Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

They say that life is a journey and not a destination, but sometimes when you are travelling it’s nice to have some kind of a destination. This is especially true in Korean cities which are mostly late 20th century places with lots of concrete apartment complexes, outlet malls and out of control commercial signs. Le Corbusier would probably love the Korean metropoles – they are machines for living in. It seems that some new ideas do take off very quickly in Korea.

There has been a trend for out of town complexes like Art Towns, Book towns and conference centres. Many of them probably looked better on paper than in real life. In their enthusiasm, some planners and architects forget that gardeners need to weed between the cracks of concrete, window cleaners need to clean the sheer 100 metre glass windows and retailers actually need to rent out the commercial units. Without those basics the drawing board utopias can quickly end up looking like the sets of poorly conceived sci-fi shows. The concrete and steel rarely sit well in their surroundings if they are not maintained and more importantly – used.

With all this in mind I was very skeptical about going to an out of town coffee ‘factory’ on the outskirts, the very hem of the skirt in this case. The place in question is the Coffee Factory of the Terarosa firm. It is the biggest domestic Coffee company in Korea and has a family owned, kind to farmers kind of feel. I have been to a few branches in Korea and found that it has a strong brand identity and is a welcome change from the other run of the mill places. Run of the mill in this case is the usual concrete urban interior with bookless bookshelves and a really expensive coffee roasting machine – which you can SEE!

After decrypting the bus timetable outside Gangneung Bus Terminal, I decided to take a taxi. It was a great decision which I failed to make on the return journey. The factory is right at the edge of town, the car park is spitting distance from the ring road, if you can spit quite far. The taxi pulled up round the back of the complex and it felt like I was entering another World. To enhance the feeling, a south american looking chap crossed my path decked out in earthy tones and an apron. In contrast to the distopian feel of many new buildings in Korea it felt quite positive. The natural landscape seemed to fit around the impressively big structures. I had to cross a kind of mini Indiana Jones bridge to get to the main edifice(s). The scale of the buildings was impressive but not overwhelming. It felt like there had been an apocalypse but it was a really really long time ago and people had just forgotten about everything apart from coffee and bread. It reminded me of the excellent film version of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. Kind of a sixties version of what the future might be like. If I go again I will definitely wear a turtleneck.

Despite fitting in reasonably well with the vegetable gardens and general rural vibe, the Terarosa Factory is something of an oasis in an otherwise typically provincial and unremarkable setting. Even the visiting ajummas (middle aged Korean women) were dressed in more earthy and dare I say tasteful clothes than usual. One of the most impressive things about Korea which I have never adjusted to is the brightly coloured leisurewear of the older citizens. But in this post industrial concrete bunker of hipness, everyone seemed very at home, almost camouflaged. Maybe the architecture and design was playing tricks on me.  Maybe they have a dress code. Anyway, it was quite a contrast to the mornings I’ve spent hiking where the older citizens look pretty tropical.

I won’t go on much more because I’m no coffee expert. However, the coffee tasted like coffee and the bread tasted like bread. Actually, the croissant was the best I’ve had outside France. The staff seemed very kind and professional, not to mention busy. If you do choose to visit this place, try to go on a quiet day because various coach tours come and go, so it’s pretty busy. I hope the pictures capture what is a very special place.

Further Information:

https://www.terarosa.com/

Gangwon-do, Gangneung, Gujeong-myeon, 7 Hyeoncheon-gil

강원도 강릉시 구정면 7 Hyeoncheon-gil

 

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Dongpirang is a painted neighbourhood in Tongyeong. It sits upon a hill and watches over the sea.DSC_0237

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It’s this way.

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If you need a rest…

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No Korean hill is complete without a lookout.

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Her bag is the shape of the village

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From the movie based on the life of Lady Di

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Fmous Korean cartoons.

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Best view.

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The shop of dreams.

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Here is Charles Bridge:

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Once you’ve seen one Joseon dynasty tomb, you’ve seen them all. That’s something I’ve never said, at least not without being sarcastic. For those who have been in Korea for an extended period I could understand that some historical monuments start to look very similar to each other. If you are in this phase of diminishing returns when it comes to visiting ‘old stuff’, then I sincerely recommend a visit to the royal tombs of Taereung Gangneung over on the north east side of Seoul.

Map

 

The two locations are a tomb complex in Nowon-gu. Taereung Royal Tomb (태릉) houses the burial mound of Queen Munjeong who was the second queen of King Jungjong, the 11th King of the Joseon Dynasty. Nearby Gangneung (강릉) is the final resting place of  Munjeoang’s son King Myeongjong, the 13th King of Joseon Dynasty, and his wife Queen Insunwanghu.  As mentioned earlier, once you are familiar with the burial sites of the Joseon Dynasty history can start slipping into carefully cultivated UNESCO heritage sites. The orderly layouts and well designed information placard can detract from the interesting and often extremely turbulent history which lies beneath.

Taereung Shrine Entrance

Beneath the grassy knoll of Taereung lies one of the more interesting figures of Korean dynastic history and a great candidate to be patron saint of pushy mums – Queen Munjeong. Her son Myeongjong was too young to rule by himself until 1565 so Queen Munjeong ated as a regent. Despite her many depictions as a power crazy Lady Macbeth type figure, there are also accounts of her being a more than competent administrator. She even gave out land to common people that had been formerly owned by the nobility. Although this practice is rarely for altruistic reasons; it is usually more related to stripping the yangban (upper classes) of land for political reasons. An ominous sign which appears in most dynasties the world over, was the fact that she continued to rule even after her son reached the age of majority. It was only after her death that her son took over power, which seems to me a black and white indication of their relationship.If, like me, you would like to know more about this narrative then you could watch the historical drama  Mandate of Heaven 2013. It’s on a list which I am working my way through – I’m about 1400 years behind at the moment! Another interesting fact about Munjeong was that she was one of the most influential supporters of Buddhism. During the early years of Joseon Neo Confucism replaced Buddhism as the de facto state ideology. The Queen lifted the official ban on Buddhist worship and instigated a resurgence of Buddhism.The next chapter of Korean history starts after Munjeong’s death. However, I have not visited the other tomb complex yet so I will reserve the research for my next visit.

The location of the tomb is in a wonderful location, owing to the practice of geomancy. Like most tombs and royal palaces in Korea the location is chosen with freshwater flowing near the front area and mountains to the rear. In the case of Taereung you can actually follow a small tributary from the Jungang Stream (itself a tributary of the Han). There is a great cycle path all the way up the Jungang Cheon and heading north you can take a right before Taerung Subway station and wind your way up the stream which follows the Bukbu Expressway. It’s a great bike ride in summer because it’s mostly in the shade. The advantage of going by bike is the fact that you miss nearly all the main traffic. I came off the stream when it splits and found myself next to the huge Military academy – the museum is opposite.

The museum is actually the main reason why I would recommend this place. It gives a very detailed description of how tombs are used and made. That sounds extraordinarily dull, but believe me, the graphics and displays kept me in the museum for much longer than I expected. I wish I had seen the museum a few years ago because it would have helped me understand exactly why the paths are laid out as they are and also the construction of the burial mound.

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The museum costs 1000 won for adults and is open Summer season 09:00-18:30 / Winter season 09:00-17:30

[Subway + Bus]
Seokgye station (Seoul Subway Line 1 and 6), Exit 6.
– Take bus 1155 , 1156 or 73
– Get off at Taereung Gangneung (10 min interval / 15 min ride).

Hwarangdae station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 1.
–  Take bus 202 , 1155, 1156, 73 or 82.
–  Get aff at Taereung Gangneung (5 min interval / 5 min ride).

Taereung station (Seoul Subway Line 6 and 7), Exit 7.
– Take bus 202, 1155 , 1156, 73 or 82.
– Get off at Taereung Gangneung (10 min interval / 10 min ride).