Springtime has finally arrived in South Korea and if you are a frequent reader of the Aclipse blog then you have probably realized this country enjoys its festivals. With the arrival of warmer weather it also brings with it a flurry of festivals around the country; from Holi Hai in Busan to Jinhae’s celebration of the beautiful cherry blossom. Since I teach on Saturday’s this term, unfortunately my options are a bit more limited when it comes to attending the various festivals, but I still managed to squeeze in on this past weekend in Nonsan, where I checked out the city’s annual strawberry festival. This is definitely a festival worth checking out while you are teaching in Korea.
At only an hour round trip and a ridiculously cheap 5,000 won train fare, the journey from Daejeon, where I live, to Nonsan was certainly worth it. I should note that getting to Nonsan involves traveling from Seodaejeon Negeori instead of Daejeon Station. Upon arrival at Nonsan Station, just look for the bright red balloons floating nearby, as they mark the location of the festival. Let me note that Nonsan is not exactly the most exciting and glamorous city in South Korea, so if you are expecting a myriad of attractions aside from the strawberry festival, you will be sorely disappointed.
The Nonsan Strawberry Festival started back in 2001, paying homage to the town, which is the largest strawberry producer in South Korea. It not only promotes the town’s renowned strawberry industry, but also acts as a means of open communication between the cities in the region. Once you make your way to the festival, a whole world of strawberry-flavored wonders opens up before you.
What to Do
Now, unfortunately due to the rainy conditions, the first word that I would use to characterize the festival grounds was muddy. The organizers tried to save visitor’s footwear from the mud by placing some tarps on the ground, but to no avail. My formerly gray and green running shoes are now a lovely shade of brown, but oh well it was a small price to pay for some strawberry delights.
To sample some of these tasty treats, you need look no further than the numerous stalls lining the perimeter of the mud pit....I mean fairground. For pretty reasonable prices, Korean vendors were selling a huge variety of strawberry products, many of which looked too good to pass up. Obviously there were boxes of strawberries for sale, but they also got a bit more creative with the ddalgi (Korean for strawberry). One particularly enthusiastic woman was selling strawberry wine, which was not bad but for me tasted a bit too much like cough syrup to warrant a purchase. While I am on the subject of strawberry alcohol, I should note that the strawberry meokkeolli was absolutely fantastic, and for 1,000 won you cannot beat that price. If you are looking to enjoy some non-alcoholic beverages, then the fresh strawberry juice was quite delicious as well.
Even though strawberry juice wasn't going to fill an empty stomach, there was more than enough strawberry foods to satisfy your hunger. The warm waffles filled with strawberry jam were quite good, and surprisingly filling actually. Since I was on a quest for sugar on this particular day, churros with strawberry ice cream seemed like a logical next step. To cap off the sugar rush, I enjoyed a decadent rice cake filled with red bean and an entire strawberry. Just so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of strawberries, I mixed it up and purchased a simple turkey kabob wrap, which was quite tasty.
Even with the less than ideal weather conditions, I would say the Nonsan festival adventure was a rousing success. Not only was it a real quick and simple trip, but was also pretty easy on the wallet. Quick and inexpensive, two words you will hear a lot in this country.