Friday, January 22, 2016

Namimaids and Warming Snowmen

This past weekend, I braved the cold temperatures with a meetup group and headed over to Nami Island. Located 63 km from Seoul, this tiny island with an area of 460,000 sq km is a popular tourist destination. After the airing of the 2002 Korean drama Winter Sonata, many fans flocked to this island to see the filming location. 
After taking a short ferry across the Han River, one of the first things I saw was the "namimaid," the island's famous statue clad in a winter outfit. Behind her were frozen waterspout fountains.

I enjoyed walking on the lanes through the island. This one was rather quiet. Most people seemed to be more concentrated around the interior areas, particularly the shops and cafés. With gingko trees and gardens, it must be quite pretty in the fall and spring.
Thousands of trees were planted by Mr. Byeong-Do Minn, who purchased the island in the 1960s for the purpose of transforming it into a recreational site. Now, the metasequoias are 40 meters tall.
In 2006, Nami Island declared its cultural independence from South Korea, renaming itself the Naminara Republic. It has its own flag, national anthem, and even some chunky looking currency with a square hole in the middle (Korean won still readily accepted though). For a 15,000 won, you could buy a passport, or you could have your "real" passport stamped. 

On this chilly day, keeping warm was on many people's minds. After walking around for a while after a lunch at of the island's several restaurants, we entered a café for a hot drink and a chance to warm up. These people joined the snowman and dog who had already been warming their paws/hands at the fire. Despite cold hands, the cell phones were still out and active. I kept my gloved hands in my jacket pockets when possible, warmed by some excellent army-grade warmer packets purchased at one of the shops. Gotta get me some more of those - it was still generating heat 18 hours later!

Wintry-themed mosaic fountain

One of the island's attractions are the ostriches. They felt a bit out of place in the wintry scene.
The island is also home to deer, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, and birds, but none of these were seen on this cold day.

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