I just found a new spot to see the cherry blossoms in Seoul!
If I go to Yeouido, I will be elbowing against a million other people while walking the five-kilometer cherry blossom lane behind the National Assembly grounds. So, there's no Yeouido for me this year. I have visited Yeouido on a few occasions during the cherry blossom festival, when the roads leading to the area are usually blocked off to vehicular traffic. The crowds have to walk from the Yeouinaru Station, and the buses going there are usually full.
A good time though to visit Yeouido would be at night when there are less crowds. But the problem at night is the organizers turn off the colored lights at midnight, just when everyone else is still enjoying the night stroll. I wonder if they will turn off the lights at midnight again this year.
(Time for spring!)
(A kid running to join the soldiers' parade)
Other than the cherry blossoms, you can always visit the flowery areas along the mountain trails in Seoul. There's actually one near my neighborhood. Maybe I should visit Eungbong-san (Mt. Eungbong) this time. It's famous for its yellow forsythias this time of the year.
(Crisp in their uniforms and precise in their cadence)
(The exhibit includes facts about the Korean War)
There's another option: Nam-san, right in my neighborhood. This area is actually closer to home, and I can even ride a bus going up. To see the cherry blossoms, I can just walk down from the Seoul Tower area and follow the cherry blossom trail down to the Yongsan Library. This way, it's less tiring, but I think there will be a lot of people, too. Not only on the trail going down, but also on the ride going up!
If you want to take the Yellow Namsan Bus, I suggest you wait for it at the bus stop at Hangangjin Station, or maybe at the Chungmuro Station. Why? Because if you wait at the bus stops near Nam-san, it would already be full.
(Showing off their combat skills and
their colorful traditional costumes)
But not too many people in Seoul know that there's another spot to catch the cherry blossoms. This place is not only near, it's also less crowded, airy, and they have a spring festival with a military parade and exhibits!
Where is it?
(Crowds watching the parade and performances)
(Turn the beat around, love to hear percussion!)
It's the Seoul National Cemetery in the Dongjak District!
I visited the Seoul National Cemetery in the fall when the colors of the leaves were changing. The place was serene and quiet. Unlike other open spaces and parks in Seoul, putting up a kiosk to sell drinks and snacks is prohibited. This place was worth another visit; I will return in spring.
(Cherry blossoms and a less crowded street)
(Cherry blossoms and dramatic landmarks)
(Thousands of tombstones for the fallen heroes)
I guess in spring, the Seoul National Cemetery will have more visitors as it celebrates a festival in time when the cherry blossoms bloom. The festival is complete with a military parade where soldiers show off their precision march while they wear their pristine uniforms and accompanied by a drum and bugle corps. If you're there, for a moment, you'd forget that this area is a cemetery, where heroes and martyrs are laid in honor, respect, and memory, and where solemnity is observed all the time. But as part of their calendar, the cemetery's administration celebrates the heroism of the fallen by having this festival of parades, performances and reenactments of ancient wars by soldiers in colorful traditional costumes. Around the grounds, there are also displays of the Korean War relics to show the present generation actual artifacts from the Korean War.
If you decide to catch the cherry blossoms at the Seoul National Cemetery, just take the Subway Line 4 or Line 9, and get off at Dongjak Station. From Exit 8, the entrance is a few meters out. But unlike Yeouido, you can bring your car!
And since you're there, after going around to see the cherry blossoms, why don't you also visit the Memorial Tower where names and portraits of the fallen heroes and martyrs are placed. And behind it are sectioned areas that contain thousands of tombs of these heroes, where you would always see family members offering flowers and messages as a sign that these heroes are never forgotten.