Now that it’s finally getting warmer I think it’s time to get out of hibernation and do something about these flabby thighs. Not being a winter sports fan I’ve stayed well away from the outdoors and enjoyed ondol at home instead. One of the things I like about living in Seoul is that we are so close to the mountains. The only trouble with some of the mountains in Seoul though, is that they get so crowded at the weekends, it can feel more like a stressful shopping expedition getting jostled in Myeong Dong rather than a relaxing walk in nature. So yesterday we went a little further out of the city to Namhansansong, a fortress on a mountain South East of Seoul.
By 9AM there were lots of groups of fellow walkers dressed in mountain gear on the underground getting off here and there to change onto other lines. It took us well over an hour to get to Sansong station on line 8. Lineups of hikers were waiting at the bus stop to take them up the mountain but first, we went in search of a kimbap shop to buy a snack for later just in case there were no shops at the top of the mountain. (Food is always on my mind.) Then we joined the bus queue. As we weaved up the winding road, apart from feeling a bit queazy, I started to feel like we were cheating. After all, weren’t we supposed to be hiking up the mountain? But since it was our first time, we got off at the top with everybody else. And there we were. At a large map and no shops. I was glad we bought the kimbap.
The area is a national park and with lots of different routes, we chose one that would take us around about a third of the fortress walls from the south gate to the north gate before leading us to the central restaurant area. Yeah.
It was muddy and a bit snowy in places but still an easy, undulating route, with wooden steps to help us in the steeper area. Here and there makeshift stalls had been set up selling makali served in big kettles with cabbage leaves and miso paste dips.
It took us about 90 minutes to get around the route walking casually stopping for kimbap and to take in the views through the gaps in the fortress walls. We could see gangs of huge white apartment complexes cropping up everywhere taking over the area with Seoul Tower in the distance further north across the city. Groups of mainly middle-aged walkers gathered for group photographs and picnic tables were full of hikers with flasks and picnics.
We arrived at the north gate ready for food and headed down the hill, Korean folk music bursting from speakers outside the restaurants, small street stalls selling bowls of udon, ice cream and candy floss. We chose a samketang, ginseng chicken soup place, and got an individual room with ondol, heated floors. But we could keep the doors open and look outside and hear the birds. There was just a tray of jujube tea on the floor with two metal cups when we arrived and four red floor cushions. No table.
We sat cross-legged on the warm floor with the doors open looking out into the garden of the restaurant, a faint smell of a bonfire. Two ladies brought in our table full of small vegetable dishes panchan and a bottle of makali. Later they brought the pan of soup with a whole cooked chicken. By the time I had thought on to take a photo of the food we had already finished eating… but this is the room as we left.
Full of Makali I was not keen to go back down the mountain on the bus and since we hadn’t exactly over-exerted ourselves on our “hike” we following the road and managed to find a mountain path down the mountain and back to the station. A snooze on the train and then we were home.