We spent much of the winter confused about other people’s perception of how miserable winter is in Seoul. A lot of people tended to refer to winter as a dismal, dreary, endless wasteland. Yes, it was cold; it was winter. But it didn’t seem too bad.
Until spring came. In retrospect, winter in Seoul did seem awfully dreary. And endless. Fits of giggles followed the first day I didn’t have to wear a puffy coat to walk to work and could sit outside comfortably for longer than a few minutes. Coming from Colorado, we are pretty used to winter. The problem, I think, stems more from being crammed up in our tiny, yellow-linoleumed apartment for 5 months with only the end-of-winter realization that taxis in Seoul are absurdly affordable.
Another thing that made winter seem soooooo long was the fact that everyone was hibernating inside. Now that everyone is out and about, people exercising on random equipment in the park, teachers walking a group of kindergarten students down the stream to explore, or middle-aged men blaring their radios as they bike by, I realize how quiet winter was. Our favorite neighborhood stream to walk on, Seongnaecheon (성내펀), is now packed with people beot-ggot nori (벚꽃 놀이), a Korean word that means “cherry blossom viewing” but translates to “cherry blossom enjoying”. Yes, the act has its own verb here, and no wonder. Cherry blossom trees are everywhere, and have the wonderful ability to make you feel very, very happy. The whimsical swirl of the petals falling down seemed to make everyone laugh, ooh and ahh (and, of course, the Korean version “oohwaaaa”). Even our dog lost her mind happily chasing the wind-blown petals down the street.
Now that spring is here, it’s a little difficult to fathom doing a Seoul winter all over again this year. I’m sure it will be better once the absurd heat of July and August comes rolling in. For now, we are enjoying the wonderfully consistent, mild spring temperatures and beautiful cherry blossoms and flowers in Seoul. Cherry blossom festivals are everywhere in Korea; our own local festival at Seokchon Lake is this Saturday, and we’re hoping the blossoms hold out until then. For now, pictures from our neighborhood walk:
Where: Seongnaecheon (Stream)
Closest Station: Line 5/Gaerong Station
Directions: Exit Gaerong Station at Exit 1 and turn right out of the exit. Walk 3 blocks. Stairs down to the stream will be on your right.