Thursday, August 03, 2006

Seoul II: Seouled Out

On Sunday, we went on a tour of the sights of Seoul in a real live tour bus with a real live tour guide. In the morning, we went to the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has 800,000 members. It was...large. Otherwise unimpressive. I prefer smaller churches, I must say. Though the enormous, well-trained choir was awfully cool.

Then we went to lunch, and I had my first experience with Bimimbop in a stone bowl. They heat up these stone bowls and then put in raw vegetables, rice, and a raw egg. The heat of the bowl cooks it as you stir it around with your chopsticks. It was easily the best thing I have tasted in Korea.

The dark green shiny stuff on top is dried seaweed. I picked most of that out before I started mixing.

After lunch we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest of the royal palaces of the old Korean monarchy. It was disgustingly hot and humid, but the palace is truly amazing, at least as impressive as the castles of Europe. Here is the main castle enclosure:

And a detail of the painting and fretwork that lines every roof:

A pedastal within was topped with this adorable stone horse:

The guide told us that that particular courtyard was the site of mass suicides in the old days, when the nobility wanted to get the king to change his mind about something. There is also an ornamental lake surrounding another outbuilding:

It is an amazing piece of history, especially when you consider that most of it was built in the 1300s, when European kings were still living in unsanitary stone battle-fortresses, for the most part. Gyeongbokgung has central heating and reasonably sanitary bathrooms.

After the palace, we went to the blessedly air-conditioned National Museum. The most impressive things there were the medieval crowns, all finely stamped gold:

Every one of the individual pailettes on this headdress is hinged, so that they shudder and shine with the slightest movement:

For my husband, here's a medieval Korean soldier's armor:

And some early medieval swords:

This was a great tour, but exhausting. We only had an hour in the museum, so I did two floors at a dead run, pausing to photograph what I thought might be useful in my classroom. Luckily, all of the descriptions were in Korean, so it wasn't like I needed to pause and read any of them.

Knitting progress: I'm on Chart 2 of Icarus, and finished my water bottle cover. Pictures coming up soon!


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