Historical Hwaseong

Last weekend, the Hwaseong Fortress Festival was the push I needed to visit nearby Suwon. Bordering Yongin, with a population of over a million, and having several quality hiking trails, Suwon seems to have a fair bit to see. That said, its most popular attraction is undoubtedly the Hwaseong fortress.

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Hwaseong was built during the late 18th century under the Joseon dynasty and the rule of King Jeongjo. It was built as the king attempted both to establish a new capital south of Seoul, and to provide a place of refuge during times of war and of relaxation during times of peace. Finally, Hwaseong was developed as a place for King Jeongjo to lay his late father’s remains to rest.

Getting to the fortress is not overly difficult. From Suwon station, exit 4, walk left towards the tourist information centre. (Incidentally, that’s a great place to grab a map and some advice on what to see while you’re in the area). Walk for a minute or two until you see a bus bay, and hop on an 11, 13, 36 or 39. I took the 13, and got off at the 5th stop, Paldalmun, which is the fortress’s west gate.

Interestingly, the walls originally connected to this gate weren’t restored, so it is the centre of a large roundabout. Finding the fortress entrance from the bus stop can be a little tricky, but locals are usually happy to help point you in the right direction.
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I arrived just in time to see a royal procession ceremony. I adore the bright, rich colours in the flags and uniforms of the king’s guard. I also like the hawk feathers in their hats, which can’t be seen in these photographs, unfortunately.

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Following this ceremony, I decided to hike up the hill and check out the fortress. A 5.7 kilometre fortress was built around the palace complex, with four main gates and numerous towers and other structures.

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IMG_0258It was a fair uphill trek, but nothing unmanageable, and the views were well-worth it!

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Just hanging out on top of reconstructed historical walls. No big deal.

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Aspirations!


IMG_0265I finally solved the mystery of deep bell tones I was hearing throughout the afternoon- visitors could give this bell a ring if they so chose!

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One of the fortified structures where palace guards could fend off intruders, if I recall correctly.

 

Back on ground level, I tried Suwon-style galbi, a variety of the marinated grilled beef that is so well-loved here. Mmmm.

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IMG_0287Within the Hanggeung palace complex itself I found a tree worthy of respect. This tree, known as Zelkova, has existed on palace grounds for over 600 years. Visitors write their wishes on slips of white paper and tie those around the fence adjacent to the tree. This is believed to make the wishes come true!
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IMG_2069In front of the main building within the complex was an elaborate dessert setup. These are the kind of dishes that would be served to the king and his guests. I’m not sure if this display exists year-round or it was just for the festival, but mm, don’t they look tasty!
IMG_2071 This is a scale model depicting a traditional courtyard dance and ceremony.

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Afterwards, I headed east and came across quite an interesting, artsy area. So many structures and art pieces were bicycle-themed!


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Making my way back through the complex, I passed the main stage, where various musical ensembles were set to play during the evening.
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My last destination of the day was visiting Suwoncheon stream. This was quite a unique area, complete with bright red maple-shaped vine leaves, fountains, and a collection of zodiac-themed sculptures in and around the stream itself.

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Most of the sculptures were zodiac-themed, anyway. Some were just downright bizarre.

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I certainly lucked out, as the sunset that day was absolutely gorgeous. It was wonderful to watch the skies become more and more dramatic as the sun sank lower.

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