When I hear the name of Korea's eighth largest city, Suwon, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that a Korean-American friend of mine has family who lives there. An odd bit of trivia. Unlike me, the rest of the country thinks, "Oh, that big fortress wall." They are referring to an ancient fortress that is Suwon's most famous historical site and tourist attraction, and, yes, it has a wall. I visited about one week ago, on Children's Day. (It was one day before Buddha's Birthday, or, as I like to call it as of right now, Buddha's Eve.)
|One of the gates to Hwaseong Fortress, seen from atop the wall itself.|
|Paldalmun (팔달문), the southern gate of Hwaseong Fortress. It's quite beautiful to look at, but because it is detached from the rest of the wall and stuck in a giant rotary amidst traffic and ugly modern buildings, some of the charm is admittedly lost.|
Suwon's wall is different. It's as wide as a jogging path in a park, and as I said before, it's a very pretty and well-maintained space in such a big, busy city. Nothing about this wall actually seems belligerently imposing; it's grand, but it's peaceful. All the gates, turrets, and sentry points feel like they were constructed less for war than for sightseeing. Of course, Hwaseong Fortress has hundreds of years of history that I know nothing about, so this could be my ignorance talking.
|Walking up the first hill of the fortress wall from the Paldalmun entrance; quite a steep climb, but worth it.|
|Hwahongmun (화홍문), the north water gate of the Hwaseong Fortress, through which the Suwon River flows. It's a beautiful spot that I would like to come back to one day. But there are so few days left...|
So that was Suwon, in a nutshell. I was happy to strike another Korean city off my map (I've now been to nine of the ten largest cities), especially now that my days here are numbered and the opportunity to travel freely won't come again for a while. It's been strange, thinking about what I should do with the three months I have left. Even planning this trip to Suwon took that into consideration: I literally asked my friend, "So, where have you not been yet?"
And the question now is, "Where will I go, before I go?"
|Many flags wave proudly along the top of the fotress wall. This one reads 巡視 (xúnshì/순시, which means to patrol or inspect). "Keep your eyes peeled," I think, "for the impending future."|