Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gwangju and Hwasun Dolmen Site

Bob and I awoke to a beautiful fall morning in Gwangju, on Saturday, October 10, 2015.  We had arrived at the satisfactorily comfortable Firenze Hotel the previous evening, hungering for a good meal after a day of hiking on empty stomachs.  Bob was never happier to see an Outback Steakhouse just around the corner in his life!  There's just something so satisfying about a good 'ole meaty American restaurant when you need a hearty meal.


This was our home for two nights while we explored Jeollanam-do.  It was on the second evening that Bob and I  walked the streets of Gwangju, looking for something to eat, and discovered what a "Neon" city this was!  This was Korea, the way I remember it upon arriving in Geoge-do to stay with Stephanie, Ben, and Emma in November 2011.  (See here.)  We must have found a the most colorful street in Korea!  The video will reveal just a small sampling of what we saw.


After our amusing stroll through Gwangju, we stopped and enjoyed some yummy Dwaeji Galbi (Korean-Style Pork Ribs).  It was another satisfying meal, topped off with an ice cream bar purchased from the local CU (7-11's competitor here in Korea)!

But let me back up to that morning.  We drove about 45-minutes south to the UNESCO world heritage Hwasun Dolmen Site.  What is a dolmen you ask?  They are burial tombs which are actually found throughout the world.  But the largest concentration of them (35,000) are found in Korea, and only recently have they been located and excavated here.  Dolmen are of varying types, but typically consist of two or more megaliths (large stones) supporting a large flat capstone.  In the northern regions of Korea these structures are built above ground and look somewhat like a table.  In the south, however, they are generally more like a stone pit built into the ground and topped with a stone slab.  At Hwasun, about 596 of these ancient tombs were built 2,000-3,000 years ago. Numerous relics such as spindle whorls (flat disks with a hole in the center used in textile making), stone axes and arrowheads, iron knives, pottery and jade, have been found in these tombs.  A small "experience center" introduced us to the primitive lifestyle of the Baekje people.

We drove and walked through a beautifully landscaped valley full of stone quarries and dolmen.  At first glance, it appeared as if we were merely seeing stones that had tumbled from the hillside and haphazardly came to rest upon other rocks.  But upon closer inspection, we could see the engineering involved in creating these funeral monuments .

The Hwasun site features Pingmaebawi, a "Go-board" type dolmen which is the largest in the world,  It weighs over 200 tons, and has been engraved with a family name.  The surrounding area was quite beautiful and provided a lovely burial ground.

Scattered throughout the valley were nice little gardens and small Korean mound-style family burial plots.  This spurred me onto a photo-taking quest to capture more of these as we drove through rural Korea that afternoon.  My findings will be documented in the next post.

But let me warn you now, that when the day was done, my tolerant husband, Bob, was convinced that my obsession with burial plots was driving him to his grave! 

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