Palaces, Museums, and Towers, OH MY!

Wonder of wonders, Austin has from Monday morning until Saturday morning off! That means lots of exploring for our family this week. Next time he has a “long-off” we are going to the famous honeymooners locale Jeju Island off the southern coast of Korea. It has been compared to Hawaii and I’m ready for the beach!

Anyway, we started off our explorations with a day in downtown Seoul’s business district. There was a palace there that offered free English tours, so we took them up on it! The palace of Deoksugung was right across from city hall! It was originally not a palace complex, but after the Japanese invasion in the 1500s the royals decided to make it a palace after theirs burnt down. There were several buildings along with the gates.

I forget what this building was for- I think it might be living quarters

Many of the buildings had been destroyed or burned, so they were refurbished and painted the way they were before- in lovely bright colors

Gate into the palace. The lady in the skirt is our guide,  and I’m in there too!

This is a relatively small palace because it was just for a lawyer’s family before the royals moved in. This building was a kindergarten for a princess. After the Japanese invaded AGAIN in the early 1900’s, she was taken to Japan for school and married a Japanese noble. She was very unhappy and ended up in a mental hospital. The end of the royal lines here were fairly tragic.

Japanese Colonial style building- now an art museum

This building served as a throne room at one point

We came to an open air building that was a banquet hall. These gold gates were all around it. Everything is symbolic here and all of these things in the gate are meant to bring good luck and longevity, including the bats on each corner!

Post detail of the banquet hall

After the tour we were perfectly on time for the changing of the guard ceremony. Men in traditional Korean apparel walked around with flags, big sticks with knives on the end, bows, arrows, and the like. It was fun to watch. Everyone was taking pictures with them before the ceremony started, and they were supposed to remain at attention and not look around.

This poor little guy had a hard time keeping a straight face when Austin the giant stood next to him for a picture.

The one guy that had trouble looking straight ahead was the guy that Austin stood next to for a picture. Austin is just so tall, and this guy was so little. It was funny!

These two guys were my favorite. They are hard to see, but seem to be the scholarly ones, not military ones.

Next we made our way over to the History of Seoul museum. It was really cool to see when Seoul became a city (1300’s) and how people lived back then. There were some artifacts from different periods of time starting then all the way up to today. I was impressed with the technology of this museum most of all, especially since there was free admission!

Austin and Landon outside the museum with some stone tablets that remind me a little of Mulan. Is that bad?

It is hard to tell right now, but this map coupled with a projector on the wall to show when different parts of Seoul were built. I have never seen any technology like this in a museum setting, so good job, Seoul!

Landon found this exhibit to be right up his alley. It was interactive showing how they used a pulley and winch?? system to pull up heavy stones during construction of buildings way back in the day. 

I found these thimbles to be interesting. They were made out of scraps of fabric.

Landon loved the boat! Above the boat, there was a projection of water, which he also liked looking at.

I learned a few things about traditional Korean culture in this part of the museum. One of the traditions was that on the eve of a marriage, the groom’s family sent the bride a “hope chest” for her to put any belongings or keepsakes she wanted to bring with her into the marriage. I did not know that this was an eastern tradition, because I definitely have a hope chest in storage back in Chicago.

The museum ended with this cool look at Seoul from above with lights lighting up different parts of it. It was
looking ahead into the future of Seoul. Pretty cool!

Landon and Austin took the stairs. Landon started jumping down the stairs. Oh boy!

We took a break for lunch at a building with lots of different types of food. We wanted to go to an Italian place, but it was too expensive so we ended up ordering a combo pizza that was actually pretty good. What was odd is that there were all different crusts you could order like tofu or egg crust. That does not sound good! On our way there, we passed a shop with all these prosthetics in the window. It was interesting!
Next up we went to Gyeonghuigung palace. It was a small palace right next to the museum. 

This is a mythical creature that is supposed to protect Korea.

At this point, Landon wants to take a nap, but also wants to escape and run around!

We stopped to get water at this giant tree that seems to be growing completely sideways with just a few roots going down into the ground. It is being held up by the bars behind Austin, though.

This palace was cool because there weren’t a ton of people there, so we were able to just wander around at our leisure and get some great shots. Austin’s company has a photo contest every year for everyone who is out traveling like we are, and the winners get cash prizes and are printed in a calendar. We are trying to win! Thus, all of the slightly artsy/no people pictures. If you have a favorite we should submit, comment and tell us about it!

Throne room ceiling with dragons.

Throne- I love the bright colors

This courtyard was for official meetings

The courtyard has a lot of history to it. This is where the first king of the last Korean dynasty lived. That was way back in the 1300’s. The middle walk way of the courtyard is raised- and only the king and queen could walk there. Everyone else had to walk on the sides. The stone markers have titles on them and for meetings, the advisors and ministers stood by their marker until called upon by the king. Learning little tidbits like this help me to see how these buildings were used and get a peek into what life was like here so long ago.

Next, we wanted to go to Namsan Park, which is a mountain/hill in the middle of the city. There is a tower on top that we could see in the distance, so Austin decided we should walk there. On the way, we passed this long causeway for walking with a palace at the end of it. We did not go to the palace, but a nice Korean lady who spoke English took our picture. At this point, Landon had fallen asleep and Austin and I were free to roam around Seoul trying to find the park in relative peace. 

We made it to the park, and found out that to get to the top and the tower, you could either climb steps for a kilometer or so, or take a cable car to the top. My thinking is that we could just walk around the mountain and enjoy the scenery, but Austin being a Coloradan and a hiker wanted to get to the TOP! With the stroller, the steps were not an option. So, we walked along the path for awhile, enjoyed the peaceful serenity of all the green trees and a little babbling brook that was next to the road, then we went and found the cable car. At this point our feet were starting to get a little tired. Landon also woke up.

This old man was having fun badgering Landon. 

Cute boy at the top of the hill

There is the tower! We did not pay $20 each to go to the top, though

This was a stone beacon that could be lit up with fire to warn of enemy attacks (mostly from the Japanese)

On top of the hill were a bunch of touristy shops and things, and this collection of “Love” locks. People would write their names and date and lock the lock onto one of these trees, or the fence on the other side,and it is supposed to bring you good luck in love. Landon LOVED the locks! He walked around these trees for 10-15 minutes just going from one to another. People had gotten creative and attached cell phone covers, tablet covers, and other things to the trees as well. Austin and I are too cheap for a love lock, but I think we have pretty good luck in love so far…

Love lock fence

My boys at the top of the hill

Family selfie- It’s a miracle Landon is looking

Without really meaning to, this turned into a really busy day! It reminded me of our days when we were trekking through Italy, except we had to take care of a toddler on top of that. I think that although Landon was a little tired, he had a fun time running around, riding in trains and cable cars, and exploring locks. Too bad he probably won’t remember this place when he reaches adulthood.

Looking down from the tower on Seoul. 


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