Column_July_2_Why I love..
Today is the eve of Chobok, the first day of the hottest three days of the year characterized by “iyeol chiyeol” meaning “control heat with heat.” As I felt the strength of the heat doubling, I got into my car, started the engine, and turned on the air conditioner. Then, I stretched my leg, pressed the right pedal, turned the steering wheel to the left, and got on the street, listening to retro music of the 1990s.
Halmeoni Mukjip (Grandma’s Acorn Jelly Restaurant)
After driving for about one hour by car, I arrived at the place near Simhaksan Mountain in Paju around mid-day. I wanted to have some refreshing soft food for lunch as the day was very hot and dry. Cool, soft acorn jelly cold broth with floating ice was the perfect choice. There were many restaurants at the entrance of the street, and I decided to try an acorn jelly dish at a restaurant with a signboard with white writings on red background. It’s probably because the image of Grandma’s wrinkled hands turning a millstone impressed me a lot. Since the restaurant is located near Paju Book City and Simhaksan Olle Trail where the traffic of visitors is heavy, I thought that the restaurant was one of the many restaurants formed naturally. The main building and two annex buildings seem to attest to the popularity of this restaurant. I decided to go to one of the two annex buildings that seemed to have a classic ambience.
I sensed a refreshing natural breeze touching my face as if I was sitting on a lookout hut. I looked around the surroundings and noticed a menu board on the wall. The main menus were Honest Rice with Acorn Jelly in Cold Broth, Hand-pulled Acorn Dough Soup, Kimchi Stew, and Rich Soybean Paste. There were other menus such as Whole Chicken Soup, Acorn Jelly Salad, and Makgeolli (rice wine). Sweet Chestnut Makgeolli, which is popular among middle-aged women, was on the board as well. Pancake and acorn jelly go well with Makgeolli, but I ordered Honest Rice with Acorn Jelly in Cold Broth and Acorn Pancakes. Why “Honest”? The answer was on the tray bearing the dishes. First of all, visually, the stacked-up big ice pieces instantly lowered my body temperature. Then, as soon as I gulped down one spoonful of acorn jelly, the cool feel was the right answer itself. The food was really good and pleasant. Literally, it was darn “honest” food. The dish features acorn jelly and steamed rice. You can enjoy a nuttier flavor if you mix rice and cold acorn jelly broth. Korean dishes made with Korean grandma’s wisdom never disappoint us. Acorn and Green Onion Pancakes decorated with carrot garnish tasted a little bland, but they went well with the other side dishes that came with the menu.
Address : 108-5, Dolgoji-gil, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do
Hwalpan (Typography) Workshop
A space with books is always refreshing, and so are libraries, book cafes, and even cartoon cafes. They are as good as vacation places. Forest of Wisdom in Paju is full of such places, and I visited one called Hwalpan Workshop. Reading a book has become like “work” nowadays, so if I say I am going to a plant-like place with a dark, grayish mood, you might shout out loud, “Unbelievable!” I like English, and I am still writing in my diary even after I grew up to be an adult. This is all attributable to King Sejong who created Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. He had many achievements and distressed me with history tests during my school days, but he is also a benefactor who provided me with the unforgettable experience of reading out my winning essay in front of many students on Hangeul Proclamation Day during my childhood and gave me self-confidence. Thus, the process of something becoming a piece of writing is very special to me.
This grayish plant is also called the Letterpress Museum, which offers experiences with the letterpress printing method. I made prior reservations before my arrival, so I could participate in the program called “Journey into Hwalpan Workshop” for 40 minutes from 1:00pm. When I walked into the workshop while led by a lecturer, the place reminded me of the Printing Woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana at Haeinsa Temple in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. I felt the solemnity of the place. The numerous alphabet cut matrices on the wooden shelf and the collection of numerous wooden shelves forming the shape of a gable roof provide a solemn mood similar to a temple. Our guide started to explain how to make the typeset of vowels and consonants with lead, how to sort out the typeset of vowels and consonants from the typeface shelf, and how letters are printed in the order of typesetting that arranges vowels and consonants. After the explanation, we heard a printing noise. The guide told us that an opportunity to view the process of creating vowels and consonants is very rare, and that we are lucky to have that. In front of the source of the sound, I took a few photos as I was looking at the artisan’s showy hand movements. I felt sorry that I could not add sound to photos. The real surprise began from the letterpress machine.
Our guide explained the process of printing the typesetting in Korean traditional mulberry paper and gave us printed samples as a souvenir. Poet Yun Dong-ju’s beautifully printed poem Seosi (Forward) looked even sadder on paper. The back side of the print was embossed, which was quite different from the paper of mass-produced books. Actually, many poets make their poem books here for their collection. Our guide told us that we could take our favorite vowels and consonants among the Ming-style printing types placed on the typeface shelf, and that the price of each typeset of vowels and consonants was 1,000 won. I selected vowels and consonants for my name as a souvenir for myself. Unfortunately, the place did not have any resting space, but I could understand the workshop’s strict rule of keeping the place’s austere and respectful feel.
Address : 9-6, Gwanginsa-gil, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do
Website : Click here
To change my mood, I decided to move to a place where I could enjoy the sunset. A garden with 33 stories, a space with ivory-colored sculptures dyed with the glow of the sunset in the evening—it is First Garden. After opening the gate of the exotic garden and walking along trees outlining the shape of the space,
I felt like I was brought back to the Roman or Greek period. Whenever I wandered in the desert, the oasis at sunset offered me various colors of light. Colorful lightings on trees turning on one by one, soft light from restaurants built in the shape of Greek temples…you can see a peacock while walking along the path. If animals have a myth, the bird probably has its size and sound equivalent to those of the Titans tribe. The beauty of the bird is almost goddess-class. The most beautiful garden here is Jasu Garden.
The highlight of the garden is Poseidon with a three-pronged spear at the fountain in the center of the garden. There is a majestic sculpture supported by horses as his symbol, as well as that of his children with a snake tail. Simply looking at the sculpture beats the scorching summer heat. The waterfall from the fountain made by the majestic god of the sea provides a cool feel, and the water drops over the flower petals of fully blossomed roses in the surrounding gardens bear dew from flowers. I took photos of memorable moments. The island in the pond at the Wetland Garden located at the end of the Wedding Hall is a good place to take photos as couples spend a leisurely time. Maybe because it has been featured in TV dramas or music videos, but more people seem to come to the place as evening time came. I strongly recommend visiting this place when you feel very tired during the hot summer season. You never know, you may get lucky and see actors Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo who are engaged to be married.
Address : 260, Tapsakgol-gil, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do
Website : Click here
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