Day One in Seoul was magical. I must admit that my expectations were kind of low (hard to admit how ill-informed I was before coming here). I didn't know anybody who came to Korea for pleasure - everyone I know goes to Japan or China or Thailand, or maybe Vietnam. But Korea? It just seemed as if it might be all shiny skyscrapers with busy people rushing around and eating lots of kimchi with everything. Little did we expect that we would fall madly in love with this place, on the first day here!
First impressions are that this is a city where art and artists are revered, not just tolerated. All around us are galleries, vibrant and exciting places where the entry-ways are filled to overflowing with HUGE fresh bouquets sent to congratulate the artist - honestly some flower arrangements are 8 feet tall! The art work is contemporary, edgy, and exciting. People are looking at it and enjoying it. The streets are full of sculpture.
Every gallery has guest books where people write the comments in beautiful calligraphy. I've been photographing the guest books because they, themselves, are so fascinating.
Then there is an abundance of art-supply stores, dozens of them! They stock hand-made papers, brushes, raw pigment, fabric, and ink-stones. Each one is like entering a new world of fascinating possibility.
We spent hours within about 4 blocks of our hotel, going down each little winding alley-way, in and out of every shop, and admiring the wonderful buildings and signs. The architecture is a mixture of ancient, traditional structures, preserved amidst the newer buildings. Some buildings are breathtaking, as we round a corner and see something so unexpected:
As for food, wowie zowie!! There are literally hundreds of restaurants right here in our neighborhood, and the scents and aromas are truly mouth-watering. Also there are street vendors everywhere cooking up everything from crispy dried octopus to little pastries shaped like golden fish and filled with fresh fig paste. We sampled a few things, and opted for lunch in a lovely old place where nothing on the menu was in English, so we put ourselves into the hands of the waiter and had the most amazingly huge, spicy, and delectable lunch - so big that we couldn't eat dinner later on! Yes, there was plenty of kimchi, and it was totally delicious and not at all difficult to eat. Can't wait to try some of the other places we saw yesterday, like this dumpling shop and ...... and ......
Last night we swam in the hotel pool, lay in the various hot tubs, and saunas, and then watched a pounding thunder storm, with real lightening strikes punctuated by an unexplainable fireworks display going on across the city. Be sure to also read Daniella's blog for more photos and commentary on this trip! More soon...