Springtime in Korea means many things. It means longer days, bright sunshine, an end to bitterly cold winters. And my favorite thing- the blossoming of Korean flowers. All throughout the countryside different flowers start to bloom beginning in March and continuing throughout spring. Among my favorite flowers are the numerous cherry blossoms that are spread throughout the city. This year I went to two different areas of Seoul to partake in the amazing beauty of the cherry blossom trees- Yongsan and Yeouido. What I love about Yongsan is the view of the urban landscape surrounding the area of the city broken up by bright, beautiful cherry trees lining the roadways.
I think this photos sums up the contradictions that is South Korea at the moment. It is a very beautiful country, with a rich history, fabulous temples and palaces and ancient ruins, gorgeous nature, mountain views and colorful trees and flowers. But it is also undeniable that just to the north lies their sister Korea, separated by the Demilitarized Zone since 1953 and technically still in a state of war, though there is an armistice in place (now whether or not North Korea REALLY abides by that now remains to be seen). The greater metropolitan area of Seoul is well within the range of North Korean long range artillery, and security is often in the back of your mind (particularly nowadays with North Korean rhetoric at a particular fever pitch). This picture juxtaposes the delicate, ephemeral beauty that is the Korean cherry blossoms against the cold, hard concertina wire designed to protect both military and civilian alike and provide security.
It’s hard not to delight in the innocent wonder of the massive amounts of cherry tree blossoms. I wanted to capture all the images to create paintings from them later.
What I like about Yongsan is that it is comparatively empty. It’s easier to get up close and personal with the cherry trees in relative peace, quiet and solitude. For a different experience, I recommend attending the Yeouio Cherry Blossom Festival. Yeouido Island is another excellent location for cherry tree-lined streets in Seoul, just south of the Han River. In fact, part of the Hangang park runs along the northern area of Yeouido Island, and is an excellent area to enjoy a picnic, walk, run or bike along the Han River, and enjoy the gorgeous views of Seoul. Every year the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival is held-this year from 12-21 April 2013. The bulk of the festival is held around the road surrounding the National Assembly on Yeouido Island. It is easily reached by taking the Seoul subway, Line 9 to National Assembly stop. During the festival, the road is blocked off from traffic, which makes it easier for the thousands of visitors to enjoy the cherry trees, take pictures, enjoy musical performances and just relax with the sunny beauty of a Seoul springtime. This is a beautiful area, though it is definitely not for those who don’t particularly like crowds, since the festival is full of them.
You have to take advantage of the cherry blossom season, because it certainly isn’t long. Cherry trees blossoms last about 7-10 days and then they are gone. Already, the cherry trees are shedding, spreading their delicate petals in the wind like pink-white snowflakes along the sidewalks. Soon all the branches will be bare, and you must another year for spring.
Next year, I want to get farther afield to enjoy different cherry tree festivals, particularly the one held in Hwagae near Jirisan National Park. But if you live in Seoul and just want to see some cherry trees, it is very easy to do so without ever leaving the city.