I’m home now. Here’s a wrap-up of sorts:
-Pay attention to the news from North Korea, but don’t freak out about it. Newspapers in South Korea don’t treat the subject as sensationally as American media, and I’m inclined to adopt the more casual observations of the people who’ve been living under North Korea for 60 years.
-Koreans are ridiculously resilient. There’s no reason that their culture should still be intact. It occupies a tiny sliver of the Far East that had been conquered and occupied for centuries. At one point while they occupied the country, the Japanese even went so far as to ban the public use of the Korean language. Still, Korean food and language is far more distinct from Japanese or Chinese than I could have ever imagined. That said…
-Architecture in Seoul isn’t very interesting. The city is distinct only in its size, which, having visited LA, New York, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, and Chicago, is a trait that isn’t all that striking anymore. The difference in Seoul is that it all looks like it’s happened in the last 20 years (I guess that’s mostly true for Tokyo as well), and it wasn’t until maybe 10 years ago that they realized that all that modernizing could erase what they were. Giant swathes of real estate are defined by giant apartment buildings built to look exactly the same, while the push to restore and preserve ancient palaces and whatnot is a fairly recent development.
-Seoul does have mountains, which I suppose is distinct, but they’re better in the countryside. And Koreans are very serious about their hiking, a cue I should have taken since my shoes are now totally done for.
I forgot my camera on the last hike I took, so these are all shot with a cell phone:
Fortress wall in Seoul