In general wintertime is not my favorite season to travel. However in Korea wintertime is pretty much different from winter in Europe. Less humidity and dry, and even though temperature can drop seriously the sky is always blue which makes me already happy when I get up in the morning. Digging in my memories about traveling in winter it brings me back to some years ago (2010) when we made a 4-day trip during the first week of January.
From Pyeongtaek station we headed southwards by train. We stayed overnight at Haeundae Beach in Busan and visited Haedong Yonggungsa temple in the morning. Next day we went to see Bulguksa temple in Gyeongju. Our last day was planned in Andong.
I had never been in Andong before, but it is said that you should visit it in order to see the `real Korea`. Queen Elisabeth II of England even visited Andong in 1999, so why not ? Andong is a centre of cultural and spiritual traditions. With only one remaining day before going back home we had to be selective among the many tourist attractions that Andong has to offer. So we decided to visit only Hahoe Maeul (하회마을 – folk village), Andong`s most famous tourist attraction. My interest in Korean masks was an extra motivation to go there.
In the morning we left the charming station of Gyeongju with the Mugunghwa train and almost two hours later we arrived at Andong station where we took the bus to Andong Hahoe Maeul.
From the middle of a crowdy city a bus took us to the countryside of Andong. Almost 40 minutes later we were dropped near the entrance of the Hahoe Mask Museum and Dance Park, which was unfortunately closed that day. So we walked to the entrance of the village, where we were happily welcomed by the many totem pole shaped trees and other wooden handicrafts.
We were nicely surprised to see all the well preserved houses. They date back to the 16th century (Joseon Dynasty) when they were built by the rich and influential Ryu family. The whole village still remains in a wonderful condition because it was never invaded. The reason is probably because the village is surrounded from three sides by the Hwacheon river, and the fact that the houses are still used by descendants of the original families. Many of the houses were already listed as national treasures before the whole village was recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage in 2010.
Hahoe Folk Village is exceptionally beautiful, not only because of the well preserved architectural concept of the Joseon dynasty but even more because of its amazing natural environment. Our special attention got caught by a magnificent shaped old tree, planted by Korean ancestors hundreds of years ago.
Especially at the end of the village near the riverside and the magnificent Buyongdae cliff the village boasts some wonderful sceneries. Old pine trees, beaches of soft sand, water and cliffs, this village has it all to find some peaceful moments in your life. No wonder Korean ancestors wanted to live here already centuries ago.
While walking between the clay walls we noticed that we were almost alone here. The freezing temperatures explained why. However, more people were found at the playground near the riverside. Among them many kids who were busy experiencing a traditional Korean swing.
My attention was drawn to the colorful 30 cm tall puppets on a string, miniatures of the figures used in the traditional Hahoe mask dance drama (하회별신굿탈놀이 – Hahoe Byeolsingut Ttal Nori), a satirical act dating back to Joseon dynasty. It was pity that we could`t watch a real mask dance performance, but that`s a good reason to come back again.
Despite the cold we loved the beautiful environment and blue sky ! We were thinking to enjoy sunset over the village but that would be too late to get on the last bus. So around 04.30 pm, after having spent almost five hours, we headed back to the entrance of the village. First we stopped by a small museum dedicated to the visit of Queen Elisabeth II of England in 1999. She must have had a remarkable 73 birthday anniversary here.
With a few other passengers we got back on the bus direction Andong railway station. It was already dark when we arrived at the station. Before we got on the train to Pyeongtaek we ate Andong Gangodeungeo (안동 간고등어 – salted mackerel), one of the many local delicacies at a traditional Korean style restaurant.
We had a very nice 3-day trip and a nice, peaceful last day at Andong Hahoe Folk Village.
In old days it must have been wonderful to live here. We regretted that we couldn`t stay longer to see more of Andong and try other Andong delicacies, but we promised ourselves to come back here to visit the yearly Andong Mask Festival which attracts many visitors from all over the world. Another event to look forward to.
Look here for more pictures of Andong Hahoe Folk Village : FLICKR/K-mood