Since we’ve gone over visiting North Korea’s World Heritage Sites, only fair to visit some South Korean sites while we’re in the neighborhood; today, let’s go just 35 miles south from the DMZ shots in that last video to Seoul and the
Changdeokgung is an exceptional example of official and residential buildings that were integrated into and harmonized with their natural setting. The complex was originally built as a secondary palace to the main palace of Gyeongbokgung, differentiated from it in its purpose and spatial layout within the capital. Situated at the foot of a mountain range, it was designed to embrace the topography in accordance with pungsu principles, by placing the palace structures to the south and incorporating an extensive rear garden to the north called Biwon, the Secret Garden. Adaptation to the natural terrain distinguished Changdeokgung from conventional palace architecture…
The garden was landscaped with a series of terraces planted with lawns, flowering trees, flowers, a lotus pool and pavilions set against a wooded background. There are over 56,000 specimens of various species of trees and plants in the garden, including walnut, white oak, zelkova, plum, maple, chestnut, hornbeam, yew, gingko, and pine.
Changdeokgung was used as the secondary palace to Gyeongbokgung for 200 years, but after the palaces were burnt down during the Japanese invasion in the late 16th century, it was the first to be reconstructed and since then served as the main seat of the dynasty for 250 years. The property had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries. It reflects sophisticated architectural values, harmonized with beautiful surroundings…
That “series of terraces” you walk through have a series of gatehouses to match,
which have some really quite intricate paintings when you get up close — you might have noticed this already in some of the North Korean shots, but they’re brighter in South Korea it seems:
Koreans definitely do have a flair for the ornate, we were particularly impressed by this audience hall which just may have the most impressive throne we’ve seen anywhere — well, in the real world at least, Game of Thrones’s Iron Throne notwithstanding —
Unfortunately, we can’t speak personally to the “lawns, flowering trees, flowers, a lotus pool” as with our unerring instinct to time our visits as wrong as possible, we were there just after Christmas.
No wait, we actually do have a picture of the lotus pool:
It’s looking rather white for a lotus pool yes, but hey, that just makes it a unique visit.
There’s standard tourist buses that will take you on a tour of Changdeokgung Palace, some of the tunnels that have been bored under the border by the DPRK, and end up at the DMZ; we’d recommend just taking one of those like we did if you have a ridiculously short time in Seoul…
p dir=”ltr”>… especially if you don’t expect, as we didn’t at the time, that seven years later you’d find yourself on the other side of the DMZ taking pictures of the same huts. Definitely one of the more surreal travel experiences that, finding yourself just a couple hundred feet away, but on the other side of the most closed border in the world!