Monday, July 15, 2013

Wine Train!

Heather, Lee, Danielle and I at our wine train table.
Recently, I went on a wine train adventure to the province of Yeongdong. I caught the train in Suwon (just barely, because it turns out I didn't really know where the KTX Station was and I left a tiny bit late). The train has wine cars, ginseng cars, and cinema cars. Luckily, I signed on to be in the wine car which served wine the entire ride to Yeongdong. They featured all Korean wines, with a very limited selection including dry red, sweet red, and white. The wines were okay, but nothing really stood out. Korean wine in general is usually sweet, which is not really what I like in wines, so I still haven't found a Korean wine I truly enjoy.

Our wine was accompanied by this high-class cheese platter.

Some seriously expensive cheese here...

At the beginning of the journey, we were given these stickers without any explanation. About an hour after we received them, we discovered that they were for putting on the faces of people who lost at Rock, Scissors, Paper. I can't describe to you how big this game is here, and it is not surprising that we were expected to play. One cart back was filled with ajummas (little old ladies) who were getting into this game hardcore. They were dancing around to music, playing the game with other tables, and had their faces covered in stickers. I did not get a very good picture of them, but it was astounding to hear the ruckus they were causing.

This picture of the ajummas does not begin
to show how crazy they were getting.

Danielle after losing a few times.
Obviously, I kept winning because I have no stickers on my face.
Lee just kept losing.
After our relaxing train ride, we arrived at Chateau Mani. They had a buffet feature Korean and Western food and boxes of wine that tables could take freely. We had about an hour to eat, drink wine, and explore before we went on a tour of the wine cellar and had a wine foot bath.

Chateau Mani.

Chateau Mani.

Giant bottle of wine!

Danielle and I.
Some new friends with Danielle.

Wine storage for whoever wants to buy space.

We also had the chance to buy many different bottles of wine.

Some of the wine barrels, many of which were imported from California.

One of the interesting art installations in Wine Korea.

After eating and looking at the wine barrels and cellar, we had a wine foot bath. It was a nice, hot, relaxing soak for our feet in wine/water that was 38*C (about 100*F). If you want to learn more about the wine train, or go on it yourself, check out this site for more information.

Cold water to cool your feet if you are feeling too toasty.
Yeongdong is famous for its music history. We were treated to viewing the music museum, a live performance, and a drum lesson of our very own! These experiences are not typically included with the wine train, but because I went with the tour group WinK (When in Korea) they had planned so much more for us. The drum lesson was my favorite part of the trip, and something I would not have experienced if I went on the Wine Train on a whim. It was definitely a lot of fun.

Yeongdong was home to Park Yeon, one of the top three traditional experts in the history of all of South Korea. Park Yeon created the theory of Korean traditional music and also produced several instruments. To honor him, there is a music museum, many traditional music performances throughout the year, statues scattered around, and his birthplace is honored.

At the traditional music museum.

At the traditional music museum.
Picture of the traditional music performance we saw.
Here's a short clip of some of the music we heard.
Ready for my lesson!

Ready to learn to drum.

The largest drum in the world.
Even the Guinness Book of World Records agrees.

Statue of Park Yeon.

Danielle and I with Park Yeon.

The birthplace of Park Yeon.

The birthplace of Park Yeon.

The birthplace of Park Yeon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hiroshima, Japan

I spontaneously decided to take a day trip to Hiroshima once I learned it was only about two hours away from Kyoto on the fast train. I felt that the history of the atomic bomb would be more interesting than just exploring temples for two days in a row in Kyoto. The park was located by a river, around the husk of the A-Bomb dome.

This is the A-bomb Dome. It used to be known as Industrial Promotion Hall, and is the only building to be left standing after the blast. Many people wanted the ruins to be torn down, but it was finally decided that it would remain to remind people of the horrors of the day the bomb was dropped. The park itself is beautiful. It is lush with vegetation, which is a testament to both the resilience of the land and the Japanese people. After the bomb was dropped, it was rumored that nothing would grow for 75 years. That has been proven incorrect, and it is a point of pride.

Colorful paper cranes have become a symbol for peace in Hiroshima. Students and citizens around the world ship folded cranes to Hiroshima as a way to promote peace. A lot of them were hung on the Children's Peace Monument, which was constructed to honor children who died as a result of the bombing. The monument itself is of a girl with outstretched arms, holding a paper crane. It was based on Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of leukemia due to exposure to radiation.

Children's Peace Monument.

This is the Peace Bell.
People ring it to show they wish for peace.

The Memorial Cenotaph.
The cenotaph is located in the center of the park, and holds the names of all of the victims of the A-Bomb. If you look through the center, it frames the Peace Flame and A-Bomb Dome. The arch represents a shelter for the souls of the victims. It was one of the first memorials to be built. It carries an epitaph, which means "please rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil". There is a special plaque that tries to eliminate any offense people might feel from the phrasing that states, "The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on the behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima -- enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace". From everything I saw at the park and the accompanying museum, there is no blame or prejudiced with the monuments; the only motive that is clear is the promotion of world peace. 

Letters of protest to leaders of countries that are seeking nuclear weapons.

Pleas for peace and to desist in attaining nuclear weapons. Addressed to North Korea and America.

A model of the Peace Park before the bombing...

What the Peace Park looked like after the bombing.
An astounding and moving difference.

There was also a museum in the Peace Park. It had stunning photographs and stories throughout. The images and information was haunting.

Burns of survivors of the blast.

You can still see the shadow of where a man was vaporized on these steps.

Some of the many cranes that Sadako folded as she was dying.
Some were so small, she used pins to fold them.
The story of Sadako Sasaki is a very sad, yet interesting one. She was only two when she was exposed to the radiation of the A-Bomb, and she seemed to suffer no ill effects from the bomb. Nine years later, she fell ill and she was diagnosed with leukemia. Many people believe that if one folds 1,000 paper cranes, their wish will be granted. Sadako believed this, and she folded cranes throughout the entire time she was ill thinking it would cure her. The cranes are now one of the core symbols for peace that you can see in the park.

After seeing the park and the A-bomb museum, I journeyed to Hiroshima Castle, aka Rijo Castle, aka  Carp Castle because of the many fish that decorated the roofs. The original castle was completely destroyed by the bomb, but some of it has been rebuilt. Only three trees survived--a eucalyptus, a willow and a holly. These trees are still alive and thriving, and look a little worse for wear. Some stone foundations remain as well. Castles in Japan aren't just one building, but were rather entire villages or towns when shoguns were in power. There are many different buildings and things to see, and this castle was no exception.

Copies of the carp that the castle was known for.

A-bombed willow tree.

Hiroshima Castle.
Samurai gear.

View from the top of the castle.
View from the top of the castle.