So much to see, so little time. After the fact, I wish I’d had the chance to stay a full day in Suwon and admire all of its cultural relics at a more leisurely pace.
Well, look on the bright side – all of the stuff we haven’t seen yet offers a powerful excuse to go back someday. So chin up, stiff upper lip and all that. Let’s make the most of what little time we have before catching a train back to Seoul.
From the Hwaseong Haenggung palace compound, I turned left into Jeongjo-ro – the wide north-south boulevard that cuts through the heart of old Suwon.
As I was making my way north along the tree-lined street, I spotted signs and posters that led me to a small Catholic church off to one side of Jeongjo-ro. Lacking fluency in Korean, I couldn’t make out much from the on-site literature, and even now I’m still not fully aware of the significance of this shrine even though it was quite prominently marked in a tourist map I consulted afterwards (labelled in English as “Buksu-dong Catholic Church (Suwon Catholic Holy Ground)”). Perhaps some of the faithful were martyred in Suwon during the persecutions of the 19th century, and this shrine was raised in their honour?
In any case, the encounter was a cause for thanksgiving on my part, as is often the case when I run into a Catholic church during my travels abroad. This is especially true in places where such houses of prayer aren’t as easily found as in my corner of the world. I usually view such events as a gentle urging from above to spare a few moments for some much-needed rest and spiritual contemplation, something I tend to forget when overwhelmed with new sights and sounds in a foreign place. (When I finally get around to blogging about my trip to Taiwan last month, I’ve got another nice story to share that fits in with this theme.)
I popped inside, knelt at an empty pew, and spent a few moments in prayer.
Afterwards, I resumed my northward trek along Jeongjo-ro and arrived at this splendid monument.
This is Janganmun, the grand northern entrance of the Hwaseong Fortress and one of the largest fortified gates in all Korea. (I’ve seen one source that calls it the largest, which is plausible if one includes the walled enclosure and secondary gatehouse attached to the structure.)
Look closely and you’ll see quite a bit of battle damage on the gate’s stonework. I assume this was intentionally left unrestored as a reminder of the nation’s tragic military history.
The next image shows a rather interesting bit of urban engineering. Note the “bridge” leading from the gatehouse to the ramparts on the other side, with the roadway running underneath.
From what I’ve read, during the time when Suwon was growing and most of the wall lay in ruins – a casualty of the Korean War – wider modern roads (such as Jeongjo-ro) were laid out in order to better link the old city to the wider urban area beyond. When the restoration effort began in the 1970s, those roads had to be kept since motorists still needed them. This led to a few compromises, one of which involved restoring Paldalmun (the great southern gate we saw in my previous post) whilst omitting the reconstruction of the walls connected to it, which allowed the main road to flow into old Suwon uninterrupted but left the gate itself stranded in the middle of a giant traffic circle. Another solution is the one we’ve just seen here at Janganmun, where the restorers allowed the road to stay and built a sort of pedestrian overpass that reconnected the gate to the rest of the wall. It’s far from a perfect solution of course, but in a way, it’s probably better than the one back down at Paldalmun, since this means that those doing the wall-top city-wide walking course can continue on their journey as if no breach existed in the fortifications.
Exiting the old city through Janganmun, I took a westerly course following the northern section of the restored city wall.
I reentered the old city through Hwaseomun, a smaller gate near the northwestern corner of the circuit wall. The gate was undergoing restoration at the time but was still quite a sight to behold.
From here, I trekked back to the city centre along Suwon’s peaceful side streets.
And so ended my day in Suwon. Having left so much undone and so much unseen (especially in the eastern part of the old city), I’ll certainly want to come back here in the near future. But for the moment, it was back to Seoul for an evening walk through Myeongdong and a family dinner to celebrate our last evening in Korea.