbing the skypscraper!

The park fronts the Han River with its myriad of bridges and curving roads elegantly alongside.

How delightful to see kids playing and actually getting dirty. Most people in Seoul live in apartments and have never had to luxury of a backyard to play in.

The sculpture park is an honouring of past races.

Lots of walking paths zigzag all over the place.

My friend Hilary invited me to her traditional Korean concert in which she was performing. She is pictured below playing the haegeum, a two stringed bowed instrumnt. This ameteur group was extremely professional and the personal small centre was packed.

Below is a very funny video taken at the Divali Blast celebration that our friend, Jyoti, invited us to. Bollywood eat your heart out!

Jyoti and her daughter Vayshalli made a beautiful shrine as well as a chalk drawing on the floor, to commemorate this special Indian time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blog 56- 12th November

The third annual Seoul Lantern Festival lights up Cheonggyecheon Stream, a renovated waterway that used to flow under a busy highway until it underwent a major overhaul 5 years ago. This year's festival highlights Seoul's long history and many traditions and includes an 18-meter lantern tunnel made up of over 3,000 cheongsachorong (traditional Korean lanterns with a red-and-blue silk shade); lanterns that offer glimpses into traditional Korean life; and lanterns of popular animated characters including Batman, Spiderman, and Superman.

These lights formed an arch over the Jangtonggyo Bridge crossing the lanterns. Thousands flock here every night for 2 weeks. It was more fun watching everyone taking photos of each other than the lanterns, although they are pretty impressive.

One of our friends says that Seoul is like a lady of the night - she looks her best after dark! After plotting and planning for a while we took a trip on the ferry down the Han River that divides the south where we live, from the north, where downtown is located.

We did not get to see the fountain emanating from the Bampo Bridge as advertised, however, we did get to see a 1970'a style singer with gelled hair and shaded glasses and his electric accompaniment. Many locals I think were along for the ride just to sing along with him!

West Seoul Lake Park, pictured below, is located in the south west area of Seoul. After opening in 2009, it won an honour award by the American Society of Landscape Architects Professional Awards in 2011. An obsolete water treatment plant that once served 50,000 people.

A fountain in the middle of a one-and-a-half-acre lake responds to roaring aircraft with 41 spouts that send jets of water 30 metres into the air. A recycled garden uses old pipes and equipment such as a table for 100 people.