Helo welcom 2 my websight
I was originally going to write an actual new blog post, but unfortunately this isn’t exactly the season for inspiration, so I’m afraid that will have to wait just a while longer (possibly about a month, until after the next TOPIK?) but I wanted to show some signs of life at least, so I decided I’d upload some of the more interesting pictures I’ve taken during my one year+ living here in Daegu and tell you a little about this city that I’m lucky enough to call home.
Firstly, some basics about Daegu; with a bit over 2.5 million inhabitants (yes, that is as much as 3 times as many citizens as the capital of my country) it’s the fourth biggest city in Korea, behind Incheon (3 million), Busan (3.5 million) and Seoul (10 million). This brings with it a kind of ‘slower life’ that pisses off many foreigners (I can count the times I heard some white guy complain about why there isn’t a subway train every 2 minutes like in Seoul) but obviously suits me, basically a country bumpkin, just fine. I wouldn’t go as far as to say you can actually walk outside and breathe fresh air here, but at least the roads and sidewalks aren’t as congested as in Seoul, you won’t be squashed like a sardine on the subway and there are actually some areas where you can only barely hear the hubbub of traffic all around you. To be quite honest, I think I’m going to miss Daegu a lot when I’m finally going to have to give it up in favor of Seoul. Seoul has its own thrills, of course, but Daegu is really starting to feel like home and I’ll be sad to let it go in about 4 months.
Anyway, enough of that and on to the pictures!
This is a night shot I actually took last weekend during what turned out to be quite an interesting day. I had decided to go to 김광석거리 as part of the writing for my article about the most romantic places in Daegu, and it just so happened to be the anniversary of his death, so there was a big event going on. Artists were performing his songs on a stage next to the river, there was food and alcohol to be bought and little homemade presents to be found as well. After I hung around the stage for a while I walked through the actual 김광석거리 to take some pictures and was soon entranced by a guy playing the saxophone in a completely empty bar that looked like a wooden cabin that hadn’t been cleaned in a few years. While I was awkwardly lingering in front of that place, the owner suddenly popped out, asked me where I was from, told me to come in and take some pictures and offered me a beer for free when I had to confess to him that I didn’t have any cash on me. After sitting there enjoying the ambiance for a while, I went back to the event next to the river, where a girl ever so kindly drew my portrait for free as well on account of me still not having any cash and explaining that to her in Korean. That was pretty neat.
As for the picture itself; this skyline is pretty typical for Korea. Koreans have absolutely no taste in architecture, so 90% of all buildings are grey/creme square blocks that reach as high as they need to and are only distinguishable by the giant numbers painted on them. At first I thought this was mostly because of how fast the development into a first world country had happened here, but then I found out they are actually still building new buildings in this style as well. No accounting for taste, I suppose. But they do make a pretty reflection.
Speaking of traditional Korean architecture; how about these beauties?
Yeah, that was of course sarcasm, but I do have to say that Korean city planning is pretty neat. Before I came here on the KGSP program, I had only visited Korea in the fall and winter, so I had always thought of its cities as grey, dead and depressing blocks of concrete but now that I’ve been here during spring and summer, I can say that isn’t exactly true. Though the buildings are absolutely without merit, city planning really saves the aesthetic of most of the big cities. There’s so many trees, parks, quirky roads and little details everywhere that it boggles the mind (especially if you happen to be a Cities: Skylines player).
Being a rather large city though, of course we also have plenty of little architectural wonders such as this library. When Koreans build something fancy, they tend to go all out, so the pretty buildings usually end up being really pretty.
There’s also plenty of history in Daegu’s streets, including this giant ‘Gothic’ church which stands out a lot with its kind of European design but Korean construction ethic. It’s kind of unfortunate that it’s only the outside that’s impressive, because inside it looks just like an office building which is a bit of a shame considering it’s supposed to be one of Daegu’s tourism hotspots. So far, I’ve visited this church about 5 times already either with the Daegu Tourism blog group or on my own in order to write an article, so I’ve become intimately acquainted with the maze-like streets in this area.
Speaking of overtly Christian history; this smaller (but kind of more pleasing to the eye) church is only a few steps away from the previous leviathan. This one actually does have services taking place in it, so the inside is also worth a look if you ever end up there.
But it’s not all Christian that is spiritual in Daegu. As Korea’s biggest religion, Buddhism is of course also well represented. I’ve always had a soft spot for the traditional construction and paint jobs of Korean temples, even though they have all been burnt down by the Japanese and rebuilt so many times that they can hardly be called historic anymore at this point. With their bright colors and instantly recognizable design Buddhist temples are truly some of the most Korean things you can find in this country. It might be because I’m a sucker for religious buildings (I loved walking into every single church I could find during my European trip as well) but no matter how similar these places often look, I will never get tired of visiting them. It certainly helps that they’re usually located in the most beautiful natural areas though.
Buddhism is very much alive here, and their graveyards (bottom pic) are a lot less gloomy than ours. Golden rooms full of colorful flowers and lanterns shining with the light of loved ones fill temples all over the city.
I don’t really have anything to say about these pictures. I just took them because it looked nice. The top one was taken in 김광석거리 and the bottom one near the hanok house of a writer and freedom fighter who used to live here in Daegu.
I also spent some time before fall really hit filming the busiest pedestrian crossing downtown and one of the shopping streets for your viewing pleasure. I doubt digital people watching would be as gratifying as actual people watching, but if you wanna try it, be my guest!
With these pictures, I tried to capture the not so glamorous back streets of Daegu. The main streets all look well taken care of and well organized, but its the back streets where the city really comes to life. They are often a mess of small alleys, parked cars, piles of trash and poorly maintained buildings, which gives them their lovable character. It’s weird how different a feeling you can get depending on which country you’re in, because if I would run into half of the streets I walk at night here back in the Netherlands I’d NOPE the shit out of there, but here I actually enjoy going out at night and strolling around the poorly lit back alleys, the smell of mom and pop Korean restaurants penetrating my nostrils and the sound of broken neon signs flickering in the night.
And yes, Korean restaurants are definitely a thing that shouldn’t be missing from this list. You don’t know Korea until you’ve had its food and you won’t know true stomach aches until you’ve had Kimchi Chigae for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The area where I live is rather short on restaurants since it’s not a super populated area, but there’s a few very enjoyable places nearby and Keimyung’s East Gate area has a lot to choose from. There’s nothing better than getting lost while taking pictures of the city around dinner time and just walking into a random place and actually being able to order something you know won’t have any shrimp in it though. Suck on that, 2011 Richard.
Anyway, that last picture there is a Street Food cart, which…I freaking love. I can’t fully explain why, but the street food carts are extremely romantic to me. Sitting there munching on a 2 euro piece of chicken skewer drinking some 2 euro bottle of ‘Korean vodka’ and just watching people walk by, thinking about where they’re going, what they’re worrying about, why they’re rushing all while not having a care in the world is a feeling that’ll be hard to emulate in the Netherlands even in spite of the existence of terrasjes. Now that it’s becoming winter, I suppose either the street food carts will disappear, or they will go for maximum overcomfy and start draping those tents over their carts. In case of the latter…wish my kidneys goodbye because you have no idea how comfortable it is to drink in a place like that during a cold winter day.
But it was also spring, once, and that was also the first time I was able to see Korea’s famous cherry blossoms in real life (did you know that Korea, NOT JAPAN, totally invented sakura? Me neither). That coupled with the never ending screeching of cicadas really made spring feel just like in my Chinese cartoons.
These pictures were taken on our beautiful campus, that I haven’t really seen much of since I moved out last January. Sorry Keimyung!
Here, I thought the contrast of nature and urbanization made for a pretty good picture.
This is pretty much the reality of living in a city this big; you can’t pave all of it in concrete, but you can’t have any real nature inside of it either. This particular little hill was a park that actually had some wildlife, but as it was surrounded by apartment blocks and 6 lane roads on all sides there was not a single spot where you could not hear the traffic even through the chattering of the birds. As a Dutchman, it was kind of interesting to me since in the Netherlands a park this big would probably be in the middle of nowhere but here it’s just smack in the middle of a residential area.
Finally, a few pictures of Daegu’s famous traditional market; Seomoon Shijang. If I was a skinny Korean girl, I’d be going here ALL THE FREAKING TIME because it’s possible to buy an entire outfit here for like 20 euros. It’s also possible to use that money to eat a whole lot of food or buy a whole lot of stuff you don’t need though, so either way you’re covered. I love the feeling Korean traditional markets have, and although Seomoon market isn’t up to par with the local market in Wando, it does have that special kind of ‘Holy shit I’m so abroad right now’ feeling that every traveler (and expat) is secretly looking for. People are buzzing around, scooters are literally driving over people’s feet to make their deliveries, old ladies are yelling at you to come check out their freshly caught crab and little kids are running around munching on dried squid; it’s all straight out of a Walt Disney stereotype but it’s oh so great to walk around in.
And since we started with a Daegu by night picture, let’s end with one as well.
This picture was taken on my way back from Duryu park, quite possibly after the chicken and beer festival this August.
Korea is a pretty exciting place to live in, compared to the Netherlands, and if you want there’s almost always something to do which makes life here so much more interesting than back at home. Of course there’s things and people that I miss that can never be replaced here, but as I had fallen in love with Wando during the short time that I had lived there, I have once again fallen in love with Korea, its culture, its history, its people and, yes, its language.
Whether it’s Daegu or Seoul, I know I’m in the right place.
See you guys next time.