Do a google search on ‘must-sees in Korea’ and on the top of the list you’ll find “Don’t miss the Cherry blossom season”. In order to do this you either properly plan your trip, or you are lucky. In our case, it was sheer luck.
Around the end of March the cold winds suddenly make way for warm temperatures. The transformation from winter to spring is fast and profound. In fact, it felt like magic. The thing is, it has been years since we experienced spring as we spent so many years in tropical countries. In fact, the strong change in seasons is actually something we do miss on our journey, so here, in Korea, we felt lucky to be part of it once more.
We arrived on March 24th, when it was still bitterly cold in Seoul, with no flower or tree leaf to be seen. Within days the landscape transformed into colors: bright yellow common broom lined the streams in Suwon, where we stayed. The first trees showed off their impressive flowers blooming into life and many branches betrayed the beginning of a new season with tiny, soft-green leaves.
Korea’s most famous announcers of spring are the cherry trees. This has a bit of a story though. The origin of the cherry blossoms in this country is debated. When Japan ruled Korea, it planted Yoshino trees. While many were cut down after the Japanese surrendered (end of WWII) as they were seen as symbols of occupation, other Koreans continued planting them. Some Korean scientists claim that the Yoshino cherry is the same species as the Korean indigenous species called King Cherry.
Whatever the exact story and origin (for who wants to know more, Wikipedia and the sources mentioned at the bottom are your friends), Koreans and foreigners love the cherry blossom season. It lifts their spirits as it is the announcement of spring: warm weather, time to go outdoors for hiking, nature viewing, and/or camping.
They flock to places to walk beneath rows of cherry trees, smiling, laughing, and taking hundreds of photos. There are cherry blossom festivals but as those coincided with us freeing the Land Cruiser from the container, we missed those. Subsequently it rained. Since the petals fall within about ten days and, at last, we had two beautiful days to enjoy this splendor before the trees ceased blossoming, we felt lucky indeed.
We ended up in Jinhae, a town famous for its cherry blossoms. As we drove through town, in search of the places to be, a breeze dusted cars and people with the soft pink petals. Kids were trying to catch them, just like snowflakes.
We found the trees and people. The thing to do is to dress up to look the part, to take hundreds of selfies, and have fun!