I am currently living in Geochang, a small Korean city that is divided by a river. The city has built some excellent paths for biking and walking along both sides of the river, and have also constructed a series of stone bridges to allow pedestrians to cross the river. In Korean, these bridges are known as 징검다리 (jing-geomdali),which translates literally as “stepping stones.”
Each stone is one meter wide and 70 centimeters in depth. The stones have been set in the water with a 30-centimeter gap between them, allowing water to flow downstream. These paths are interspersed about 500 meters, or every two city blocks, along the river.
I love these bridges. They are attractive and natural looking, despite being machine cut and set in place by heavy equipment. When the water is at low levels, as it is in the dry winter months, they get daily use. In the summer months, during the rainy season, they’re not usable, and in fact cannot even be seen because of the high water levels.
You’re not likely to see many of these bridges in Canada, I suspect, since they pose a liability risk. It only takes one person to fall in the water, and a city has an instant lawsuit on its hands! Last year I slipped and slammed my foot into one of the stones, resulting in a trip to the hospital with a suspected broken toe (the X-rays were negative). I learned the (rock) hard way to beware of wet surfaces.
Do not fear falling into the water though; the depth of the river is generally less than 15 centimeters where the stepping stones are located, so you’re unlikely to drown, though hypothermia is a possibility. Some lovely blue LED lights have been set into the stones to assist nighttime walkers.
It takes a certain rhythm to cross the stepping stones: step-step-hop, step-step-hop. Keep your wits about you when walking, and don’t look at your phone! Also, obey protocol and step aside for oncoming pedestrian traffic. Although the stones are generally only wide enough for one person, every tenth stone is 30 centimeters wider to allow people to walk in opposite directions.
I’m going to miss this charming aspect of Korean life!