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White Nostalgia in a Shower of Flowers

Posted April. 14, 2005 23:28,   


Though Late, There is No Spring Without Flowers Blooming-

Though the spring may come, it does not feel like it. No spring better fitted this saying than this year`s. The cherry blossom festival in the southern region had to close down even before the flowers fully bloomed, and Jinhae, the hometown of the cherry blossom festival, had to start its feast with a word of apology instead of actual flowers. Furthermore, news of flowers blooming in the southern part of Korea rushed in late at the beginning of the week and wandered sporadically across the country, producing a strange phenomenon where Hadong`s Ssanggyesa Temple and Seoul’s Yeouido simultaneously saw cherry blossoms in full bloom.

However, nature is what it is and submitting to it is life`s wisdom. Besides, knowing that this change is caused by human beings, the only creatures in the whole universe to go against nature, nature is surely not to blame. Thus, the correct response would be to receive quietly what is given. Though they may bloom late, flowers will bloom.

The Seomjin River in the south is beautiful every season of the year. The harmony of fine white sand and blue river is pleasant and the water flowing around generous Mt. Jiri`s range is peaceful. Gazing at the river, it feels like one’s angular nature, sharpened by the harshness of the city, is grounded to a smooth, gentle roundness. This thought might not just be mine.

I drove onto the Daejeon-Tongyeong Expressway, a road passing through the country`s center from north to south. The road is good for finding Mt. Jiri from the metropolitan area. Exiting at Jangsu Nadeulmok, I entered national road 19. I was going to drive to Hadong from Gurye through Namwon. It is a fantastic route which allows you to pass through Mt. Jiri`s Sansuyu village (Sandong-myeon, Gurye), the Seomjin River`s Plum Village (Daap-myeon, Gwangyang) and Ssanggyesa`s ten-li cherry blossom lane (Whagae-myun, Hadong).

However, there is one thing that people do not recognize. The cherry blossom lane of the Seomjin River in spring. The feeling you get when driving through the cherry-blossom-covered riverside road, white as a tree covered in snow, on a warm afternoon is the best way to experience the spring atmosphere.

The Seomjin River shows itself on the right just before you enter Tojihyeon after Sandong, Masan, and Gwangui-myeon. Immediately afterward, a huge arch bridge (Namdo Bridge) is seen and from then on you’re in Hadong, Gyeongnam. Take the left valley road (1023 country road) around the old Hwagae Market in front of the bridge. The road that forms a flower tunnel with fully bloomed cherry blossom trees following the Hwagae stream is the "ten-li cherry blossom lane," which extends to Ssanggyesa Temple.

Crossing the bridge (Shincheon Bridge) in front of the temple, follow the opposite road. Here cherry blossoms line the lane, too. Passing Hwagae Market, the Namdo Bridge comes into view. Cross the Seomjin River and go to Gurye on the opposite. At the end of the bridge, you come to local route 861, which, like the no. 19 national road, runs along the Seomjin River. It connects Gurye and Gwangyang.

Tunnel-Forming Cherry Blossom Lane, a Fantastic Drive Course-

At the three-way junction, turn right and head towards Gurye. Unlike national road 19, it is quiet without much traffic. As the flower trees are planted along the road, it is perfect for cherry blossom sightseeing. However, it is early for admiration. A little further on, you can drive along the Seomjin River with the flowers as your friend. It starts from the Daepyeong village three-way junction. Turning right, you come once more onto local route 861 toward Muncheok Seoseong Rock.

This riverside is a habitat for otters. Passing the sign, the road turns into a cherry blossom lane that blooms later than Hadong. To the right, there is the clear Seomjin River and to the front, there is a tunnel made by white cherry blossom trees. To Seoseong Rock by way of Osan from Daepyeong village is 9.5km.

Stopping at the three-way junction, where a huge tree several hundreds of years old forms a pavilion, an old house called Obongjeongsa is seen surrounded by a fenced garden full of cherry blossoms. It is where the chivalrous scholar Im Hyeon-ju, who raised an army in Namwon following his teacher Myeonam Choi Ik-hyeon, taught just before Japanese colonization. The spring atmosphere emanating from the old house smells sweet.

The cherry blossom lane of on the Seomjin riverside ends at Seoseongam. However, do not be disappointed. Follow the narrow village lane to cross the bridge and go to Gurye, then take the no. 17 national road and drive to Gokseong. You can enjoy driving with the Seomjin River again.

Good Restaurants-

Ggeomeok Pig Sundae`s sundae soup (4000 won) and makchang sundae (6000won) are made from Mt. Jiri`s black pigs and so have a light taste. It is located in Jang-gun Rest Area (063-353-6002~3, towards Beonam-myeon Namwon City) at the Nonsil three-way junction on national road 19.

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com