The rights of springSpring in Seoul, though not usually long, is almost always sensual and gleaming.
Between the gray skyscrapers and apartment buildings, pink, white and yellow flowers -- on the ground and blooming in trees -- are beginning to embroider and give sparkle to the dullest stretches of the city’s concrete.
The Korea Meteorological Administration says golden bell trees will start to bloom Tuesday, followed by azaleas at midweek and cherry blossoms by April 2.
Since the weather is warmer this year than in past years, flowers will bloom five days earlier than in previous years. Indeed, on the southern part of the peninsula, flowers began reaching for the sun in mid-March.
Late March and early April are the most glorious periods to appreciate flowery scenery around Korea’s capital city.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has picked 44 places in the capital -- parks, boulevards, mountains and palaces -- that are worth a visit for their flowery scenes of spring.
The following are some of the 44, places where you can stop your busy day not just to see the flowers, but to smell them and be invigorated by them.
‘Like snowflakes flying off in the wind’
Yeouido is the No. 1 place in Seoul for cherry blossoms. From the 63 Building, a Yeouido landmark, to the National Assembly down the avenue, more than 1,300 cherry trees stand glowing at the ready for your gazing pleasure.
Most Koreans believe that the Japanese planted cherry blossoms, their national flower, in Korea, but the trees on Yeouido were put in in the 1970s. Lee Hyuk-seung, a 24-year-old college student who likes to visit Yeouido just to see the trees, says, "The cherry blossoms flying off in the wind are like snowflakes." Mr. Lee advises sightseers to take the subway. “The traffic at Yeouido is bad.”
Jo Gwang-ho, in charge of maintaining Yeouido Park, says the street behind the National Assembly is the best viewing spot, with trees on both sides forming a “tunnel.” Mr. Jo says visitors should come in early April. To see these trees, take line No. 5 to Yeouido Station and then exit No. 3, or using the same line, go to Yeouinaru Station, then head for exit No. 1.
If you don't like crowds, Anyangcheon stream embankment is a good spot to see cherry blossoms. Less known to the public, the 2-kilometer-long (1.2 mile) avenue boasts both cherry and apricot trees. You can reach the embankment, which lies in front of Ewha Mokdong Hospital, by taking line No. 5 to Omokgyo Station, then exit 1.
Banghwa Sagyejeol (Four Seasons) Park in Gangseo district is another must-see. You can get there by taking line No. 5 to Banghwa Station and using exit No. 2.
Gwanak Mountain is great for royal azaleas, which are at their best in early May. Take line No. 2, get off at Seoul National University Station and use exit No. 3.
For more information, call the park management at (02) 880-3395.
Golden bells, golden smells
Songpa Naru Park, which is often filled with walkers and joggers year-round, fills with cherry blossoms each spring. Songpa may not equal New York’s Central Park, but Geum Mi-gyeong, a park maintenance staffer, says the Korean park is one of the quietest and cleanest in the city. Take line No. 2, get off at Jamsil Station and use exit 1. For more information, call (02) 410-3395.
For golden bell trees, go to Yangjaechon stream, the earliest messenger of this season in Seoul. The stream’s 3-kilometer-long embankment provides visitors with a chance to soak in a sea of bright yellows. Take line No. 3, get off at Dogok Station, then exit No. 4. For more information, call (02) 2104-1902.
Tancheon stream embankment features a 2.5-kilometer-long avenue of golden bells. Take line No. 2, get off at Sports Complex Station and use exit No. 4.
Royal azaleas give Ogeum Park a reddish pink in late March. Take line No. 5, get off at Ogeum station and use exits 1 or 2. For more information, call (02) 410-3692.
The mountains are alive with colors
Goh Hee-gyeong, a Seongdong district official, says Eungbong Geullin (Neighborhood) Park has the finest golden bell blossoms in Seoul. The park’s Eungbong Mountain includes a 1.5-kilometer-long avenue that bursts with the tiny, bright-yellow flowers. Eungbong Mountain, which is really a hillock, according to Ms. Goh, is dotted with golden bell trees. On April 3, the district office is holding a Golden Bell Festival, which will feature an art competition for children. To reach the park, take line No. 1 to Eungbong Station. There is only one exit.
Another flowery path in the district is the U-i stream embankment, with cherry blossoms at their best in late May. Take line No. 6, get off at Seokgye Station and use exit No 4.
Surak Mountain and Bukhan Mountain also come alive in spring with bright colors. The 600-meter-long entryway to Surak Mountain is famous for its variety of flowers ― royal azaleas, Satsuki azaleas and cherry blossoms. Bukhan Mountain offers opulence in golden bells. Surak can be reached by taking line No. 7 to Surak Mountain Station and using exit No. 1. To get to Bukhan Mountain, take line No. 4 line, get off at Suyu Station, or use line No. 3 to Bulgwang Station and take a taxi.
Cherry blossoms can also be found in Jeungsanro in Eunpyeong district and at the Hongjecheon stream embankment in Yeonhee-dong, Seodaemun district. Take line No. 6, get off at Jeongsan Station and any exit will lead to the flower-laden avenue.
For an all-in-one view of golden bells, azaleas and cherry blossoms, Namsan Park in central Seoul is a good bet. Indeed, all three flowers there form a large tunnel. Seoul’s historic palaces near the downtown also provide colors galore this time of year.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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