detour: icheon. yes icheon, not incheon.

I mentioned in my post “Seoul Discovery” that you’d be getting little bits and pieces of my time in Korea throughout the life of this blog. This entry is one of those little bits. Often we find ourselves itching to get out of the cities we live in, if even for a day. Like New York City’s summer weekend exodus, Seoul is no different. Icheon (not be confused with Incheon- the airport and much larger municipality) is one of those idyllic little getaways. The quiet charm of the city is highlighted by its famed ceramics. Numerous potters and ceramic shops dot the streets and produce the finest earthenware in the country. The small town is about an hour long ride outside of Seoul city limits and easily accessible. Buses run daily every half hour from Seoul’s Gangman and Dong-Seoul bus terminals and cost a mere 3600 ($3USD). It was lucky that when Silvanna and I decided we were in need of a Seoul escape, my student George’s father, and master Korean potter, was more than happy to show us around. For those without a local master potter to serve as their tour guide, the visitors center near Seolbongho reservoir is an excellent resource providing maps and information on the various ceramic studios and good in the city.

Our day in Icheon began the only way any day with Silvanna and Sarita could begin: with a tour of the local market. Navigating a market bite by bite is my favorite way to explore any new place, and in Icheon my taste buds were not disappointed.  In the heart of the so-called “downtown” one shopping street flows into the next with permanent stores selling clothing and household wares overflowing into free standing stalls hawking everything from home-made kimchi to vendors carving dried fish street side. Rice can be considered a national side dish and slong with its pottery, Icheon’s is famous. Hailed for  being “so good it needs no side dish” tiny eateries fill every available nook and cranny, and offer morsels to go along with the esteemed local grain. We clearly tried everything.