Seoul has a tendency to look same-y--groups of the same high-rise buildings, pockets where young people enjoy nightlife in the same types of play/drink/food joints, coffee and dessert shops with the same style or 'concept.' You get the picture. When you visit a historical, cultural, or even natural part of Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon, a Hanok village, park, or walking path across the Han River, it's a breath of fresh air.
I considered myself a city-girl until we moved to Seoul and looked at apartments in a busier area and I felt overwhelmed (and was embarrassingly in tears). When we found our apartment, across from a small mountain and several bus stops away from the nearest subway station, I felt like I could breathe again.
After lunch at a new-find bunsikjip, or inexpensive 'snack restaurant,' only a three-minute walk from home the other day, we explored a pocket of our neighborhood.
The houses and buildings were built uphill, and closed in by walls and gates. On the other side of the walls grew trees with larger fruits and berries in shades of orange. (I promise it was a coincidence that my silk scarf, a gift from my cousin when she visited Vietnam, matched the scenery!) Cats and dogs, whether stray or owned, were taken care of by the community and roamed freely. One kitten climbed up a tree, a sight I'd never seen before.
At the center of the neighborhood is a massive garden/pseudo farm where the elders grow and harvest mostly vegetables--an elderly man and woman were selling some along the side of the road and spotted us snapping photos. The man sweetly directed us further uphill as he thought it was an even prettier part to photograph. As we made our way up the path, we found the entrance to a temple, exactly the sort of thing I look for when we explore. We also found a couple simply and minimally designed hidden cafes, one with glass walls that allows patrons to overlook the back wooded area.
A slice of Europe.
Our leisurely walk lifted my spirits, especially as I was still quite ill at the time. I love that we have the option to easily take a bus into the busy city or walk along a stream and hike a mountain from where we live. It reminds me of Rhode Island, where we would walk or bike downtown or drive a short distance to a beach, trail, or some other site.
Speaking of Rhode Island, in honor of my favorite New England season (and favorite season generally), I'm finally putting together my 'visiting Rhode Island' post! Stay tuned!
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