Recently I heard about a family that lived in France for many years. They traveled all throughout Europe and hit all the big sights, only to realize when it was time for them to move, they had never truly visited the Eiffel Tower.
I don’t know if this is a true story or just an allegory, but I did not want that to be me.
So, on Saturday I went to check out Hwaseong Fortress, which is the only reason people who don’t live in Suwon come to Suwon.
We planned to just “meet at the fortress” because it sounds cool and really how big can it be? Let’s just put it this way. I took a bus, walked two stops, walked around a grassy plain, walked up a hill, found myself in a forest with ahjummas, ajusshis, young couples, and bikers, walked down the hill, and walked through a parking lot until I turned a corner and was miraculously in front of the palace.
There was some kind of theater festival going on with traditional dancing with boys or girls in dresses (not sure which) and then an interpretative dance group and a giant wooden totem pole.
We went down a side street to find a bank and found that this area is quite busy. I keep thinking I’ve seen enough things, tasted enough foods, smelled enough odors, touched enough walls to stop being surprised by this country and yet every time I venture outside my apartment I see something new. For instance–pipe shaped cones filled with soft serve.
And these brown sugar cookies. The sugar and other ingredients (not sure what) are stirred over extreme heat and then poured on a table and marked with a cookie cutter.
The fun part is, you’re given a toothpick and if you can get the shape out of the cookie without cracking it, you get it for free!
We eventually met Maria back at the palace and wandered through the many segments. There were traditional crafts and games and small children doing these things through the 1234274932 rooms. It’s really no wonder the female lead can never get to the dying child in time in historical dramas. There are so many rooms, and no helpful signage anywhere.
We ended up in a forest, one hill down from the forest I walked through earlier to get to the palace.
Another interesting thing about Korea is the mixture of natural, (rebuilt) historical, and modern environments squashed in the same square mileage. From this spot, I could see all three.
We went down some more paths, took a running jump over a stream, and found ourselves back inside the palace, this time at the main entrance. I knew we were somewhere in the front because of a giant “wishing” tree. These wishing things, in some shape or form, are everywhere and I don’t really understand them but I participate anyway. Obviously.
We didn’t make it to the fortress wall, which apparently you can shoot arrows off of, because fried chicken, free face masks, and SHINee world III were calling. But I promise I will not let the year pass without re-visiting my own city’s birthplace.