Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Boramae Park and Korea's Four Seasons: Part 1

Having lived in Korea for nearly ten months now, one of the things that has really struck me about this country is how much it has changed from one season to the next. My own country, England, has all the usual qualities you associate with the four seasons - the shifting reds, golds and browns of autumn, the frost and snowfall of winter, the blossoming flowers of spring, and the sometimes sauna-like humidity of summer - but here, for some reason, it all feels so much more extreme. Not just in terms of temperature. Yes, it's true that I've never felt colder than I did during Korea's winter. But the most striking thing is the change that the landscape goes through, the shifting colour patterns, the different smells, the many contrasting atmospheres that can manifest within a single place. Right now, it really feels like I'm living in a different country to the one I arrived in last October.

Just take a look at these two photos I took, for example. The first shows a typical winter landscape, with barren, snow-coated mountains and frozen streams:

Now check out this photo I took in early summer, by which point the country resembles some tropical southeast Asian island, with lush green highlands and sparkling paddy fields:

These striking contrasts in colour and atmosphere are not only visible in the countryside, but in the cities, too. One of the most conspicuous places to witness such changes are in the parks. These small pockets of nature, nestled among the smog-enshrouded skyscrapers and apartment blocks of the city, capture all the changes of the countryside and preserve them even in the heart of high-tech metropolises like Seoul.

Among my favourite of these places is Boramae Park, a former Air Force Academy site that was converted into a recreational park in the 1980s. I've visited it several times, as it's located just a few stops from me on Seoul's Metro. Every single time, it's been a delight to wander around, watching people and taking photos. It so happens I've visited the park during each of Korea's four seasons, so I thought it would be fun to compile a series of photos documenting the changes I've seen there throughout my year here. I'll start with autumn, since that was my first visit to the park. My most recent visit, in summer, will end the post.


The entrance to the park. I usually visit it via Boramae Station, though Sindaebang Station is actually a little nearer.
The name "Boramae" means "Hawk" in Korean, and fittingly it was once the site of an Air Force Academy. In 1986 the academy was turned into a Boramae Park, but in tribute to its past the park now displays several forms of old aircraft.

In the centre of the park is a large oval track where you can often find locals exercising.

There is also a large lake, which puts on a water show during the warmer months of the year.

A memorial statue.

This pagoda was empty the first time I visited, but as we'll see later in the post, it's often a popular meeting place for old Korean men playing board games together.

The park also has several sporting facilities.


Lots of snow!

You can see icicles hanging from the wings of some of the planes.

Volunteers clearing the path of snow.
Despite the cold, locals still came out to use the exercise track.

This helicopter stands outside a firefighters' museum.
One thing I missed when I visited in Autumn were these steps leading up to a Buddhist temple.

Bird footprints.

Men gather at the pavilion to play board games.

Click here to continue the post in Part 2!

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