Monday, March 23, 2009

Welcome to Pimatgol

This will probably be my last snack in the old Pimatgol. A nakji bindaetteok on a wooden bench in a poorly lit joint covered in graffiti. This stretch of the alley will not be closed before a few weeks, but most doors are closed and the mood is already depressing enough. Actually, I'm only paying a last tribute to this site before having a real lunch in one of the restaurants already relocated, a few sanitized blocks away.

This thin path marks the start of Pimatgol, just opposite Kyobo Bookstore's main entrance. The rotten corny wooden sign is here to prove it and as usual, its feet are littered with puke and junk. To the left, the blue three story hulk of Burger King has already been closed. To the right, large felt panes and posters mapping new locations of local businesses cover the empty eyes of the buildings giving on Jongro.

Pi-ma-gol, literally "avoid-horse-alley", was a back alley parallel to Jongro where commoners would walk freely all the way to Jongmyo, without meeting V.I.P.s riding their horses on high street (passers-by would then have to step aside and take a big bow). The place grew into a lively maze of paths full of eateries.

Pimatgol is progressively being replaced with high rise buildings. Towering over the crossroads between Jongro and Jongno-gu-cheong-gil, the street leading to the Gu Office (an area also under complete renovation), Le Meilleur managed to attract a few big names - early bird catches the worm! -, and even built an arcade with a wooden Pimatgol sign on both ends... but it hosts gift shops and cafes, pushing old restaurants backstage. Furthermore, this officetel atmosphere cannot be compared with the joyful mess of yore.

Take Cheongjinok, for instance. I don't think their haejangguk tastes any different here, but I simply don't feel like entering their new non-descript lair. Part of the fun was to enjoy the place, where old timers and white collars would cohabit like Cosa Nostra dons and wannabes in a traditional Napolitan trattoria.

Le Meilleur Jongno Town can easily be spotted thanks to a most amazing bronze sculpture at its feet. I can't describe this lad rodeoing on a horse in front of a giant coin... probably one of the most vulgar in a city that hosts more than its share of similar pseudo-artistic monstruosities.

To be fair, it does shine, and doesn't stink the way the old Pimatgol could (a more literal way). The buildings about to be destroyed are on the verge of collapsing and only a few hanoks survived in a sea of quick-and-dirty constructions. But that place had a soul.

The new section opposite the Kyobo will set the tone for decades to come. I'm bracing myself for Le Pire, but who knows... ?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments and remarks. Also for your patience (comments are moderated and are not published right away - only way to curb the spam, sorry). S.

books, movies, music