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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Spring – Finally

After what has seemed like a very long winter, Spring has finally decided to make its way here to the Korean Peninsula. And in short order. We only got a few dustings of snow this year, but most people here say it was the most since 2004/2005, the first year I came here. And indeed we had a couple of large snowstorms then, dropping 3-5 inches each time. This year, while no large snow storms hit, it has instead been one long cold front, interrupted only briefly by chilly rains.

Despite the lack of large snowstorms, it’s been chilly for months, near freezing each morning when I woke up and only getting reasonable during the afternoon. Just reasonable. One still needed a jacket even in the warmest part of the day, and while riding my bike I was still wearing heavy gloves and wool socks.

All that was just until this week. With the advent of April, spring has come to Korea, and it seems the plants were only waiting for a few days of warmth to burst forth from their wintery sleep. And burst forth they have. From what was just last week a bleak, grey ride along the river has now been turned into an explosion of pinks, whites and greens.

Just across the street from my apartment are a couple of cherry trees and magnolias. While they are pretty, they’re just a single instance of the multitude of blooms around the city. I don’t have the artistic ability to capture with my camera the glory of miles of river front park lined in delicate pink cherry blossoms and green bamboo, dappled with white magnolia.  You’ll have to take my word for it.  Entire playgrounds, nearly hidden and surrounded by armies of pink blossoms, swarm with young mothers whose colorfully clothed children were too small to walk the last time it was warm enough to play outside. Hillsides that were green in spots only from the evergreen trees are now carpeted in bright green new leaves.

I enjoy the spring, for there are phases of beauty here in Korea, each with it’s own grandeur. While the cherry blossoms rule this week and perhaps next, they’ll soon fall off, creating a blizzard of pink snowflakes and later, lush carpets of petals that have been gently pushed by the wind into drifts. Shortly thereafter, the azaleas will bloom, creating their own rivers of bright reds, pinks and purples along the thoroughfares. Even the spring Hwang-Sa has a colorful side as it leaves pale yellow dusty residue in its wake.

If you’re looking for something to do outdoors here in Korea, you needn’t look far.  Gyeongju is fabulously beautiful during the spring and throngs of people make there way there to enjoy the flower season. If you can, go there during the week to avoid the heaviest crowds. If you can’t and weekends are your only option, take a scooter as car traffic will be mostly at a standstill.  Eonyang is another fine choice as they’ll be having their annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  If you’ve no transportation of your own, buses to Eonyang are plentiful.  I’ll leave discovering which bus to take as an exercise to the reader. There will be a quiz tomorrow at 9am sharp.