South gate of Namhansanseong (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
SEONGNAM, Gyeonggi Province -- While most people try to fight to summer heat with indoor air conditioning and ice-cold drinks, some Koreans still hold on to the saying that you can beat the heat with heat -- like eating piping hot dishes or exercising outdoors in the hot, humid weather.
If you want to test this maxim handed down through generations, consider walking Namhansanseong-gil in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
Located just to the east of Seoul, Namhansanseong-gil is one of seven courses of Seongnam Nubigil, a network of walking trails from which you can explore different areas of Seongnam.
Though Namhansanseong-gil runs from Bokjeong-dong Community Center to the south gate of Namhansanseong -- a historical mountain fortress that runs 12 kilometers along the mountain ridge -- many people begin their journey from Sanseong Station Exit No. 3 on Subway Line No. 8 for its easy accessibility.
Visitors rest at Namhansanseong-gil. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
After a five-minute walk up some stone steps, an unpaved road signals the beginning of the 4-kilometer trail.
Many parts of the trail are dirt roads, but wooden portions keep the path manageable for most people. Trees provide much appreciated shade and benches are located about every 7-10 minutes.
Not far along the trail, the sounds of traffic near the entrance die away, to be replaced by a gentle breeze and bird song.
“The trail is popular among both Seoulites and residents living nearby. Namhansanseong-gil is not particularly busy on weekdays, but it becomes a completely different place during the weekend,” Kim Yoon-ok, a 57-year-old housewife from Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, told The Korea Herald.
“I think some people believe that staying at home makes their body weak and lethargic, especially in the summer. Walking on the well-maintained trail is an ideal choice, as you can immerse yourself in nature and keep your body energetic without any equipment,” Kim added.
A paved road stretches from the fortress Namhansanseong to Traditional Food Town. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
Though the trail ends at the fortress’ imposing stone wall, where two gigantic Zelkova trees stand in front of the fortress’s south gate, visitors have many options from there.
If you are not too tired from the hike, you may wish to continue along one of the five different routes of the Namhansanseong Historic Theme Road.
One of the most popular is Commander’s Road, a 3.8-kilometer path that takes you through the west and north gates as well as the Sueojangdae Command Post, one of the five original command posts still standing at the fortress. You can check the main defense facilities and sturdy features of South Korea’s beloved cultural heritage.
Visitors walk along the King’s Road on July 5. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
The King’s Road, at 2.9 kilometers the shortest course of Namhansanseong Historic Theme Road, is another option. Here, you can explore the traces and heritage related to Joseon era kings and take in the scenery while strolling in a pine grove.
Another option is samgyetang, the steaming bowl of ginseng-stuffed chicken soup, at the Traditional Food Town around the fortress.
Samgyetang at Traditional Food Town in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
Koreans believe summer to be the best season to eat samgyetang because it replenishes the nutrients lost due to excessive perspiration. After eating the tender chicken meat and soup infused with medicinal herbs -- ginger, ginseng, jujubes and more, you will be ready for the summer.
You can walk back to the subway station, but two buses -- Gyeonggi Bus Nos. 9 and 9-2 -- are also available at the entrance of Traditional Food Town.
By Lee Si-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org