Monday, March 1, 2021

Hiking Namsan

We finally hiked Namsan with a couple of friends. Namsan is the closest mountain to where we live, and it includes a lovely park, a tower up on the peak, and some picturesque views of downtown Seoul. If you visit Korea, you may notice that all the mountain names end in "san"; "san" (산) just means "mountain" in Korean.

Normally Namsan is pretty crowded, and that's no surprise given the excellent location for city-dwellers. But we went early on a long Korean holiday weekend when Seoullites are more likely to travel out of town, so there weren't many people at all. It was easy to stay socially distanced, and all the hikers and walkers wore masks. We're grateful to live somewhere where the public takes public health precautions seriously.

The weather was perfect the day of our hike. I felt a little chilly when we started, but by the time we reached the trailhead I was already warm. (We had to walk uphill through part of the city before we even reached the park.) About a half hour into our 3-hour excursion, I was definitely sweating. I'm sure a part of it was that I could be more in shape, but I thought it was a pretty good hike and steeper than I expected. The next day, my calves agreed.

Partway up, we stopped to take in the views. Some days in Seoul, it's hard to see anything at a distance due to bad air quality making everything a bit hazy. Thankfully, that was not a problem for us on Namsan and we enjoyed looking out over the different neighborhoods and landmarks like the Han River and the Blue House.

We also spotted a stone block in the Seoul City Wall inscribed with information dating back to King Taejo's reign in 1396! If you look closely at the rock in the photo below, you can see the writing in Chinese characters. That writing predates the Korean language and Korean alphabet, called hangeul (한글).

We also grabbed takeout from one of the many vendors and ate outside. There were even a few different places for couples to buy and hang "love locks", a trend we saw in multiple places in Europe but didn't realize made it to South Korea. We didn't buy anything this time, but we did stop to grab a romantic photo in front of the love lock backdrop.

I loved the opportunity to get some fresh air, warm my muscles, and spend a few hours enjoying nature and the city with friends. In a pandemic, hiking is one of the safest things we can still do. And I hope we'll get to do a lot more of it soon.

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