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"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Korean in HK

Posted by quirksalight on December 10, 2010

For me, a big part of traveling is absorbing cultural information and history, so I tend to hit the museums. Also, I really like museums; I think it may have had something to do with growing up with easy access to the Smithsonian.

Jen and I started the museums at the Hong Kong History museum, after a dim sum brunch. When we got there, we got the week-long, all-museum access pass (which is an AMAZING deal, $30 HK for 7 museums).

We get stamped in, and of course, the usual random chitchat with the ticket attendant about where we’re coming from, etc. Upon finding out that I was from Korea, she told me that my English was really good for a Korean, to which I answered that I was an American.

Finding out that I was bilingual in English and Korean, the ticket attendant asked if I could tell her how to say a couple phrases in Korean for the tourists that come by. She was pretty happy and excited that I could, and so I helped her with the translation and pronunciation in English for “Opens at 1 o’clock” and “How many tickets”.

Pretty neat. And later, when we needed to get back to an exhibit, she called the other museum guard to let us in. 🙂


Posted in adventure, ancedotes, history, Hong Kong, Korean, museums, travel, vacation | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Rothenburg and poker

Posted by quirksalight on April 20, 2009

Wednesday (April 1, 2009) was our road trip to Rothenburg, a town about 45 minutes away and well known for their old town area, where entire structures and the city wall from the 1500s are still kept up today. Also, they have the medieval crime museum there.
Waking up is hard to do on anyday for me, but the later the previous night, the harder it is. I don’t think I went to sleep before 2am on any of the nights in Wurzburg, so getting going was a bit tough. Knowing this, and my penchant for being a grump, MH informed me that it was already 9:30am and that I had said that I wanted to be on the road 30 mins ago. (which was true, as it is a 30-45 minute drive to get there) Thinking, “Oh crap!” I jumped out of bed and quickly took a shower and dressed. Out of the shower, throwing my stuff together…only to see that it was then 9:15am. WTF?? I looked at MH and he’s laughing his head off. dork. 😛 Hey, if you’re reading this, I bet you’re still laughing. Just remember… there’s always payback. 🙂

The old part of Rothenburg was visually amazing. It’s been kept in great condition over the years, including the old city wall, which is still nearly encompassing the entire part of the old city. Scattered at regular intervals along the wall are towers, which also allow access up to the wall itself. Which is really nice, as you can walk along the city wall around the Aldstadt and get a great view of the old and new parts of Rothenburg. As you can see, MH is demonstrating that the ledge that you walk along is not all that high. 🙂 Walking around, several places had already put up decorations for Easter, which at this point was about 10 days away. There were plenty of evidence that the town were very focused on tourism, with the shops, decor, and the multiple tour groups roaming around in multiple languages. Though the shops were rather interesting. We saw a shop that sold replicas of medical armor and weaponry… man… there were some neat items there….and may be a little difficult getting on the plane back with.

The architecture is a mix of styles, but one that you see a lot is the Tudor style, from the late 1400’s – 1500’s, where you can see the contrast between the wall and the wood frames on the outside of the buildings. I do have to admit that I preferred the stone buildings with the statues, gargoyles, and carvings scattered about the exterior. Such character… and as some of y’all can attest to, I’ll stop and stare at the building for a while to take it all in. 😛

One of the things that I really wanted to see was the Medival Crime Museum, which is supposed to be the only museum devoted to crime and punishment in the medieval era. I heard a lot of interesting things about it, and one of MH’s friends, H, had been there before and told us that it was a really interesting. Which, yes, it was, but also very somber, as the chronicling of the past has some resonances throughout history to the present.

But, the peak of the trip (literally) was climbing to the top of the tower of the Rothenburg Rathaus and seeing the entire city and the surrounding lands. About 93 meters high, you have to climb a series of stairs to the very top of bell tower, the last two sets of stairs being more a ladder than stairs. Then, you pop open the hatch (seriously) and climb out to a very narrow ledge, right next to the large bell. I’m generally not afraid of heights, in fact, usually I love them. However, maybe it was narrow ledge, or the extremely brisk wind, but I definitely felt a bit wary of being there! MH commented that I didn’t let go of the railing much…. which was true. In all the pics of me up there, I have one hand on the rail!

And the food, of course. For lunch, MH and I sat in the main square at a Bavarian restaurant, and split a schweinehaxen, which basically is
roasted pig’s calf. (Yes, I noticed that it was the lower leg when there was a tibia and a fibula…. anyhow…) Rather large, and I was very glad that I split it, and was very yummy. The Trollinger I drank with lunch was rather sweet, and not really “trocken” (dry), which is what I do like. But the best part was the dessert we had later! Apparently the region is known for a pastry called “snowball”. It’s a long strip of sweet dough that been twisted and formed in to a ball, which is either fried or baked – I couldn’t tell. After, it’s dusted with sugar and/or covered with other toppings, such as chocolate. mmm….

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Work + Fortress + Beer + Karoke = Wurzburgr

Posted by quirksalight on April 9, 2009

The next day was a bit annoying as I had to work. Uh huh.. not a complete vacation. Still had to do some editing and I was a bit behind. Considering that I need the internet, MH and I went to his lab at Univ of Wurzburg (He doesn’t have an internet connection at home! Ack! Talk about detox… ), which is on top of one of the hills surrounding the river valley that the city sits in. Great view. Met a couple of his friends including F, his officemate, as I was using their office to edit in.

Of course, the paper was an extremely dry paper…. on Ostriches. Yep. Large flightless bird. So as I am working, I’m throwing out raather grumpy comments out loud, which is entertaining F and MH (as he’s running in and out of the office). As I finish, I tell F that I wanted to eat ostrich, just to kinda get back at it. Much to my surprise, there’s a place serving ostrich in Wurzburg. Heading there for lunch, we were too late, and the place had already finished serving lunch for the day. So we took advantage of the sunny day to grab a burger before heading to the Festung Marienburg (Marienburg fortress).

Built on one the many hills surrounding the city, the Marienburg Fortress is a rather imposing structure overlooking the river and the city. In the past it has been a residence, chapel, and the local defenses against warring neighbors. Now, it’s been restored and the grounds and building are beautiful. I definitely have to come back when the gardens and the vineyards on the slopes are in bloom…
Of course, the whole on top of a hill thing meant a bit of a hike up… but the views of the city and the hills surrounding it was well worth the climb. Great pandoramas!

And the structure itself! I loved the little details – the gargoyles, the janus faces, and the carvings that abounded on the building. Some of it historical, others following superstition. I think a good percentage of all the pictures I took in Germany were architectural; just so neat!

Later that evening, a couple of MH’s friends were meeting us at a local beerhall that evening. Wurzburg is really known for its white wines, not beer, but this was one of the better places to drink beer in the city (according to my friends).

Funny, it’s was karoke night. Serious. No, I didn’t sing. MH was signed up to sing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”, but what do you know… it came up and someone else grabbed it! Hah… boy was he relieved. Two of his friends from the physics dept, H and F, did sing. I even have it on video. 🙂

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, annoyance, Food, friends, fun, history, Humor, outdoors, travel, traveling | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rats, Hannover and to Wurzburg

Posted by quirksalight on April 9, 2009

As painful it was getting up after going to bed past 6am, Sunday was our day trip to Hamlin. Yup, like the Pied Piper. Apparently the story is from the 1200’s.
Funny… when you arrive in the old part of Hamlin, you start seeing white rats painted on the sidewalks. Yup… like the “Red line” in Hannover, there’s a “Rat path” in Hamlin. Funny – we got to the Hamlin Rathaus (the city hall) and we see in the main square a guy dressed up in leggings, a girl’s bathing costume with a ruffled skirt, snorkel, and flippers cleaning random stuff in front of the steps. Next to him was a sign that stated that his name was Simon, was his 30th birthday, and would a girl kiss him to free him from this mess.

Honestly, the architecture of the Altstadt (the old town) was amazingly well kept. There were several buildings from the 1500’s and a handful from a couple centuries earlier. But the highlight for me was the glassblowers. In a renovated tower of the old city wall, there was a glassblowing demonstration and participation for an extra 9 euro. Thank goodness MR was there- he was a good sport about the translation… he translated the demonstration and the hands-on bit. I got to blow a multicolored glass globe. It was pretty hard to get a gauge of how much air you’re actually blowing – I made a mistake and the artist had to quickly fix it… whoops.

On the last day in Hannover

Between packing and sleeping in, I barely got to meet up MR for lunch at his lab and hop to GO’s lab to check out the place. Funny… we went to lunch with T, and saw the oddest thing on the side of the street.
Uh huh… weird….see below…

No trip to Herrhausen Gardens, which was a pity, because it’s supposed to be rather amazing and the day was clear and bright. Then again, the Monday was also the first sunny day in my German trip, so I wouldn’t have seen all that much on the grounds. I did take several repeat photos just to give a contrast between the sun and the gloom of the previous days. I also found a yarn shop where I bought some sock yarn, then MR took me to the train station and I hopped on to Wurzburg.

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I think I need an umbrella, or Hannover – Part I

Posted by quirksalight on April 6, 2009

This is rather an apt title for the majority of my Hannover trip, as it was cloudy or rainy for the first 4 days I was there. In fact, the first sunny day was the day that I was leaving for Wurzburg! heh…

On the up side, I got to see a lot of the city’s museums. A surprising thing was that the museums I visited in Hannover didn’t have too many English programs or pamphlets. Considering that they are tourist spots, well…
What was interesting was that I was about to puzzle out about 50% of the legends for the exhibits. So not too bad. 🙂

There’s an interesting initiative by the Hannover tourism bureau called the “Red line tour”. There is a 4-5km walking tour through the city where you follow, yup, a red line painted on the sidewalks and roads throughout the city. It’s rather nice – hitting the major sights of the city. This includes churches, museums, sculptures and the town hall. So on a bit of a gloomy-looking Thursday, I set off. A couple highlights:

Hannover Opera House

Hannover Opera House

Brooding from above

Brooding from above

The New city hall

The New city hall

The old city and the Market Church

The old city and the Market Church

Waterloo Platz

Waterloo Platz

After, I hit the Hannover city museum, which chronicles the changes in the city over the centuries. The changes in the city plan were in the Neus Rathaus, which I saw later, but this museum had the mementos and artifacts of the major events of the past.
Electric car built in Hannover

Electric car built in Hannover

Hannover coat of arms

Hannover coat of arms

WWII Proclaimation

WWII Proclaimation

MR and I ended the day with a very odd dinner… pancakes. Well, it was pancakes with a load of unusual toppings.
I had the “Milanese” and he had the “New Zealand”.

The Milanese

The Milanese

The New Zealand

The New Zealand

His was a mix of lamb, veggies, and a creamy sauce. Mine was a ground meat tomato sauce with cheese, artichokes, and cream freiche. Not bad, just unusual. 🙂

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50 years later…

Posted by quirksalight on December 6, 2008

Children ‘executed’ in 1950 South Korean killings

And more comes to light.

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20-20 can be painfully clear

Posted by quirksalight on December 6, 2008

A couple months ago, I wrote about South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation commission on the investigation into the wartime (and post Korean-war) atrocities by the US backed S. Korean government. (“Sometimes you just have to force yourself to read it“)

More news is continuously coming to light about the sheer scope of what happened, and the role that the US and S Korean governments played in it. Keeping in mind, that this was also the height of the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism in the US,

On my vacation to Jeju Island, I went to the Jeju 4.3 Peace Memorial. I had thought that I had a decent grasp of Korean history, especially for a “gyo-po” (Korean foreigner), but I had never heard of an event on 4.3 that would be significant enough to warrant a memorial.

It turns out, Jeju Island had a brutal military crackdown against members of the communist party of Korea in the 1950s. However, like a lot of the political crackdowns and killings on the Korea mainland, many of those who died were tainted by associated; the families and friends of those accused. Tens of thousands were killed or died due to exposure and starvation when they fled to the countryside.

The memorial was full of declassified documents from that era, and everyone knew, but ignored it.

I left the museum, a little sad, and just sat for a while, contemplating.

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, death, history, Korea, Korean, Nerdity, Politics, Social commentary, travel, US history, vacation, world news | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Instrument of Surrender, WWII

Posted by quirksalight on September 12, 2008

I saw this at the Jeju 4.3 Museum (pictures here):

The writing is a bit fuzzy in the pictures… here’s the text:

“We, acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the Unites States, China and Great Britain on 26 July 1945, at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.
We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.
We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property and to comply with all requirements which may be imposey the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.
We hereby command the Japanese imperial General Headquarters to issue at once orders to the Commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.
We hereby command all civil, military and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamation, orders and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.
We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever action may be required by the Supreme Commander for the allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that Declaration
We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all allied prisoners of war and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance and immediate transportation to places as directed.
The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.”


Signed at Toyko Bay, Japan at 0908 I on the Second day of September, 1945

By Command and in Behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government
By Command and in Behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters

Accepted at Toyko Bay, Japan at 0908 I on the second day of September, 1945, for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan.

(SIGNATURE) Douglas MacArthur
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers

United States Representative

Republic of China Representative

(SIGNATURE) Bruce Fraser
United Kingdom Representative

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Representative

Commonwealth of Australia Representative

Dominion of Canada Representative

Provisional Government of the French Republic Representative

Kingdom of the Netherlands Representative

Dominion of New Zealand Representative

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Sometimes, you just have to force yourself to read it.

Posted by quirksalight on May 18, 2008

The Truth and Reconcillation Commission in South Korea is in charge of airing out a terrible chapter of South Korea’s history; the mass executions of over 100,000 of its own people in the aftermath of the Korean war. The dictatorships of that time apparently removed people who were “alledged” communist sympathizers, then executed them in numerous locations around the country.
This number is considered to be conservative one, with other estimates being as high as 300,000, due to the number of people on the leftist party rolls of the 1950’s, most who are assumed to be part of the executed masses. Indeed, the latter maybe be the correct number as mass graves holding thousands of bodies have been uncovered since the 90’s. Now, there is a systemic effort to figure out what led to this slaughter of thousands.
And yes, the US did know about it. So did other nations. Journalist who reported about it were shut down and their articles left unpublished. Declassified US documents showed that there were those who urged restraint, but as it seems, they were ignored. The bodies were attributed as the work of the North Koreans, not our allies, the South.

Information gotten from:
Thousands killed by US’s Korean ally

Fear, secrecy kept 1950 Korea mass killings hidden

Posted in history, Korea, military, news, Politics, quotes, US history | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Visit to the (former) family farm

Posted by quirksalight on May 12, 2008

I went this past weekend to visit my eldest uncle (maternal), aunt, my eldest (very pregnant) cousin and her husband. It turned out that they were living in a newer house on the lands that used to be the family farm, north of Seoul in Gyonggi province. Now, I was under the impression that the land had been sold off after my grandmother’s death as that was what I was told by an older male cousin of mine. (Grr….)
As it turns out, a good deal of the lands had been sold, and nothing was recognizable except for the old house. Everything else that I remembered, the pig pen, groves of persimmon and chestnut trees, and the huge german shepherd dog, were either gone or altered. The pig pen and the dog were long gone, and the groves were down to a handful of trees. The burial mounds were there, of ancestors I never knew about and of my grandparents. I need to go visit those, but that’s another time…
There were several houses close by, none of which were there before. Then again… it’s been over 20 years and Seoul has expanded massively.

And the house. It hasn’t been used for over half a decade and it showed. The house is in an obvious decline, with holes and cobwebs everywhere. It’s mainly used for storage for machinery and tools now. But I looked into the courtyard and saw the areas I remembered playing as a kid. That was very recognizable, with the dark wood floors, cement edging, and the sandy-colored dirt of the courtyard. I’m not sure if I’m happy that I saw the house, or would have rather it be gone then see it as it is now. On the upside, it’s there for me to go back to, you know?
The visit went well – my cousin showed me around, we all had a great lunch, and I saw the preparations for the soon to be arriving baby. The area is very pastoral for being so close to the city (it’s a 45-50 min bus ride from downtown Seoul) and my relatives have a very large garden, almost a mini-farm, with chickens, including a very annoying rooster that a wanted to strangle.
Now that I know how to get there, I’ll be back to visit, especially as the summer and fall rolls around, when I’ve got a bit more time. And next time, I’ll remember my camera.

Posted in ancedotes, cousins, family, history, Korea, memorial, memory, metaphors, Seoul, travel | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »