A direct ride on a subway from Seoul takes me to Suwon, some thirty kilometres south of the capital city. I get a map and additional information, take a bus to Paldalmun gate, where I start exploring. Paldalmun actually is the South Gate, a circular building with huge red doors, topped by a rectangular structure on top. Unfortunately, it is closed for visitors, and I have to admire it by walking around its base. Close to here is the start of the city wall, which, as the gentleman at the information booth has told me, is 5,74 km long. The wall was built in the 1790s, in preparing a move of capital from Seoul to Suwon, but in the end, this never materialized. Instead, the wall was seriously damaged in the Korean war. Thanks to good historic descriptions, the Koreans were able to restore much of it according to the original design, and it has become a World Heritage Site.
Heading west from Paldalmun Gate, the wall follows the rim of a hill, and I decide to walk alongside the wall on its outside, to better be able to see it from below. I walk up the steep hill, through a small park, past several bastions, until I reach the Seoammun Gate, where I get inside Hwaseong fortress again. I walk back to Seonamammun Gate, through which I reach Seonamichi Bastion. A wide walkway covered in snow leads to Seonamgakmu Pavilion at the end of the bastion. Icicles hang from the colourful roof, and the views of the snow-covered trees around give it a distinct touch of winter. I walk back, along the wall, until Hyowon's Bell. After paying a nominal fee, I am entitled to ring the bell three times: one time for the health of my parents, the second for the harmony of my family, and the third for the fulfillment of my own dreams. I make sure to hit the bell hard with a heavy wooden swinging beam which has the bell resonating for a long time.
At only a short distance from the bell, I reach Seojangdae command post, which is also the highest point of the hills on which the western part of the wall is built. It has commanding views over the city, both the part surrounded by the city walls, as well as the much larger and more modern parts around it. I descend on the snowy stairs, past several bastions, until I reach the sturdy Hwaseomun Gate, with attached Seobuk Songsimdon observation tower. The floor is icy in parts, and I suddenly find myself lying on my back. I continue past Janganmun Gate to reach Hwahongmun Gate, which is a flood gate built over Suwoncheon Stream. I pass several elegant sentry posts painted in brightly colours, until I reach a circular observation tower, and yet another crossbow platform. Hwaseong fortress was well defended by its wall, but also through the various platforms from which archers could defend the city, while it has several secret gates for surprise attacks from within the fortress. Discovering the enormous fortress structure has taken much more time than anticipated, and I decide to complete the entire walk by making my way to Dongnamgaknu pavilion, which is just above the Namsumun Gate. I am just a few steps away from Paldalmun Gate again, and have thus completed my tour of the beautifully restored city wall.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Hwaseong fortress (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Hwaseong fortress.
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