World Bulletin / News Desk
Ankara Park is small and sweet, a Turkish delight among Seoul’s many open spaces. Its traditional Turkish vineyard house -- complete with whitewashed exterior and red tiles -- is an improbable find surrounded by high-rises in the South Korean capital’s bustling business district of Yeouido.
But under blue early September skies this past Friday, Turkish tradition and modern Korea found joyful harmony in this very park for a Turkish Day street festival.
Arranged by the Turkish Embassy in cooperation with the Culture Ministry and local authorities on the occasion of 2017 Turkey-Korea Year of Culture, the festival was a reminder of bilateral ties that extend much further back than Seoul’s shiny skyscrapers.
The relationship was permanently sealed when Turkey supported the South during the 1950-53 Korean War -- sending thousands of soldiers to fight, thereafter known as "Koreli" (meaning Korean/from Korea in Turkish) -- forging themselves as siblings among nations.
While Ankara Park reminds locals of this special bond, Friday's festivities equally offered a break from the tensions that continue to be felt between the two Koreas.
South Koreans of all ages lined up to feast on authentic doner kebabs, chewy ice cream, thick coffee, and of course Turkish delight.
Passers-by were visibly drawn in by shows of singing and folk dancing between rows of tents. Opposite the food stalls, visitors could experience further aspects of Turkish culture. Here, they were able to shop through a charming collection of cini ceramic tiles and create their own marbling (ebru) painting to take home.
Then there is that tiled vineyard building, known as Ankara House, which was filled with donated folk items after it was set up at its present location in 1992. Everything from Turkish furniture to farming equipment can be discovered inside, along with traditional costumes and silver-framed mirrors.
The park where this building stands might have returned to normality after the sunset on Friday, but it still welcomes onlookers with its Turkish charm throughout the year.
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