Most of us have been there. Looking out the window while commuting to our job, day dreaming of leaving everything behind for a day and secluding ourselves in a peaceful, fantasy-like place. The hustle and bustle of the city life seem to be messing with our balance, and escape routes are running low… wine included.
South Koreans know this better than anyone, even if the yin and yang principles are deeply ingrained in them (a simple look at their flag proves it), they all struggle to survive the hectic life, from excessively pressured high school students to worn out office workers, no Korean can escape from it.
So every once in a while, they seek comfort and peace in green lush forests, parks and mountains, where they can breathe in fresh air and forget their worries.
These gardens’ landscapes were carefully designed by artists to provide all visitors a zen experience, helping them reconnect with the natural elements and keeping the balance of things, following the hidden codes of Korean culture.
HANUL PARK OR SKY PARK
This eco park is located in the west of Seoul, at the top of a small mountain from which you can see the city skyline and the Han river that divides the city into North and South. Getting there is a fairly easy 20 minute walk from the World Cup Stadium Station. What used to be a wasteland is now a ravishing park, where different types of tall grasslands and flowers bloom according to season. All carefully picked to keep the ecosystem's balance.
As you walk along the paths through the grasslands, you’re immediately submerged in a cozy dream of a far away land, completely oblivious to the nuisances of the city life. With every turn, you can’t help but to feel as an explorer in a wonderland maze, warmed by the sun that gently reflects from the white and silver grass surrounding you and occasionally chilled by the wind traveling through the grass with a whimsical sound.
After a long time peacefully lost in this warm cloud, you step into fluffy lavender grass and puffy hot pink bushes that seem to be taken out from an anime movie. The penetrating smell of petrichor ignites your connection with nature as you become aware of the softness of the very soil you’re stepping on. Your heart melts as you remember childhood dreams, probably inspired by cartoons, and resist the urge to run and jump in that soft mass of lavender clouds.
As the sunlight slowly escapes in the horizon, the sky is painted with warm colors, a reminiscence of your connection with nature.
THE GARDEN OF MORNING CALM
If Hanul Park wasn’t enough to hear the call of freedom, barely an hour away from Seoul you will find The Garden of the Morning Calm, which will definitely clean all trace of stress and uneasiness.
Entering this paradise of tranquility does require a small fee, but the sceneries inside are completely worth it.
As its name suggests, this garden (in fact a group of gardens) evokes that equanimity and placidity of walking in a forest early in the morning.
Meditation inducing music can be heard through the gardens from speakers located all around, while you walk down the paths that take you to the gardens' shades of red, orange, and yellow that wash over you. There’s a stream along the main road which many visitors go into to build a rock tower, making a wish while building it, hoping one day it will come true.
Naturally, I went there and carefully selected and layered the rocks, making sure my tower stood tall and strong, just as my will to work hard for my wishes and goals to come true.
The artists' sources of inspiration are reflected in the different themes of these gardens, exhibiting Korean natural beauty, its culture’s ideals, and the magical oriental mystique for which Asia is best known. My experience in this place was beyond words, and my appreciation of nature was drastically heightened by the classic yet mind-blowing expression of its design.
All photos: @madebygods13
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