I don’t travel for seeing new places, but for meeting new people, cultures, way of living. In my travels I don’t take with me any camera but every image is imprinted in my mind, as if it were a camera. I can say that all people are same, there is no difference among the ones who lives in different areas of the earth, but you can find something of new looking at their habits. In Korea I could notice two things totally new to me.
The first one is the Korean SPA. In the SPA men and women are separated. When I got in I saw a wide pool in the center of a room, marbled, with a small fountain in the middle; the water was very hot. Close by an other smaller pool with hotter water and in the opposite side a pool with cold water. In the sides of the wide room there were two smaller rooms for sauna. Along one of the walls there was a long line of small tables, mirrors and benches. There you could find tooth paste, soap and tools for scrubbing your skin. I saw people who soaped, showered, brushed their teeth, shaved properly and then immerged themselves in the pool. There they stayed in full relaxation for a while. Then some entered a sauna room and others got a deeper scrub by the person in charge of the SPA. Finally I had the impression that there is something of spiritual in the Korean SPA. People went there not only for relaxing but above all for cleaning themselves deeply, inside and outside their body. For cleaning their mind, soul. In many cultures there are ritual baths, mainly in India. In Christian world the baptism is made through immersion in the water. Also Korean SPA conveys this deep meaning, and the waters clean body and mind meantime they delight the spirit.
The second interesting thing was the Korean tombs of Gyengju, an ancient city which houses also a museum. In the countryside you can see many hills, but they are not real hills. They are tombs shaped as hills. To western eyes they do not look like tombs. If you watch the hills, you can notice they are shaped as a maternal womb. According to the Korean tradition, the womb – shaped tomb complete the cycle of the life. In fact death is a part of the life. There are two wombs, the maternal one and the womb of the earth. For that the tombs are fashioned like a womb.
In the tombs the soil occupies only the external layer. Underneath there is a building made of stone which protects a room containing a coffin with the king’s body. In the ancient Korea, at the time of Silla Dynasty(BC 57 – AD 935), they used to put in the tomb many objects which had belonged to the king when he was alive. So besides the dead body Koreans put in the tomb earthware, crowns, armors, necklaces, earrings and so on. What stroke me was that in my town, in Sicily, in the fifth century BC, they used also to put in the tombs the same objects near the corpses.
At that time Koreans could not know Sicilians. They were too far each other, nevertheless they did the same things, they practised the same rites, they had the same soul, the same living spirit.
The book I have written describes many cultures and rites all over the world. Its title is “Travels of the Mind”. My website is http://www.ettoregrillo.com