Subway: Dongnimmun (Line 3)
Distance hiked: 3.40 km
My heart was beating as I started from the entrance of Inwangsan. Well, I was quite excited, but going there was a bit of an ascent. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell mountain from city street because of the similarly steep walkways. In Guksadang, the center of Korean shamanism, I hear voices and music inside the temple. Outside, there is a live chicken wrapped in rope and paper and fried fish on the front steps. I wonder if they will be used as a sacrifice? Perhaps for an exorcism? In spite of this, pigeons seem to quite love hanging out on the temple’s roof.
I make a little detour to Gijaam, a seonbawi (rock), where people pray when they wish to have a child. A few minutes’ walk leads me to a rock-carved Buddha. Indeed, I encounter several Buddhist practitioners along the way. After much walking, I finally make it to the fortress, where a big group of people are climbing, and there is no way I can get lost. The trail seems to take on forever, but finally I make it to the top. Soldiers mill about, as The Blue House where the president lives is within view. On my descent, a couple of well-dressed hikers agree to pose for me—Girl, those are awesome pants! Where d’ya get them? I finally find a quiet and unobserved spot to take some soil, then breathe a sigh of relief when I leave the mountain—my first military patrolled one. Oh Seoul, such a mix of emotions and experiences it yields, this mountain of yours.