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Published: September 14th 2012
Apparently the longest wooden bridge in Korea
Andong is a small town (or glorified village) about 4 hours South of Seoul by train. Famous for: mountains, salted mackerel, one Confucian Academy and a chicken stew dish called Jjimdak.
The town itself is unprepossessing, being small and subject to quite a few building works - although, unlike in the UK where such works are surrounded by six foot metal fences (even where there does not appear to be any work actually going on) in Andong, maybe in Korea in general, the general public is permitted to wander on, over and through the building site with relative impunity (although I kept my distance from the CAT digger).
After settling in to my motel (I decided I wanted my own room and bathroom and aircon that worked, all of which I got, although not quite at what I might term "luxury" - well, unless you were a (fortunately, small) cockroach) I decided to take a bus East of the town where there is a reconstruction of a folk village (which I wasn't interested in, as I had plans to see the real thing the next day) and a folk museum, which I was interested in.
The bus driver
duly dropped me at the side of the river Nakdong, which winds its way around Andong, and I passed over a pretty wooden bridge (apparently the longest in Korea) to the village and - when I found it - the museum. There is part of the village that looks like a mini walled city and is apparently frequently used for filming. Indeed, I saw likely bits of painted polystyrene lying around, so I am inclined to believe the guide pamphlet.
The museum was small but highly enlightening, since it actually gave some explanations, rather than just stating bare facts and leaving the visitor to sift through to find meaning. One explanation was that fertility was a crucial concern in traditional Korean families and men and women would engage in lots of rituals to ensure that they bore children (preferably a son, to inherit, to move the family up in the world and also - more self-interestedly - because the son would stay at home and look after his parents in old age, whereas the daughter would move in with her husband and look after her in-laws instead.
One of the rituals displayed at the museum, was of a
Fake Folk Village
... but still pretty
woman kneeling in prayer before a phallus shaped rock. I had myself been innocently kneeling down to read the teeny-tiny English translation for quite some time without really looking at the display, before realising that that was what it was, and what my close scrutiny could be taken for...
Moving on, I discovered why ducks were shown at the marriage ceremony in the traditional play I went to see - apparently wooden ducks or wild geese were a symbol of a happy couple, and the bride would offer a duck to the groom at the wedding.
Apparently Andong is also famous for masked performances, part of Korean's theatrical traditions. There is even a festival, but sadly it starts on the last Friday in September, when I will be back in the UK. Oh well, next time, perhaps?
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