As I have mentioned, this winter I went to Gyeongju for the second time. I had planned to take one whole day to hike around Namsan, a mountain south of Gyeongju. Namsan is a great place, but I will write about it exclusively in another post. As I arrived at the beginning of the path I found myself hungry; I decided to try a nearby Kalguksu (칼국수) restaurant.
Kalguksu (칼국수) is a special type of noodle; it is a freshly made soft noodle. The name literally means “knife noodles”. This type of Kalguksu was different than any I had tried before; the broth was nutty and thick rather than thin. This is because it was a very special broth made from many different grains. The server said that it was very healthy, and that it would be good for hiking. Another interesting thing was that some of the noodles were made from cactus. Cactus is not common in Korean noodles, but it was a tasty dish that gave plenty of energy for hiking!
Odirang is a drink that I found while having bibimbap in Gyeongju a couple months ago. It is a deep red with a very sweet flavor. It actually tastes a little bit like a desert wine.
With a little bit of research I found that this drink comes from what I believe to be mulberries. I think that 오디 is the Korean word for Mulberry. Underneath the main white letters “오디랑” it says “뽕나무 열매” which, from what I have found, also means Mulberries.
It was actually a little bit too sweet for my taste, but I think many people would like it.
Anapji was a beautiful royal palace that was build on a man made pond. The palace location and pond construction was focused on highlighting the beauty and order of the natural world.
Sadly, most Korean historical sites have been destroyed; the reconstructions are still very impressive though. In present day Anapji there are only three standing structures. If you look to the green lawns you can see and imagine where other buildings used to be.
The pond has a few islands that make this palace a very picturesque location.
There is also a path that reaches behind tho pond and into a more secluded area. Anapji is a very relaxing place to visit; Koreans also say that it is a very nice place for couples to visit.
The structures are wonderfully rebuilt; I would love to see more of Anapji restored sometime in the future. Looking at most of the rebuilt historical sites in Korea, most people wouldn’t know that these places had been burnt and destroyed through years of war. The fish in the pond add to the element of natural beauty.
I have mentioned before that Anapji is one of my favorite places in Gyeongju. It is beautiful, relaxing, and the entrance price is very inexpensive. Anapji is also open at night with lights that illuminate the pond and the buildings.
There is a medium sized pond located near Anapji and Wolseong that is a great place for a walk in the summer time.
As you can imagine, this pond would be of little interest while the flowers are not blooming. I can attest to this since I have been here in the summer and in the winter; the lotus were dead and the brown stalks were frozen in the water during my winter visit.During the summer these flowers are gorgeous and plentiful! There are many paths leading through the pond that are ideal for a beautiful walk.Since this pond is near Anapji (one of my favorite places in Gyeongju) it is not out of the way, and it is certainly worth even just a brief walk through in the spring or summertime.
Cheomseongdae (첨성대) is the name of an ancient astronomical observatory that is located just north of wolseong park. It was built in the 7th century during the Shilla kingdom (Gyeongju was the capitol of Shilla).The structure is about 5 meters wide and 9 meters tall. About half way up the observatory is an opening which could be used to get to the the top. I believe a wooden ladder was used to reach the opening.
I am not at all sure how this observatory was used, but it is known as the oldest extant astronomical observatory in East Asia. It is also a very iconic image in South Korea, especially in Gyeongju.
Seokguram is a very famous site in Gyeongju that Should be on the top of anyone’s “to see” list. Seokguram grotto is located on Tohamsan (Toham mountain) along with Bulguksa.
When leaving Bulguksa, you can take a 20 minute bus to Seokguram for about 1,500 won. This bus only travels up and down the mountain, and it departs once ever hour. When you arrive at the Seokguram area you will first notice a large bell and a traditional gate at the entrance. Korean bells are very interesting because they contain a hole beneath them. This hole creates an interesting acoustic aspect; it evokes a feeling that is a cross between eerie and peaceful.
Once you have passed the bell you will see a gift shop to the left, and the gate straight ahead. After buying a ticket, you will follow a winding dirt path up to the Seokguram grotto. Though these pictures are from a sunny visit in the summer, last time I was there was in the middle of winter; the mountain and paths were enveloped by the passing clouds. It would have been a perfect scene if the weather was not so frigid!
After walking the winding path you will come upon an opening where there is another gift shop, a tourist information center, and a set of stairs that lead up to the Seokguram grotto. National historical sites are always in need of funding, and they have a few ways of raising money. The most obvious method is through admission fees and souvenirs but you can also support these sites further by either paying for a prayer lantern (as seen above), or you can buy a Kiwa (traditional roof tile). When you buy a Kiwa, you don’t actually take it home; You pay the fee, and then you write a message on the tile. Later, as tiles need to be replaced, they will use your tile. You actually become a part of the historical site with your message!
Finally, after climbing the set of stairs, you come upon Seokguram. You cannot take pictures inside the building due to cultural respect and preservation rules, but you can find postcards of the Buddha at any tourist shop nearby. The great part about Seokguram is that it is not located in the city. This adds to the experience of visiting this Shilla period site.
After seeing the Buddha and exiting the building, you will be confronted with a nice view down the mountain. Seokguram is a very peaceful place to visit, but try to make it in semi-warm weather.
My Winter vacation started a few days ago, though I haven’t taught a class since the end of December. I have 10 work days off for Winter vacation, but since I planned optimally I have three weekends as well.
Tonight I am heading back to Gyeongju. I went there in the summer for one day, but this time I will stay for three days.