Book Street, Seoul


  Gyeongui Line Book Street



An old railway line and a homage to literature.  Today, in autumnal sunlight, we strolled along Book Street.  It’s a haven of sorts, established to encourage the love of literature. It also remembers a time when the railway ran further, through both South and North Korea joining up with the South Manchuria Railway.



There are up to 14 train-shaped book booths but today, alas, because of Chuseok (Autumn Eve), none of these were open. There are remnants of the original railway tracks with it’s wide gauge, along a grassy, tree-lined walkway, which is built over the metro that runs below. .



And look at these talking books!

The bold, brightly coloured metal books are facing each other in conversation, framing these two men also in conversation with music.  A metal girl is climbing the ladder to re-stock the library shelves, or perhaps to take a book out!



The old track runs for some kilometres and is lined with trees, part Book Street and continuing on as Gyeongui Line Forest Park. A surprising dollop of soft green amid the brick and concrete. Beautifully planned, but not too perfect, so that some of the grasses are less kempt, rather than manicured.


Above, the unkempt lovely look beneath the metal ‘Forest of Text’ created to reflect the literary ambience of Book Street. The steel rods are holding aloft text through which the sun shines.   The street remembers too, a time when Hongdae was less gentrified and trendy and the home for upcoming Indie bands and musicians.






An Ode to the Women of Yeonsinnae




An Ode to the women of Yeonsinnae

Lady in beige and peach with your motorised cart with meals to eat.

The tall dark woman, on the mat by the metro, trimming chives
same spot, every day, produce on the pavement by your feet.

My barista with her many caps, who can say Cafe Latte before I speak.

The three women at the pork restaurant, the younger one who wears shorts, smiling more at John than at me and sensing my disapproval the next time, flirting instead with a table full of businessmen leaving, the others, who we think might be her sisters, to look after us.

The young plump girl who did my nails whose husband is Turkish and who hates her mother-in-law’s cooking and can’t believe that I like kimchi, searching in her own bag for clear polish just for me and asking if she could find work painting nails in New Zealand.

The woman in the linen dress shop who shakes her head certain that whatever frock I’m holding will never fit me and the women in the permanently 70% off sale shop, who are determined I will fit everything and I must come back wearing the top tomorrow.

All the women in the Lotte Mall who push and shove to get to the checkout before me, changing lanes quicker than I can find my debit card and the woman on the checkout who beams when I tell her to keep working her arse off, because literally, in translation this is a nice thing for me to say and I’ve perfected it now along with learning how to tell my barista that I like her hat.

And too, I mustn’t forget the woman eating corn in the café on the corner by the alley to the metro, who got up from her corn to stir our squid dish over the flame at our table, smiling because yes, we do like spicy and of course how lucky we were to get a table, because every night this restaurant has a queue outside the door and it was only because it was Sunday (and raining cats and dogs) that we got a table.

And goodness, me I nearly forgot the lovely woman who we think might have once been a famous singer, who makes the best pancakes (different flavours on different nights)

And then there’s the woman who might be a teacher whom I meet when I leave our apartment and she always says hello in English as if she wants to stop and chat but is too shy and is gone before I can reply.