Do you know that children’s song to the tune of “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow?”

The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see.

Namhansanseong-3Do you know what he would see in Korea? Nothing. It’s too hazy and smoggy and gross to see anything at all.

For months, Jared has been wanting to get a night picture of Seoul. We have been watching and waiting for the clear day that is necessary to make this picture happen. We have seen plenty of clear mornings, but by afternoon the visibility is low and we can’t even seen the mountains near our house. There have been a few clear nights, but those are the ones where we are not at home or Jared works too late to be able to get the right lighting. So, we keep waiting.

The other day we decided that regardless of that day’s haze, we would hike up our nearby mountain and scout out the best place to take the dreamed-of photograph. That way, when the sky clears, we will be able to instantly get to our spot. Dedication. So, we went over to Namhansanseong and began hiking along the wall. It’s been awhile since we hiked in Korea, and I forgot about all the steps. I’ll never complain about the US National Park trails’ constant switchbacks! However, the nonstop steps made me forget about the cold temperatures and kept me quite toasty.

The trail was really beautiful. The steps follow along the fortress wall and offer amazing views of the city below. There are signs along the way teaching about the different gates, command centers, and history of the fortress. One slip made us realize that our dirt path was actually solid ice with a little dirt on top. I was more aware of my foot placement after that! We wandered around until we found our photography spot. Even though we were there at sunset, the view was awful. We couldn’t even see Seoul tower and could barely make out the river.

Namhansanseong-4The smog makes it so ugly here. Even though I see it almost everyday, sometimes it still shocks me just how bad it is. The other day I was crossing the Han and could barely see the other side of the river. From what I’ve been told and have read in news articles, it is worse this winter than previous winters. Many people have been made sick by the smog. It’s causing eye irritations and breathing problems. The face masks favored by so many don’t do much good. They only provide protection for a limited amount of time before they become useless. (No, I haven’t tried one yet!)

We will keep watching for those clear days. They may be rare, but it’s breathtaking to see the city nestled into these mountains. It’s good for the soul…and the lungs.

If you’re interested in reading more (or seeing more pictures of the pollution), here are a few recent articles:

Toxic Haze Shows No Sign of Lifting
Toxic Smog From China Engulfs Korea
South Korea: Toxic Smog From China Has Increased Pollution Levels


One Comment

  1. Reply
    Amber 6 February, 2014

    The bottom photo is really cool. I love the lines in it and how it makes my eyes move all the way to the back of the pic and to the mountain range in the back.

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