My Trip to Suwon, South Korea
SWCIC International Correspondent of Russia
My story began in March when I found out about the project International Correspondent. To say a few words about the project, its held by the Suwon Center for International Cooperation with the purpose of learning more about Suwon sister cities. As for me, I was in charge of writing articles about Nizhny Novgorod.
In August I was selected as one of the best project participants. The second best correspondent was a Romanian girl from Cluj Napoca. We were awarded with the visit to Suwon. It was out of the blue for me because I didnt expect it. I was extremely happy with this news as I always wanted to visit an Asian country. With this trip my dream came true.
Finally, it was time to go to South Korea. I was a little bit nervous because it was my first time abroad. The Land of the Morning Calm welcomed me with nice weather, and I forgot about my fears and anxiety immediately. On the way from the airport to Suwon I was admiring Korean nature. I was surprised at the great amount of mountains. I was wondering about city planning among such a number of mountains.
Suwon is the capital of Gyeonggi-do province. The city is located 30 km south from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The population of Suwon is approximately 1.2 million.
My acquaintance with Suwon started from the major city attraction Hwaseong Fortress, UNESCO World Heritage Site. By taking excursions I found out that the fortress was built from 1794 to 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty. His father, Prince Sado, was killed at a young age, and King Jeongjo decided to build that fortress to house and honor the remains of the father.
Before going to Suwon Id thought this sightseeing would look like a military observation point, but it turned out to be an extensive historical complex which had a territory of a city! I understood that you would need a week to explore the whole fortress area.
My first destination in the fortress area was Yeonmudae. That part of the fortress was surrounded by a wall, so I started to observe that area strolling along the wall. Walking I was amazed at the view of the city which I had from the hill where Yeonmudae was located.
As the fortress area was enormous, it was easy to get lost there. There were four main gates at the cardinal points in order to navigate people.
I visited Changnyongmun gate in the east of the fortress. The gate was huge and I looked tiny in front of it. I was astonished at the Korean architecture, both its size and beauty. But it was only the beginning of knowing Korean traditional architecture.
Having visited that part of Hwaseong Fortress I went to Haenggung palace. I could see a lot of people wearing all kinds of traditional clothes there, and I grabbed that chance to take photos with them. After that I went to the palace area. To tell the truth, I was surprised with a big number of local visitors. There were so many school students in the palace. I was expected the majority of the visitors to be foreigners.
From the palace territory I could see the view of Paldalsan. It was my next destination in Suwon. It took pretty much time to climb the mountain, and I was a little bit tired. But it was worth visiting because I had a great view of Suwon from the mountain! I could admire a modern beautiful Asian city where the past and future meet together. I could see old and new South Korea in one there. Old Korea seemed to have narrow streets with small traditional houses. And the new one had a Western style, tall buildings and commercials everywhere. Before that I could only hear about the progress of South Korea, and then I could see it myself! On that day I also visited Suwon Jeil Church which impressed me greatly.
The next day of my trip was a day off in South Korea. And the center organized a getaway for me. I went to the largest theme park in South Korea called Everland. The park amazed me by its size. It isnt only an amusement park, it also includes a zoo, a water park and a lot of other activities where people have fun. There were a lot of families with children enjoying a day off at the park. Because of lack of the time I could only take a few rides. But still I had a lot of fun there!
On the whole the city astonished me greatly. This is the city where the past and future meet together, old traditions are preserved while the new ones are developed. The city authorities pay special attention to implementation of eco friendly projects.
But other than that I also had many cultural events within the program. The time of my trip wasnt chosen on the spot, I was invited to Suwon to visit Suwon Hwaseong Festival. It is important to note that, it usually takes place in October every year around the city. This festival is one of the largest cultural and tourist ones in the Republic of Korea. In a nutshell, I could feel the atmosphere of Korean traditions and culture the best through it.
The celebration of the festival started from its opening ceremony. As a representative of Nizhny Novgorod, I was invited to it. To say a few words about that, the ceremony featured a welcoming dinner. All the delegations from sister cities were invited to the dinner. And I was on that list too! I didnt expect such attitude to me. I am only 20 and just a student, but I was welcomed like a highly important guest at the dinner. To be more precise, I met a lot of senior officials, and I even made a photo with the mayor of Suwon. I had a great night being in such a company. Thats why I was overwhelmed with emotions after the dinner. Before that Id thought of that trip like a tourist tour, but at the dinner I understood that I had an important diplomatic mission!
To tell the truth, it turned out to be the first part of the opening ceremony. The next day I visited a performance which was organized by the Suwon City Hall in Yeonmudae. I was in the company of the center representatives and other invitees of the festival. To say the least, we were like a close-knit family watching performances and sitting on the grass together. I was surprised by seeing so many people coming to watch the concert because I couldnt find a free place in that huge area. To crown it all, all people went crazy and started dancing when a popular Korean rock band was performing. Our company was also having a good time. As the band ended its performance we enjoyed glorious fireworks. All in all, I had another fruitful day when I met new people and found out a lot of new and interesting facts about Suwon.
Finally, the festival was officially opened, and the next day I went to Haenggung square to watch Citizens Parade. The parade looked colorful to me as the citizens wore different types of traditional Korean clothes and played different instruments while stepping. To my surprise, I saw many foreigners participating in the parade that were smiling and greeting the audience.
Having watched the parade I went to taste foreign cuisine within Food Culture Festival. I could try cuisine of each Suwon sister city, including Russian cuisine. I was surprised with Russian cuisine being presented in Food Culture Festival. I had warm feelings seeing the Russian flag and its name on the banner.
My day finished watching Traditional Performance Night for the International Sister and Friendship Cities. To say a few words about the concert, it was organized by the Suwon Center for International Cooperation. I was looking forward to watching the concert because the Ballet Group of Nizhny Novgorod Municipal Folk-Song Group Lubava participated in that event. The Koreans liked their performance and they applauded with excitement.
To tell more about my trip, I had an opportunity to get to know Korean culture within the festival. Within the visit I attended a workshop of Korean traditional arts. To be more precise, I learned Korean traditional paper art. I was so excited about the lesson. I was making shoes of Korean traditional paper with a help of a craftswoman. It was new and engaging to me because I did similar work last time at elementary school. It was a little bit hard for me but I still enjoyed my time. After the shoes were done the master acquainted me with the Korean tea ceremony. As I was interested in Asian culture I was thrilled to learn something new about it. I had such experience for the first time in my life. Thats why I was so grateful for organizing that cultural workshop for me.
Of course I cannot help saying a few words about Korean cuisine. Frankly speaking, it was unique to me because I had never tried any Asian cuisine before. I tasted a lot of new to me dishes while being in Suwon and many things in Korean cuisine surprised me. For example, portions turned out to be large for me, especially soups. I couldnt finish any of the dishes fully. I also was surprised that I could cook myself in a restaurant. Thats what I loved most of all! Another fact I liked is that the Koreans often gather and go out somewhere to eat. By the way, I had a few such meetings. I had a lot of fun during them because we were talking and getting to know each other while eating. The eating table was long and there were lots of meals, so I was never hungry. I am happy to have had such meetings because I could manage to find many international friends through them.
To conclude, I had the best days in my life visiting Suwon. I am grateful to the center for giving such an opportunity to get to know new culture, traditions and people. To my mind, Koreans are highly polite, generous and hospitable people. They do their best to make you feel like at home. All the people I have met are very friendly and nice.
All in all, I enjoyed the program. I was happy to visit Suwon especially within Suwon Hwaseong Festival. Hwaseong Fortress is a tremendous and magnificent sight. The festival is great for amusing and having fun. I strongly recommend you visiting this festival. You will have great memories and spend your time with pleasure!
2016 is a great time to visit the festival. There will be huge arrangements and program because it will be a 220 anniversary of Hwaseong Fortress built. Thats why 2016 year is named The Year of Visiting Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon. Trust me seeing is believing.