For my research on Korean food I was looking for a specific book (Korean food:The originality) that could not be easily found.
I wandered through several book stores (including Kyobo book store) and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Eventually I considered the possibility of finding it at the National library in Seoul.
After a quick search on the library website (www.nl.go.kr), the results showed that the book I was looking for was available. I took the metro and took off at Seocho station. The building is huge and it is located on the side of the hill, surrounded by trees and overlooking the area around. At the bottom of the hill is possible to see the Express bus terminal and other office buildings.
I was a bit afraid that people wouldn’t speak much English so I was trying to repeat in my mind the expressions in Korean to use. Luckily, once arrived there and started speaking in English to the people at the desk, I didn’t have any problem to explain what I was looking for. After completing the registration at one of the computers in the hall (you will need your id or passport) I was given a one-day entrance pass and I entered the main room at the ground floor where the borrowing service is located. All I need to do is to request the book I was looking for at the service desk and then pick it up 10 minutes later at another counter located in the same room.
Although the reading room was busy I was able to find a seat at a desk just in front of a window. There was a nice light and a beautiful view on the park around the library.
I spent almost three hours reading and making notes. I was very happy of finally being able to get my hands on that book.
After a morning of reading and studying it was time for lunch. I handed back the book, thanked the helpful staff and I left the building. As I soon realized, in order to find a restaurant, I should have walked back to the metro since the library is surrounded by a park, and I was craving for a warm meal! Fortunately I found out that there is a restaurant attached to the library that serves also as canteen for the library’s staff.
The library restaurant looked quite nice, and at the entrance there were displayed the dishes of the menu as well as a picture of the chef and text explaining each dish. Apparently the menu changes every day and the dishes of that day were Sundaeguk (pork intestine soup) or Ramyeon (Spicy instant noodles soup). Since the weather was cold and a bit gloomy, I wanted something that could warm me up, so I chose Sundaeguk . The restaurant is self-service, so after paying at the machine (quite cheap, only 4000 won), I picked up my dish at one of the two kitchens of the restaurant and took a seat. The restaurant was busy and there were both library employees and simple visitors.
The smell coming from the Sundaeguk was very intense and the colour of the broth quite dark. I tasted it and the soup was strong and spicy and too much salty. Even though I think Sundaeguk is one of the toughest dishes in the Korean cuisine, I like it and have tried in other restaurants across the country. This time I was a bit disappointed, since the soup was too much seasoned and salty. Adding the rice to the soup made it easier to eat so in the end I was able to finish it.
On the other hand the side dishes were quite good, especially the creamy steamed egg. Together with the steamed egg, radish kimchi, salad and gim (dried seaweed paper) were served.
After leaving the restaurant I decided to have a walk in the Seocho Park that surrounds the library. The park can be easily accessed by the stairs located before and after the library building. Seocho Park is well maintained and red and yellow leaves on the trees created a nice scenery. The park includes some hiking trail and a barefoot trail if someone wants to explore the surroundings.
The walking in the park was very relaxing and it felt good to walk after a morning of study and reading.
Coming to the library has been a good idea, since I had the chance also to look around an area of Seoul were I never been before. It was time to go back home, so I left the park and walked towards the metro.
The Seoul National Library can be reached from Seocho Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 5 or from Express Bus Terminal Station (Subway Line 7), Exit 5.
The library is also very close to the Express bus terminal and to the Central city shopping center. If after the walk in the park you want to do some shopping or watch a movie (the mall also includes a cinema), you can reach Central city after a 10 minutes walk.