Namsan Park, Namsangol Hanok Village, Seoul Lantern Festival

19 000 steps has resulted in many beautiful pictures. But they are not as pretty as the real thing was, obviously. We did three things today. Namsan Park (where N Seoul Tower stands on top of the peak), Namsangol Hanok Village (a village down below the park with old traditional Korean buildings) and Seoul’s 10th anniversary Lantern Festival.

NAMSAN PARK

Today was very smoggy, so we decided not to go up in the N Seoul Tower today, it would have been a waste of time and money because we wouldn’t be able to see anything. So we just walked around the park among the amazingly and unbeliavable trees. How can trees even have that color??


Many stairs to walk up to the tower.
There is a cable car going all the way up. But where’s the fun in that?
N Seoul Tower at the top of the mountain.
Locks of love. Ridiculously many.
We managed to catch these guys ceremoniously lighting one of the beacons.
These trees were insane!! Nature is not supposed to be that intense! I couldn’t stop looking at them, or taking pictures of them for that matter.
No filters, I promise!
We quickly checked out the N Seoul Tower Plaza where they showed off some amazing 3D screens and other cool stuff. Lots of restaurants. We picked a Japanese one and it was so delicious!
Not all trees are beautiful. Fall is here too.
There are so many outdoor gyms here!
The National Theater of Korea. Very ugly from the backside.

Some branches even contained both red and green leaves!
Or this tree that looked like a stop sign.
A very old, and special in some way that I can’t remember, archery field. That distance was looong.
We found a squirrel! Does that bring good luck? 

We walked in the red clay containing far-infrared radiation that cleanses toxins and is supposed to be good for blood circulation. Our feet weren’t as tired after when we put on our shoes again. But that could have been because of the ice cold foot shower we took.

 

NAMSANGOL HANOK VILLAGE

This village consisted of several homes from the early 1900s. Most of them were moved there from other places in the city and one was constructed anew because the original was to frail to move. Although they had constructed it very detailed and even made the ground as uneven as in the original spot. There, in that park, was also the Time Capsule that the city of Seoul buried in 1994, on its 600th birthday, leaving instructions for the inhabitants living of Seoul on its 1000th anniversary to open. It was a huge monument that contained 600 papers describing Korea’s history.


While we were in the village, all the phones of everyone there started beeping. Security alert: extreme! it said. And the rest only in Korean. Thank Google for the camera function in Translate. Apparently the smog will be really bad tomorrow. Felix told us yesterday that most of the smog actually comes from China, but still, all the cars with even numbers at the end of their registration will have to leave it at home tomorrow. We also used this app to learn what other signs said, for example, there was one in the park asking us to not pick up acorns, but to leave them to the squirrels. They are nice to animal life here. In Namsan Park they had similar signs but for stray cats living there. They fed them and everything.
Koreans way back were short.

 

Seoul’s 10th anniversary Lantern Festival

This was such a cute festival! There is a road in Seoul, Cheonggyecheon, that they redid in 2005. A river has always been there and used by the people, but it turned bad, unsanitary and with non-permanent buildings and such, so they made it all better and wow, it is so pretty there! I don’t know what it looked like before, but it is really pretty now. Cars are on normal level, and you have to walk down stairs to get to the water. Nice sidewalks on both sides, trees and lights and it felt very safe to go under the big car bridges. Such a pretty place. The lanterns were put in the water and there were so many of them. One part was about history and tradition, one was about dreams and passions and one about the future.Cheonggyecheon


This, is something that really confuses me. Asians don’t take pictures of things, they take pictures of themselves infront of things. Always making weird things. At one point in the Namsan Park, I got angry looks at me for walking, but seriously, three people were standing on one side of the road, each holding leaves, with their partner standing on the other side of the road taking the picture. What is the deal? What’s the purpose of always being the center of a photo? Why take a photo in front of a pretty lantern? The light from the lantern will make the person invisible and you can’t see the lantern. So why? It must be a cultural thing, but I have never really thought about it until now, when everyone is Asian.
Christmas decorations outside a Lotte Department Store. Oh, that’s another weird thing that I don’t really understand and honestly finds a bit creepy. There is this company, Lotte, which basically owns half the city. Buildings, stores, food distributions. It’s scary. They control everything. They are not as big as Samsung, but Samsung is global, Lotte is only Korean.
This is the street (Myeong-Dong) we walked along yesterday, during daylight. A completely street during the night. Stands selling food, millions and millions of people. I got a honey rice pancake as dessert. Real yummy!

First day in Seoul: Myeong-Dong & Korean BBQ

This has been such a long day. Traveling with the timezones is the worst. Especially since it is almost impossible to sleep on the airplane. I have basically been awake sinve 4am on Sunday (it is now 1pm Monday in Sweden, 9pm here in South Korea).

We had a layover in Paris, had breakfast and took off 4 hours later. The flight to Seoul was 10h, but went by surprisingly fast. I watched two movies, read a lot and tried to sleep, not sure if I was successful or not.

8am, local time, we arrived and everything went really smoothly since then. Koreans generally don’t speak English very well, so I guess that’s why all their signs are translated to English? It is very easy to know where to go, just follow the signs, which are also better than pretty much anywhere I have ever been.

We took a bus from the airport to the hotel, or actually it is a hostel, Starria Hostel. But mom and I have our own room, our own bathroom and they serve breakfast, so it doesn’t really feel like a hostel. Oh, the bathroom… It is like they put a shower in the room inside glass walls and installed a sink and a toilet inside it. I haven’t tried it yet, but it feels like a very bad solution. Everything will be wet!

Today was all about coming here, no plans, just doing what we felt like. While waiting for check-in at 2pm, we walked around in Myeong-Dong, a big shopping district right where we are staying. So loud, so many people, even on a normal Monday. I have had a constant headache today, probably because of lack of sleep, so all the noises were more annoying than interesting. We had lunch and we learned that this country is not cheap. But good food though! We have a long list of recommendations from back home.

Once we checked in, we decided to take a nap, 2 hours of sleep was heavenly before meeting up with my brother. We took a taxi to where he is living, in Sichon, where we had Korean BBQ. 1kg of pork, barbecued right on our table. No carbs (which Felix told us Koreans barely eat, I guess they do LCHF), kimchi and other salads on the side. Small portions of it put inside a lettuce leaf called Ssam. They are only available here in Korea, no export because the Koreans need them all for this wrap-dish. One-bite-sized to not spill. Apparently it is very romantic to prepare on of these and give to your partner.

Felix also showed us what to drink with this. Somaek (abbreviation of Soju and maekju) is a shot of Soju, a traditional Korean clean alcoholic beverage that kind of reminds me of a weaker type of Vodka, made of rice, and beer. I tried it, and it wasn’t as bad as beer itself, but I was way too tired and had too much headache to drink the whole thing.

He told us many interesting things, like for example that 98% of everyone in Seoul are Koreans (no wonder I felt really out of place, we barely saw any other people today). The rest I think I alraedy forgot. I am tired :). Even with a hard bed, I think I will sleep like a rock tonight.
I think we might not have been allowed to fly over North Korea.


Myeong-Dong cathedral. Did you know that South Korea is a mostly Christian country?
This is probably the prettiest tree I will ever see in my whole life!
Fall is really here and I can’t wait to go to parks and see more of these beautiful colors.
The street we live on. RIght above the Namsan park and N Seoul Tower.
The shower with installed toilet and sink.
I honestly want to see what this looks like during rush hour. I will most likely hate myself if I ever go and see it.

Review of “Only Human” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Published: 2018, Del Ray
My Grade: 3 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.

MY REVIEW

5, 4, 3. That’s my judgement of how these books unfortunately went. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three books, but the first was by far the best, the second was slightly less sharp and the third was promising until the end that made the whole book kind of feel a bit unneccessary and very flat. Let me explain why.

If you haven’t read the first two, then here comes spoilers, but I can’t really write this review without it since all the books are connected. The second book ended with the main characters ending up on the planet whose inhabitants created Themis, the Ekts. Super cool. I love other people’s fantasies on how different planets might look. It is somehow different than fantasy where it kind of feels like it is Earth, just another version of it. I loved Esat Ekt and how Neuvel managed to describe the world and the people in depth through files, mostly conversation logs between the characters.

The book starts with the characters coming back to Earth and every chapters now and then was to look back at what had happened there. Sure, it was smart and kept it interesting, but I also think that it would have been better to have put the focus on Esat Ekt and only written a small part of what happened back on Earth after, in normal and logical chronologial order. And the ending should also be completely different. No, wait, I changed my mind. It should be as it is, it is clever. But the ending should have been different! More interesting and not so flat. It was almost anti-climactic. Siri Pettersen had a gigantic cliffhanger at the end of her Raven Rings trilogy, that exact ending would have worked perfectly here too. Just saying.

Even though I mostly wrote about the flaws now, it is a good book and I really enjoyed reading it as well. But when compared to the two prequels, it just doesn’t feel right to give it a higher grade than 3.

Review of “Waking Gods” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Waking Gods
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #2
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 325
Published: 2017, Del Ray
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

MY REVIEW

After the cliffhanger in Sleeping Giants I couldn’t wait and picked up the second book in the Themis Files trilogy right away. Waking Gods is written in the same way as Sleeping Giants, in interview form. But I have to admit, that it was harder to follow the story in this one, there were more logs than interviews and it was hard to understand exactly what was going on when the characters talked into a mic during the action-packed event. And also when several people were involved in one recording. Like who said what exactly? Not that it actually matters, because you get the idea anyway. I think I am just used to everything being super clear in “normal” books with detailed descriptions and who says what. But to understand what is going on, that is actually not needed and Neuvel proves that very well.

In the first book, you were always sitting on the edge of your reading place, you had no idea what was going to happen, and it took so many surprising turns. The second was more action-packed. Instead of getting previous events explained through interviews, you were there and were told through recorded mission logs. I think I preferred the interviews. But I also see why the author chose to do it. Not gonna spoil it, I promise.

The ending, and I mean the very very last sentence. Extreme cliffhanger! But I had figured that out a long time ago and wasn’t as surprised or dropped my jaw like in the first one. Still, hell of a cliffhanger!

So, lots of action, long time jumps, many deaths, not as many interviews equals to a grade of 4.

Review of “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Published: 2016, Del Ray
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

MY REVIEW

Wow! It has been a long time since I felt like I couldn’t put down a book. Five days to finish a book is fast for me nowadays. And I wanted to pick up the second one right away. And I would have, had I not had a tournament just starting. The ending made me literally sitting with my mouth open on the tram on my way to the tournament. I had been thinking that that could not have truly happened, but at the very end, the epilogue, I was still surprised out of my mind at the revelation. I had been thinking how I should read another book inbetween, but after that ending (and frankly the whole book), I am definitely not. I cannot!

Okay, so I guess I have to explain the crystal clear 5 I gave it. First of all, this is no ordinary book. Like The Illuminae Files, it is written completely from a documentation perspective. Mostly interviews, but also journals and logs of different kinds. Mostly interviews. Very interesting way to write and Neuvel really manages to get the reader to see everything. Isn’t that insane? That just through dialogues, you get a really good idea of what the characters are like and how the environments look like? It’s impressive and Neuvel really does it. And speaking of characters, my complete favorite is the interviewer who you don’t really know anything about. He is so interesting and I can’t wait to find out who he is! He is serious, always use the right words, and fancy ones, well-educated I guess. But he also a smart-ass and really funny, even in his seriousness. Maybe I have gotten the complete wrong picture of him, because like I said you don’t really get any information about who he is, but the way I see him, he is funny and the most interesting character.

What is a minor downside though, is the lack of details and actually the time perception. Where a “normal” book would thoroughly describe every important aspect of the story, this one can sometimes jump several months ahead and all of a sudden something major happened, but it is just mentioned in one sentence and you don’t really get to find out how they managed to do it. It is not needed to understand the story, definitely not, and you get a good understanding of it anyway. But details are good, or maybe I just miss it because all the other books I am reading are full of them.

It gets a strong 5. I was recommended this by a friend who usually don’t read any books, and for once it didn’t take me very long to pick it up and I am so glad I did. An easy read and very entertaining. Now when this review is finished, I will start with Waking Gods right away!

Review of “Höstregn” by Lars Wilderäng

Title: Höstregn (~ “Autumn Rain”)
Author: Lars Wilderäng
Series: Höstsol
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 395
Published: 2018, Massolit
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION (translated to English by me)

A bigger part of Europe is without power and means of communication. Control centres are wiped out and hours are passing without backlashes simultaneously as rival troops are crossing the borders.

Time is meagre and hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake. Body guard Christian Vindelby ends up in the middle of the installment of a new government, Johanna is stuck in a desperate juggernaut duel and Jonas is stranded in the chaos south of Uppsala with the kids, at the same time as a huge responsibility are laid upon his shoulders.

In the defense centre of Moscow, Misja’s fight for survival has only just begun and in the USA, hidden forces are working to escalate the situation further.

When old leaders fall, one no longer can control who will take their place. One desperate plan is formed, but the question is if everyone is prepared to pay the price?

MY REVIEW

Everyone who has ever read a book knows that it can sometime start off kind of slowly and uneventful. Even if it is the second or third or 7th book in a series. I have found the exception that confirms the rule: Höstregn, the sequel to Höstsol by Lars Wilderäng. Everything starts at page one! Taking off exactly where Höstsol ended, at the cliffhanger. The feeling of hopelessness that joined me in the end and taunted me with one year of waiting for the sequel joined me right away on page one. And kept going for a long while. It looked very very bad for the poor Swedes. And honestly, it is not until the very end that hope comes forward. I like that it is stated pretty early on about a big secret mission, but you don’t really know until the very end what it is about.

Like with all the other books Wilderäng has written, it follows many characters and at first I felt that it was hard to get to know the different ones, that his type of writing is better to give a full overview of the plot, rather than following the personal developments of the characters. But I changed my mind towards the mid/ending. I did feel with the characters, I felt what they felt and even started crying a little bit at one point.

If I remember correctly, Höstsol had lots of military details and I had a hard time following exactly everything that happened because it was sort of easy to zone out when details occupied page after page. This was easier to understand. I wouldn’t say less detailed, because it still was, which made it super realistic, but it was easier to follow. More feelings involved perhaps? Easier to relate to.

The reason Höstsol only got a 4.5 is because of what I just wrote in the paragraph above. And since that is not applicable in the sequel, Höstregn gets a 5!

Pictures from Barcelona!!

Finally, the pictures from Barcelona are here and uploaded to the original posts. They can be found on these following links (or just go to the Spain category). Enjoy, almost 5 months later!

Barcelona: From warm summer to cold spring
La Rambla
La Sagrada Familia
Platja de la Nova Icaria
Parc Güell
Platja del Bogatell
Borta bra men hemma bäst