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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Tart, Art and History in Bunchon Hanok (Day 262)

What? A Portuguese Tart? Plus Art and History in Bunchon Hanok

I know that we’re cutting down on sugar, but when you see a small café selling Portuguese Custard Tarts, well it’s rude not to…Different flavours greeted us, sweet potato, pumpkin, citron, egg, walnut, apple cinnamon and chocolate. We chose the original egg to compare with the ones we had in Lisbon, our first place we visited on our #grownuptravels. Oh, they were delicious, crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. We were both very pleasantly surprised. Tim reckons we should do a scientific study and test the others. We tried to find out from the waitress why a Portuguese café would be here but sadly she just worked there and didn’t know the history.

It was time to leave, there is only so long we can sit in a café! We strolled through the nearby Tapgol Park (mentioned on day 259) and found out that the Korean Independence Movement began here on 1st March 1919, calling for the independence of Korea from Japanese rule. The Park is also famous for the ten-tier marble Wongaksa Pagoda 12m high, which is registered as the second national treasure of Korea (out of 319). It was constructed in 1467 by King Sejo, a devout believer of Buddhism. However, Buddhism was then suppressed by the government after 1494 and all temples, except for Wongaksa Pagoda were destroyed, so it’s lucky to still be here. Sadly a very unsightly glass encasement surrounds the Pagoda now to protect it.

We carried on our journey, through Insadong-gil with its many shops, street food and entertainers often singing Beatles ballads. Our target was to get to Anguk station to meet 뺑끼 Ppangkki (she calls herself EJ, making it easier for us non-Koreans to say). We’d booked a 3-hour Drawing Trip in Seoul and it just so happened to be within walking distance of our Apartment.

A trendy young lady greeted us. She is Theatre Assistant in a large International School in Seoul, loves travelling and supplements her income running these tours once a week. We were the only ones on this Airbnb experience. Our first stop was to paint at the oldest White Pine tree (Baeksong), brought here from China about 600 years ago. It is in the grounds of a governmental building and unfortunately, we couldn’t enter today. Ppangkki handled this very well, plus the afternoon was so hot, she changed her usual schedule to accommodate this. We were very impressed with her flexibility and her research of the area, as well as the enjoyment of doing Art in this historical place.

Onto the Bukchon Hanok village situated between two Palaces, a historical neighbourhood traditionally home to Seoul’s middle and upper-classes. We popped into a Hanok where we could see how the underfloor heating worked (Smoke from the cooking fire) and sat in the shadows of another one to paint.

Ppangkki had given us each a small notebook that she had made with a sketch on each alternative page of views that we would see on this tour, and blanks for our own artwork. She also lent us watercolour paints and pencils and travel art brush and board. We sat and coloured in the sketch of the view here, too hot to create our own masterpieces. It was still great fun to do.

On our tour next, we popped into a Sunglasses shop which used to be the local Bathhouse. Bizarrely they have left much of the original features, the water pumps, tiles of the baths etc. At the top was a balcony with a great view overlooking the Village with a backdrop of Mountains on one side and the metropolis of Seoul on the other side. The bathhouse was originally for the students of Choongang Boys School, which we then went to visit. We were both surprised to see that the Architecture of this imposing building was in a European Gothic style. The grounds were used in the popular Drama Winter Sonata, linking back to our visit in Nami Island and the founder of the school Kim Seong-Su also was a significant member of the 1st March movement linking back to Tapgol Park earlier today. He founded the school on the belief that

the only way to save the Korean people, and to pave the road to regain their independence and sovereignty, was through education.

Our last destination was in the café of a Tea Museum and over a cooling iced citron tea, we coloured in another sketch and also, from photos, did our own artwork whilst Ppangkki did her own. So relaxing. I am very glad that we have our own watercolours and can continue using her little sketchbook. I wonder what creations we will make.

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