When asked to describe my experience in Korea, I always remember the night I spent at the Seoul Fortress Wall. During this trip I got to appreciate not only the beauty but the serenity that can be experienced at the heights of Seoul.
The first time I encountered Seoul Fortress Wall was during our trip to Namsan Tower. As my friends and I were admiring the flashing lights of Seoul’s skyline, we noticed a lit up wall on a mountain in our distant view. As a group of foreigners only in our first weeks of experiencing Korea, we decided it would be a great idea to watch the sunset next to the wall. Thus, our venture for the Seoul Fortress Wall started.
The more we looked into this trip, the more we learned about Seoul’s history. Fellow foreigners either had no knowledge that this wall even existed or retold the story of the wall being a border between the rich and the poor residents of Seoul, hundreds of years ago. After doing some research we found out that Seoul Fortress Wall was constructed in 1396 in order to protect the city from invaders. Currently there are 6 trails along the wall, 3 of which are available 24 hours.
For our nightly adventure, we chose the Naksan mountain trail, which traces the lowest mountain of the four inner mountains of Seoul. The Naksan trail is about 2.1km long and can be finished in about an hour, which seemed like the perfect choice for a light hike in the middle of the night.
Due to the subways running only until 12pm we ended up there pretty early, thus we decided to explore the surrounding area. Due to our lack of Korean language skills we could not find a restaurant that would be open all night on a Thursday, therefore we ended up resting in a lovely unknown area next to what seemed to be a stream. A few curious Korean elders joined us and kept us company for a bit. What surprised us was how safe we felt in the middle of the night in a completely foreign city.
By 3am we were already on top of Naksan Mountain. There were traditional resting places, which some of my friends appreciated as they took a quick nap and the rest of us walked and enjoyed the view of a city that never sleeps. The most bizarre and surprising thing about the night was the increasing numbers of elderly showing up to work out next to the wall. By 5am we were surrounded by at least 10 elders working out next to the wall and sending curious glances to the foreigners bundled up on the ground in such early hours.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the actual sunrise due to the pollution surrounding Seoul. However, we did get to experience a different side of Seoul-quiet, peaceful but still ever so lively at any time of the night. Because of this I believe that this night is a great example of our experience in Korea in general. We are continuously roaming a foreign land with no concise knowledge but every time we travel we encounter different sides of Korea that never fail to amaze us. Though this night may have not been our most exciting, it definitely was one of the most memorable in Korea.