Wandering Camera

North Korea (DPRK) - Nature, The Friendship Exhibit in Myohyang
(Translated by Pavel Sokolov)

Besides being a very unusual country, North Korea also has very beautiful nature.
As far as the climate in May it was 20 to 25 degrees here, and in the winter there is very real snow and the temperatures fall to negative 25.
Though as the girls said, there is not enough snow to go downhill skiing. One has to travel north for that.

 

In this album Ill show examples of views characteristics of North Korea.

For example, there are many small mountains as in this picture. Actually these are rocks partially covered with shrubs and forest. As a result there is little room to plant anything, so Koreans try to plough any piece of land which is not too steep and has soil on it.

Sometimes a haze like this hangs in the air.
Here things are quite different.
Places like this are used to grow rice.
We came across places, where small areas were covered with plastic film. Apparently thats how the seeds begin to grow, and then they are replanted without plastic film.
We often came across dry rivers and creeks which had lower than normal water level.

Speaking of nature, I must mention Renmen caves. Unfortunately neither I nor Alexey have pictures from there, so I can only describe them.

The caves are very large, with stalactites and stalagmites. The entrance was first discovered during ore mining, and an adit was made for tourists. It takes quite a while to walk down. At the end you suddenly find yourself in a giant, concert hall like cavern, at the foot of a 10 step stairway, which is lit up from bellow. Its a magnificent site. Tours follow one another local scouts, Chinese and Japanese tourists. We were the only Europeans, as usual.

The caves that follow are located at different levels we went down approximately 90 meters all together, and walked several kilometers. Stairs and ladders are everywhere, and lighting is installed. At times we had to duck, but mostly the ceilings are about 2 to 7 human heights. The tour guide would sometimes point at a stalactite and ask us what we thought it resembled. I must note, the Koreans have a wild imagination.

One of the caves also had an underground waterfall about 30 meters high. All together this walk was a perfect illustration to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. At least I now have an understanding of how they could have really happened.

One of the days we visited a national park (may be Alexey remembers the name of it), about a hundred kilometers from Pyongyang. About one or two hours before our passing, a landslide happened on the road.

In this picture the military construction workers are clearing the road (they were practically done, we had to wait for about 20 minutes). The rocks have clearly been cut (we could see fresh cuts and hoses). The workers were using imported construction equipment.

During the operation, a military official showed up. He gave out some orders, and the work sped up

Here is the entrance to the park.
 

There is only one, though quite high waterfall in the park.

The sign saying 2001 probably indicates the year the park opened. Koreans are fond of carving out huge signs on rocks. It can be a general or a specific slogan, or a date like here.

Naturally, there are no amateur signs, like Vasya was here (I havent seen anything like that).

Here you can compare the size of our van to the size of the waterfall.

These are Myohyang mountains. About 150 kilometers from Pyongyang.

The tallest mountain is about two kilometers.

There is a small town in the mountains (about the size of Priozersk), and a scout camp.

A short distance from the town is the Hyangsang Hotel where we stayed during our visit to Myohyang.

A revolving restaurant is at the top. It features very scenic views.

The hotel hall.

An artificial waterfall is on the left.

First we thought it automatically comes on when someone enters the hotel.

However, as we found out, they turned it on especially for us!

A map in the hotel hall.

The main attraction in these mountains is the abundance of waterfalls.

The river you see here passes by the hotel and has the same name as the mountains - Myohyang

We paid our respect to several of the waterfalls.

The girls wore high heels they probably assumed that we would reach the first waterfall, and come back down. However, Alexey charged forward right away like a real mountain person. We were just trying to catch up with him the whole time. Consequently we ascended about one and a half kilometers up the paths and rocks. We reached all but the very top waterfall. If we went to the top one, we would probably have to carry the girls.

I am sure they will remember this walk for the rest of their lives.

The water tastes very good, especially after the climb.

On the way we saw some local peasants. They were quite surprised and delighted (probably mostly by seeing the girls climbing the mountains in high heels).

All of us.

Not far from the hotel and the waterfalls there is another attraction The Friendship Exhibit.

In reality it is two giant buildings comprising a museum of gifts to Kim-Ir-Sen and Kim-Chen-Ir respectively.

By a strange coincidence, neither Alexey nor I took a picture of the main building museum of presents to Kim-Ir-Sen. You can just see a small part of it in the picture bellow and an auxiliary pavilion in the picture on the right.

The building itself is splendid a modern (built in the 70s), giant six floor palace with appropriate decorations on the doors, floors and ceilings. There are no windows at all, but there are window imitations on the outside.

With about 200 large halls and the splendor the palace is comparable to the Hermitage (with the exception of the style of architecture and the modern building materials, of course).

No cameras are allowed (I think this is the only place in North Korea, where we could not take pictures :) all possessions have to be left in lockers.

Inside are valuable presents given to Kim-Ir-Sen. I must note that all the exhibits are really interesting. That is, all items are either works of art or interesting in other ways (for instance a train car given to Kim-Ir-Sen by Stalin in 1946).

From modern Russia I noticed:

1. Painting of Vasilievskiy Island Point given by Putin.
2. A silver service given by Putin also.
3. A plate given by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Also there are rifles and other items given by Stalin, Khruschev, Brejnev.

 

We were very impressed by a large landscape with trees and buildings, neatly carved out of ivory by Chinese craftsmen. In general, I would say, Chinese gave the most interesting and accurately crafted gifts.

Among the givers were also the leaders of South Korea, South Korean companies for example the president of Daewoo gave Kim-Ir-Sen a car.

The palace guards.

Notice that the Kalashnikovs are nickel plated.

The doors are one-piece bronze, weighing several ton each. One can open them by hand (the guide gives out a special glove to pull on the handle :), but the weight is considerable.

This is the second building, the presents to Kim-Chen-Ir. It is much more modest both outside and inside. It is also smaller.

Most striking is a wax statue of Kim-Ir-Sen in the middle of artificial meadow surrounded by birch trees with sky in the background. The tree leaves even move with the artificial wind coming from a fan. The lighting is well designed, and the whole thing looks real. I think it was also given by the Chinese.

One small thing to note: its strange, but I noticed that practically all the buildings in the country (regardless of their status and decor) have identical light switches :)

A local tour guide.

While the next album is being prepared, let me offer you an album of scanned pictures of Pyongyang.

 

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