Known for its solid economy, astounding social insurance and abnormal amounts of reported satisfaction, Denmark appears to offer the guarantee of a superior life. However, fulfillment with life is not uniformly spread out around the nation, The Local reported.
Numerous Southerners may not understand 10 of the country’s 59 national parks are right here in our terrace. Whether it’s the sprawling desert of Big Bend in Texas to the rich woodlands of Shenandoah in Virginia, the South is home to (what we believe are) a portion of the best national parks around. That, as well as a portion of the most established ones are here, as well. Truth be told, Hot Springs Reservation in Arkansas was built up in 1832—40 years before even Yellowstone was authoritatively assigned a national park. So to pay tribute to 100 years of the National Park Service, here are five reasons why we think you ought to pencil in a weekend at a national park—and soon.
It’s transpired of us. You’re cruising down the roadway with the windows moved down—well into the ideal street trip—just to understand your gas light is on. You instantly freeze about regardless of whether your auto is going to stagger to a sudden end.
I boarded the dawn train to Gangwon Province just before midnight, envisioning that it would be brimming with forlorn individuals looking for the comfort of the mountains and the interminable blue ocean. In spite of the fact that Gangwon is just a couple of hours east of Seoul, it is a different universe. It contains Seoraksan National Park, darling for its sensational pinnacles, profound valleys, and unparalleled pre-winter foliage. In any case, up to this point, Gangwon was one of South Korea’s most misleading areas. Folktales proliferate about agriculturists being eaten up by tigers. In the nineteenth century, marauders were known not voyagers hostage. As late as the 1980s, transports made the nightly news by tumbling off bluffs.
Today, the roads are much improved, and the area has become more accessible. Visits increased after 2004, when the South Korean workweek was legally changed from six days to five, allowing city dwellers to seek out nature with the same fervor that they devote to company culture. Many South Koreans see wild places like Seoraksan as a remedy for burnout and an antidote to the modernization that has transformed the country over the past five decades. In Seoul, there’s even a trend of camping-themed cafés, complete with tents and picnic tables, simulating the outdoors for those unable to leave town. Koreans commit themselves as intensely to nature as they do to every other aspect of life—eating, drinking, working, loving. The Italians of the East, some call them.
The sunrise train is a decidedly South Korean invention: it leaves Seoul in the dark of night and arrives in the coastal city of Gangneung in time for passengers to sit on a long, golden beach called Jeongdongjin and watch the dawn lighten the East Sea. I’d heard about it from a cousin, who had taken the train as a melancholy student, worried about passing his college entrance exams. After an intense period of work, I was melancholy, too, and like so many South Koreans, I turned to the outdoors for spiritual nourishment.
I was surprised to find my car full of cheerful couples, mothers and daughters, and groups of hikers dressed as if ready for Mount Everest. Few seemed interested in sleep. Teenagers whispered as they watched movies on their cell phones. In the old-fashioned dining car, an elderly couple drank soda. I bought snacks of fried tofu chips and walnut-and-red-bean pastries and listened to a low buzz coming from the miniature karaoke room. When the door opened, five teenage boys spilled out of a space meant for two.
When we reached Jeongdongjin, salty sea air filled my lungs. I trailed a tidal wave of college students, including one with a football player’s build who had wrapped himself in a pink Hello Kitty blanket. These veterans of night trains had come prepared to greet the sun, armed with snacks, fuzzy blankets, and plastic mats. Kids set off fireworks that cut through the mist, then stopped to watch the sea turn from green to blue to coral until the rocks and cliffs began to lose their mysterious mermaid and monster shapes. A soldier appeared suddenly to my left, reminding me that I was not only in one of the most beautiful places in South Korea but also just a short boat ride from North Korea. He propped a leg on a rock and gazed at the sunrise that was now a riot of orange and russet. In the distance, dozens more soldiers marched in the mist.
Later, I found myself behind a truckload of young men in uniform, many probably college students fulfilling their service requirement. I asked Mr. Choi, my driver, about the military presence in the area.
“Soldiers?” he replied. “All we have are soldiers! They come here most mornings as part of their guard duty.”
Amid the surreal beauty, I began to notice camouflaged guard posts, evidence of a land divided by history for more than 60 years. South Korea is best known for its information technology and pop culture, but the coast of Gangwon province is a reminder of the country’s complicated past.
With a population of about 200,000, Gangneung is the largest coastal city in Gangwon province and a cultural center. Nestled among low mountains, lakes, and shoreline, it recalls an older, slower Korea. But unlike most provincial cities, it is growing, enticing refugees from Seoul with its natural beauty and more humane pace of life. Many traditional buildings remain, including a picturesque Confucian academy and an old city hall complex that has been converted into a library.
At the very heart of Gangneung is Seongyojang, a residence constructed for the Naebeon Lee noble family in the 18th century. Within its peaceful grounds is a blooming lotus pool with a wooden pavilion where aristocrats once came to write poetry, drink, and think. The building is a large hanok, a traditional Korean dwelling. With their signature curving, tiled roofs, these wood-and-clay buildings arranged around a central courtyard are designed to blend the indoors and outdoors. Each of the sliding mulberry-bark doors framed a hill fiery with fall colors.
I approached a more modest structure nearby where a 10th generation descendant of the Lee family lives part of the year. It was off-limits to visitors, but from the cordoned-off entrance I glimpsed a courtyard with dozens of the earthenware jars called onggi that store sauces and kimchi. Laundry hung from a clothesline, and the grounds were silent.
For all of its traditional customs, Gangneung is nonetheless moving into the future. New buildings have risen along its skyline in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics ice events, which will take place in nearby Pyeongchang. One is Richard Meier’s Seamarq Hotel, a modern edifice as brilliantly white as a house on a Greek island. The rooms drink in the light, the air, and the azure water. The building so closely hugs the East Sea that from my bed I felt as if I were floating into it.
At first the Seamarq seemed conspicuously modern, but I came to see in its clean, sleek lines and lack of extraneous decoration a relationship withhanok architecture. This became even more apparent when I strolled the grounds and discovered an annex called the Hoanjae suite, a stately modern hanok by Doojin Hwang Architects. Later, in the hotel basement, I found the remains of a fortress dating to the Silla dynasty, which ruled Korea in the first millennium. They had been unearthed during the hotel’s construction.
Chodang Sundubu Village, a cluster of tofu restaurants a five-minute drive from the Seamarq, is a stronghold of one of Gangwon province’s most distinctive delicacies. Many years ago, because salt was not readily available here, cooks seasoned the tofu with well water and seawater, giving it a rich but subtle flavor. Restaurants like Chodang Halmeoni Sundubu (which translates to “Granny Chodang’s Tofu Stew”) still prepare their hearty, humble sundubu in the same way. This being South Korea, where no meal is complete without alcohol, the dish comes with a house-made fermented corn beverage.
“Like so many South Koreans, I turned to the outdoors for spiritual nourishment.”
I was eager to head to the mountains and view Korean autumn at its apex. But one cannot visit Gangwon province without trying its seafood. At Jumunjin Fish Market, the largest on South Korea’s eastern coast, I sampled a fresh sashimi rice bowl and potato pancakes. Several locals recommended Unpa, a seaside restaurant near the Seamarq, where the most basic set meal consisted of fresh seaweed soup, crab, mackerel, sole, flounder, and a whole medley of sashimi. Each time I thought the feast had concluded, another dish arrived, as if in a procession of honored guests. The meal suggested a culture, so unlike the one I knew in Seoul, that was given to meandering conversations and leisurely contemplation. I felt I was among people who prefer to experience life rather than race through it.
On my last day on the coast, I walked to the end of the dock and saw the entire shoreline spread before me like a dream. I fantasized about quitting my job and moving into a house by the East Sea where I could live at the languid pace of the locals. But South Korea’s most famous national park beckoned, an hour to the north.