The holiday season is nearly passed. The time for feasting and gift giving is nearly at an end. For all its joy and brilliance, there exists also a great sense of relief passing over our recently hurried lives. A long sigh comes in unison with the packing away of tinsel, the stowing of formal dinnerware, and the knowledge that it will be yet another year until such obligations must be met again. Now the winter can become what it is meant to be: a time of sublime acquiescence to the serenity and reflection that comes with the gliding by of another year. This feeling of sliding through the frosty months is embodied most fully by a pastime dating back thousands of years, ice skating.
Though having never done it before, some friends recently told me about an ice skating rink located in the Yeomju Gymnasium complex. Following in the tracks of innumerable men and women through time, I decided to take my first steps onto the ice, fully expecting to make an utter fool of myself. My initial effort must have looked, from an objective viewpoint, a bit like a newborn colt gamboling about a patch of straw as opposed to a swan gently scooting across the surface of a pond, but there was still an immediate draw to it. The first pass around the oval was arduous, especially when I had to swallow my pride at the fact toddlers were skating laps in the time it took me to navigate a single bend, but after a few short runs, the simplicity of it took over and the pleasure of hovering on a knife’s edge above the ice became inescapable. Through all the concentration and difficulty (including one short tumble), I found myself unable to avoid having fun. After one experience, it can be said with certainty I’ll be finding myself in shape for the Winter Olympics no time soon but the knack seems to come quite quickly.
Many of the places that have been recommended in these articles previously have often been quiet places lacking crowds. The Yeomju Skating Rink is not one of them. It is a lively place with people of all skill levels and ages skating at their whim, so if you’re accustomed to a sparsely occupied locale, this may not suit you. The rink is sizable enough to make this not much of an issue, however, and I was also there on a holiday weekend afternoon, so the case may be that outside of peak time, the ice may be unspoiled by any but your party. One of the truly amazing things about this place is how inexpensive it is compared to what I know of skating rinks elsewhere. After skate rental and entry to the ice (which is a flat fee so no watching the clock required) the entire cost came to under 10,000 won. One other warning: after 6 pm, there is no more open skating for the public. At that time, only athletes who are training are allowed on the ice, so plan accordingly. If you can’t make it in early enough during the week, the rink is open on weekends so if this is something you’d like to do, you really have no excuse not to go.
The Yeomju Gym is located within sight of the World Cup Stadium so if you can get to the stadium, this won’t be much tougher. The buses that go to the stop labeled Yeomju Gym are the 16, 20, 26, 47, 59, and 74. Via subway, the Ssangchon and Uncheon stops are about equidistant from it, but from there it would be easiest to catch one of the buses or a taxi as it’s about a 20 minute brisk walk south from Ssangchon subway station. Once you arrive at the complex, there will be a large parking lot with buildings to either side and in front. Stay to the left of the central building directly in front of you. There is a sidewalk and road that goes around it. You’ll then arrive at a small intersection in the complex where, directly ahead, there are indoor tennis courts and just to the left of that building is the skating rink. It sounds complicated but I have faith that you’ll sort it out without a problem.
Whether skating is your personal passion or you just want to try something new, the Yeomju Gym rink is a decent place to hit the ice. With all this winter weather coming through, I hope at least you’re enjoying the lull between the warmth, whether that means making a snow man, reading a book in a warm café, hiking like a Viking, or napping away the afternoons. The hurried air of spring is closer than you think so take the time to take it all in while the opportunity is still around. Hope you enjoy your time on the crooked trail.