It has an Oktoberfest, German sausages and immaculate front gardens. South Korea's "German Village" is home to Koreans who spent years as migrant workers in Germany and their German spouses.
Today, thousands of tourists come to visit the quirky
settlement -- much to the annoyance of some residents.
Buim Ulmer's latest meeting about the Oktoberfest ran
longer than planned. It will be the third time that she and her neighbors host
a local version of the notorious beer-swilling fest, and this time the party
could exceed all of their expectations.
During their first Oktoberfest, she and her friends had
1,000 Bavarian weisswurst (white veal sausages) and all went smoothly. Then,
last fall some 30,000 sausages were sold.
"We never had imagined such crowds," said the
65-year-old nurse. "We were stretched to our limits." That is not
surprising. It is hard to cater to the demand for Bavarian specialties when you
are in a small village near the South Korean coast.
Buim is South Korean. She and her husband, Ulrich, 64, a German elementary
school teacher from the city of Bielefeld, spend most of their time on Namhae,
an island of tranquility not far from South Korea's second largest city of
Busan in the southern part of the country.
The Ulmers live in the "German Village." And the
place lives up to its name. It has whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs, neat
gardens and rows of shoes lined up outside the front doors. Between signs for
"Heidi House" and "Hamburg House" stands a road sign
limiting drivers to 30
kilometers per hour (19 mph).
The Ulmers' neighbor, a butcher, stocks German smoked
sausages and bratwurst. Near the entrance to the village there is the Café
Bremen, named after Germany's northern port city. The only things missing from
this archetypal German village are the traditional garden gnomes -- apparently
they got stolen too often.
The atmosphere is particularly tense during the summer.
Traffic backs up the whole mountain and along their narrow streets, as tens of
thousands of curious South Koreans descend on their settlement.
The "German Village" is a sensation in
South Korea. Its inhabitants were featured in a documentary film, "Home
from Home" ("Endstation der Sehnsüchte"), which premiered at the
2009 Berlin Film Festival. Locals are stared at, photographed, flooded with
questions and their peace and quiet is disturbed
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