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Published: September 14th 2012
Yesterday I saw the mock up of a traditional village, today I saw the real thing, Hahoe Village. Actually inhabited by actual people - not that you would know it because they were all either out at work or inside out of the heat!
Anyway, the village was roughly circular and every building was the traditional wooden Korean hut, with either thatched roofs (for the plebs) or tiled (for the VIPs). The village is famous in Korea as the birthplace of the Ryu family which spawned a celebrated Confucian scholar and a government minister - in the 16th Century. Never say a good deed goes unremembered here.
More recently, the village has been designated a cultural treasure by UNESCO.
I was slightly frustrated that the few public buildings (such as the formal residences of the Ryu family) were mostly closed and empty. We could stand outside and look but not really nose around and see what these houses look and feel like from inside. I suppose for that I will have to wait until later in my trip when I actually stay in one.
I was tickled, though, by the fact that, just because the residents of
tiles for the aristos
Hahoe Village live in traditional houses does not mean that they must forgo all mod cons. I saw ye olde automobiles and ye olde TV aerials sticking decorously out of 500 year old buildings. No satellite dishes, though, so maybe UNESCO draws the line somewhere!
The visit to the village also taught me that there are other foreigners in Andong - three of them, in fact. I teamed up with a Swiss German called Roger and brushed up on my German. He was dead set on seeing the small Confucian Academy, Byeongsan Seowon, just to the South of the village. So we set off along the Scholar's Path, which rose steeply at first (for about 0.5km) which had no effect whatsoever on Roger (clearly part mountain goat) but left me... well, less composed. Hmmm.
The views though (when I got my breath back) were stunning (and the rest was downhill), so we got to the academy in good time. It was a pretty place, nestled between the mountains and the River Nakdong, although I fail to see quite how it managed to accommodate the 200 men it claimed to. Nevermind, Roger and I espoused the tradition of peace
thatch for the plebs
and reflection of the place and manfully (or womanfully in my case) tried to block out the godawful clanging and bashing sounds the builders were making as they erected metal scaffolding around one of the buildings earmarked for restoration.
We cadged a lift from a lovely Korean couple (whose baby's eyes were out on saucers just looking at the pair of blue eyed weirdos in front of him) back to the village and caught the bus back into town. Roger was due to move on the next day and our planned meeting time for dinner went slightly awry - still not sure what happened there, oh well - so I went in search of the famous Andong chicken stew, or Jjimdak.
I found a restaurant that served it and asked for a table for 1. The family running the restaurant looked alarmed, and quickly dredged up an English speaker (of sorts) who checked did I really mean one person? To eat in? To eat Jjimdak? I confirmed my intent and they, reluctantly, let me in. I took this for the normal Korean reluctance to see a person eating alone - their food is traditionally for sharing and meals
are a social experience - until I saw the size of the Jjimdak serving.
Take your standard plate, say 25cm in diameter. Triple it. Then add about 4cm depth. One serving. No "small" option.
The only other diners were groups of three men sharing - which I reckon was about right for the size of the dish. Unusually, for Korean dining, there were no side dishes, such was the size of the dish. Now their reluctance became clear.
They were rather amused at my outright panic and promised to send me home with whatever I couldn't eat - which turned out to be about 4/5ths. In fairness, I was doing my best (helped by the fact that the stew was delicious and, for once, not too spicy at all) until the grandma decided that I should be given unidentified chicken parts (which I believe to have been boiled chicken feet and fried intestines) to sample. I swear she had an evil glint in her eye when she handed them to me - all I had observed to her was that the Jjimdak was delicious! The assorted chicken bits were also tasty, although the gristly, chewy texture left
something to be desired - sorry veggies, that's probably enough graphic detail!
I was sent home with smiles and a Newfoundland-sized doggy bag. At least I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow...
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