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    Lunar New Year in Gyeongju

    Working at an international school is fun for many reasons, one of them including regional holidays off of work. Lunar New Year was the second week in February, and we traveled southeast with some friends to Gyeongju (경주). Lunar New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. Often, people travel from Seoul to their hometowns to spend time with extended family. Thanks to a friend, we were able to get standing room tickets on the KTX speed train. We left Saturday morning and two hours later arrived in Gyeongju!

    Gyeongju is an important historical city. It was the capital of the Silla kingdom which ruled about two-thirds of the peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Today, it’s no longer the capital, but a smaller city. There are many historical sites, which is a draw for tourists.

    Where We Stayed
    We rented an AirBnB cabin with two other couples. The owner, Minmook, was a wonderful host. He went above and beyond! He made multiple trips to pick us up and drop us off at the house, take us to a grocery store, and get us to the bus stop. He brought by fresh fruit on multiple nights. The guys got to chat with him and hear his interesting story. Minmook lived all over Korea, built the three houses on his property, and recently started a blueberry crop. Though the house is a little out of the way, we highly recommend it! (It’s an easy ₩5,000 taxi ride to the main bus stop and attractions.)


    Gyeongju sunset


    Gyeongju sunset with hanok roofs


    Boys grilling meat


    We tried Hwangnam bread, which is original to the region. The pastry is filled with a dense, sweet red-bean paste. It was first baked in 1939 and is now sold throughout Korea.


    Traditional Gyeongju bread - Hwangnam bread


    Korean fish and bowls


    This was the commons area where we cooked, ate, hung out, and enjoyed the firewood stove:


    Cabin stove and room


    The house had two bedrooms. One had a Western style bed, and the other room used the traditional Korean mattress pads called a yo. David and I stayed in the mini-living room and also used a yo. The bedroom areas had ondol heated floors, which made for some cozy sleeping:


    Sleeping floor mats


    One day, we visited Bulguksa Temple (불국사), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission cost ₩5,000 for adults.


    Travel friends


    Bulguksa walkway


    Iron dragon door knockers


    Bulguksa Hanok roof


    Bulguksa Seokgatap tower


    Prayer rocks:


    Balanced prayer rock stacks


    I found a cross!


    Bulguksa cross detail


    Bulguksa architecture and roofs


    Bulguksa Hanok roof


    Child with a bird water pipe


    The next day, we decided to hike to the Seokguram Bell Pavilion, which we could see in the distance from our house. We went way off the beaten path and walked up and down some major hills. My phone said we climbed 155 flights! We also took a wrong turn so our hike ended up being over five miles. But we enjoyed the company, sunshine, and fresh air. When we got to the bell, we only stayed five minutes because we saw the bus and didn’t want to wait another hour to get back into town.


    Hiking buddies - selfie in mirror


    Seongdeok stucture


    Ringing the Seongdeok bell


    Though there was a lot more we could have seen in and around town, our weekend was perfect. It was a relaxing retreat to be outside the city.
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    Roman Ruins in Ankara

    After Mom returned from her Seven Churches tour, we took her to Ulus, a neighborhood of Ankara. One of our friends told us about some Roman ruins, and we wanted to see them for ourselves.

    Ankara was one of the cities along the Roman road. Emperor Julianus (Julian) visited Ankara (then called Ancyra) in 362 AD. Whoever was living in this area at the time built a column in his honor and it stands today.


    Julianus Column plaque


    Julianus Column


    When walking up the hill from the Atatürk statue, you can see some of the Roman road to the left along with some broken columns. Another section of the road has been preserved, but it is difficult to see it beneath the dirty glass. The Roman road display is across the street to the right of the column (if you’re looking at it from this angle). The road was discovered in 1995.


    Julianus Column


    Not far from the column is the Temple of Augustus. It is also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum and was built between 25 BC – 20 BC following the conquest of Central Anatolia by the Roman Empire and the formation of the Roman province of Galatia [source].


    Temple of Augustus sign


    The building was first a pagan temple around 20–25 BC. During the 4th or 5th century, the temple was used as a Byzantine Christian church. Today, the temple is connected to the Hacı Bayram Camii (mosque).


    Temple of Augustus


    Temple of Augustus side


    This temple holds major historical significance. Inscribed on the walls are a speech listing the acts of Emperor Augustus. The outside of the temple has Augustus’ speech written in Greek and the interior has the speech written in Latin. These inscriptions are the primary surviving source of the speech. The acts of Augustus include several censuses (Chapter 8.1), which may include the one that made Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. –Luke 2:1


    List of Augustus' Accomplishments


    Temple of Augustus wall




    Temple of Augustus in Ankara


    I love how you can always find something new (…or old?) in Turkey. We’ve visited Ulus many times and never knew we were walking by such history. We love touring other places, but sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own city!