Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pyongyang metro, Children's Palace, etc.

2008-09-24

Program for the day:
- Juche tower
- Worker's Party monument
- Three Revolutions exhibition
- Metro ride
- Kim-Il-Sung square
- Lunch at the hotel
- "Pueblo"
- Kim-Il-Sung statue at Mansudae Hill
- Book shop
- Children's Palace
- farewell dinner at a restaurant


As Oliver felt sick today, he decided to stay at the hotel. Till lunch only one of the guides accompanied me, whereas the other stayed at the hotel.


Juche Tower and Worker's Party Foundation Monument


The Juche Tower was the first point on the agenda for today. As the weather was quite foggy, I decided not to go up, but nevertheless it was quite impressive:



These plates are from foreign Juche idea study groups, they are showing the world's enormous interest into Juche ideology and Kimilsungism….



Then we drove to the Worker's Party Foundation Monument. It consists of three hands, holding a hammer, a hoe, and a brush. They represent the three classes of the North Korean society: workers, peasants and intellectuals.


Just next to it I could also take another tramway photo:


The Ryugyong hotel can be seen in the foggy background:



Three Revolutions Exhibition

We made a short visit at the Three Revolutions Exhibition, where some exhibited trains drew my attention:

A Korean-made (?) M62-version:


Builder's plate:


The sleeping wagon Moskva – Pyongyang was of the same type as this one, just not so well-maintained:


Freight wagon:


Electric locomotive:


Builder's plate:


Some more freight wagons:




We then visited the space department of the exhibition.


There they presented some kind of show, which explained various space related things (solar system, stars, solar/lunar eclipses – the usual stuff). The guide there spoke some Russian, so I could exchange a few words with her. She told me that she had learned Russian in Vladivostok at the university.


Metro ride

Next activity was a metro ride. We drove to the Puhung station (which is the terminal station of one of the two metro lines) and from there went by metro one stop to the Yonggwang station (next to the train station).


See also the maps-section at http://www.pyongyang-metro.com/
The station names don't refer to the area in which they are located, but have meanings like "victory" and "glory".
Puhung means "rehabilitation", Yonggwang means "glory".


Inside the station building:





Usually tourists and their guides can pass the gates without showing a ticket, but I said that I wanted to ride the metro legally ;-)

So the guide bought tickets for us:


The escalators down to the platform:



The standing-right-walking-left-principle for escalators seems to be unknown only in two towns worldwide: My hometown Graz, where I - when I visit it on a weekend – always get angry about the stupid people standing on the left side on the escalator. And Pyongyang, where nobody seems to be in a hurry ;-)

At the platform:






I asked the guide not to take the 1st available train, but to wait a little bit to have more times for photos. As far as I remember the trains ran at an interval of about 5 minutes.

Newspapers on the platform:


Video of an arriving train and it's passengers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB-HZe_NdcM

Another video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn5plCngNRs
(the 1st train arrives empty as it is the terminal stops and it just starts it's run here and came from the waiting track. The 2nd train of the other direction accordingly leaves empty, it goes to the waiting track)



Inside the metro train:


The metro trains were bought 2nd hand from Berlin. Of course all German inscriptions had been removed. But apparently they didn't replace all scratched windows, as I read somewhere. Our train had original scratched windows from Berlin ;-)

Video during the metro ride (not very spectacular, I admit):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwKG1W34jCU


At Yonggwang station:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGgzGcw7zW0




Before leaving Yonggwang station, we stopped at a small office, where a employee of the metro offered me a booklet about the Pyongyang metro. Of course I bought it.



The whole booklet is also available online at http://www.pyongyang-metro.com/metrobook.html

Station entrance:



Also here, close to the train station (can be seen in the background), the tramway network was under reconstruction:


So, I too only saw the two stations usually shown to tourists. There are even rumors, that only this two stations exist and that the whole metro is a huge setting for tourists and that all Korean passengers are actors…. Ok, although North Korea has much to offer for conspiracy theories, I had the impression that the metro really serves as means of transportation for the Pyongyang citizen.
I also heard reports of tourists, who could visit some other stations.

Update: Here is a photo of another metro-station, which is usually not shown to tourists:
http://img177.imageshack.us/img177/2875/metropyongyang.jpg
It was taken by a friend of mine.




Kim Il Sung square

The driver and our car were already waiting for us. He then brought us to Kim Il Sung square:





Karl Marx….


… and Lenin:


Alltough the North Koreans are proud of the own Juche-ideology, the – according to them –
perfected way of communism, here they honour the two originators of Communism.





As it was now already time for lunch, we went back to the hotel.


USS Pueblo

In the afternoon both guides accompanied me and we started our tour with the "USS Pueblo" ship. The spy ship was captured by North Korea in 1968.
Of course the North Koreans are very proud to show the trophy from the evil "US-imperialists" to tourists nowadays.

More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pueblo_(AGER-2)



Inside the ship I was first shown a short film, telling the North Korean view of the Pueblo-incident. Then I was taken for a tour on board of the ship.





An US-cryptographic machine:











Kim Il Sung statue at Mansudae Hill

Then we drove to Mansudae Hill, where the famous 20m-high bronze statue of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung is located.
The usual flower-buying and bowing followed.










Book&souvenir shop

At the book & souvenir shop many books (in various languages) written by or about Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are sold. It is said, that both of them wrote thousands of books….

Titles of some of the books:
Kim Il Sung: "On Juche in our revolution"
Kim Jong Il: "For the victory of the socialist case"
Kim Jong Il: "The Songun-based revolutionary line is a great revolutionary line of our era and an ever victorious banner of our revolution"
"In Memory of President Kim Il Sung: Eternal Sun of Mankind"
And so on…


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us



I only bought a pin with the North Korean flag, a map and a North Korean flag as souvenir, but no books, which I now regret. It would have been a good souvenir, although I'm not yet totally convinced of all that Juche- and Songun-stuff ;-)
Maybe I will call my friends at the North Korean embassy in Vienna and ask, whether they can sell me some of that books…*g*


Children's Palace:

The Children's Palace is a place, where children go in the afternoon after school. Also free time and hobbies are organized by the party…
Such places are said to exist everywhere in North Korea, but I'm sure that the others, which tourists don't see, are not that well-equipped.


We were guided to a lot of different classes:

Guitar:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8Ir2Uo597Q

Piano:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3-O5BXW3eg

Ping-pong:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km4IYH-Rx3k

Accordion:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIhb8itEnWQ

Calligrpahy:


Embroidery:


Keyboard:


Computer class:



I asked whether children can choose what they want to do. The answer was, that there is a test, to find out about the talents of the children, and according to that the options, which they have, are decided.

Taekwondo:


I have to admit, that all the children are very talented, but that's also connected with hard work and drill…

The highlight was a music performance of some of the children on the stage:





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAD-mCo5DpA




That was the final part of our sightseeing program in North Korea. By the way, it was also planned that we visit the railway museum, but unfortunately it was closed for some reconstruction.


Farewell dinner

In the evening we had a farewell dinner with the guides and the driver at the Pyongyang Duck BBQ restaurant.
The food was very tasty and it was a nice finish of our tip.





Our guides did the best to enable us a pleasant and interesting stay in Pyongyang. Sometimes it was a little bit too much Kimilsungism for us, as everything is in some way brought in connection with the Great and/or the Dear Leader. But that's what we expected and we always tried to respect their culture and mentality.
So we had a good and friendly relationship with our guides and some interesting discussions with them.


Pyongyang by night – photos taken from the hotel:






Continue
MY OTHER TRIPS


Eurasia 2005: ~35.000 km by train from Europe via Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia to China and back to Europe via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan:
http://eurasia2005.blogspot.com/


Total solar eclipse 2008: Trip to the total solar eclipse in the Altay mountains (1st august 2008), including a 6-day trekking trip:
http://zatmenie2008.blogspot.com/



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