Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wine Train

Hello friends!

Have we got an adventure to tell you about!

Last Saturday, while Jamie was working, I embarked on a journey to explore Korean Wines. From Seoul Station there is a “wine train” that travels south to Yeongdong. The days adventures would include unlimited wine, Lunch and a tour or a winery. I should have remembered that we are in Korea and you always get more than you bargained for.

We arrived at Seoul Station for our 9am departure and after a 10 minute panic attack concerning our missing travel companions and debates about how we could keep the train from leaving, they arrived and we boarded the train for departure.

The wine train is really just a commuter train that has been outfitted with four cars for wine and ginseng. The ginseng cars, where we were sitting, were slightly cheaper but with no less of an itinerary. Both cars have little sofas for 2 people, set up facing each other with a table set with wine glasses between. The main difference between the wine and ginseng cars is that the wine ones were posh and velvety and ours was cloth and denimy. Oh, and had pictures of happy little ginseng people and they had pictures of wine (bor-ring).

So, almost as soon as we left the station they brought us little platters of food and shortly thereafter gave us our first sample of wine. We were given small samples of four wines, three were competing for the category of “sweet like a candy” and one dry. All were red. After our first round of samples they came and filled our glasses with our favorite. Just as our glasses were filled, our host came in to play games with us! We played competitive versions of rock, paper scissors; balloon volleyball, both in pairs and in groups of six and a fun game that challenged our comprehension of Korean numbers. Each game ended with a prize but no one in our group won. Not for lack of effort, mind you, but because we were always two steps behind-not understanding Korean and all.

Anyway, after our organized entertainment we sipped wine, enjoyed the beautiful scenery and played word games that drew the attention of, well, everyone. But don’t worry, nothing dirty. Just the classic alphabet category game.

We arrived at our destination around 11:45 and were shuffled into a gorgeous, huge and sunlight filled patio of the Winery. We had a delicious buffet with about 20 different food options, coffee, tea, dessert and, of course, wine. After lunch we were split into our train car groups and given our winery tour. Unfortunately, the tour was in Korean so we were forced to entertain ourselves. Which we dutifully did by taking pictures of the paintings, pretending to lift wine casks and going on imaginary rides in the golf cart. You know. All the things adults do. Regardless of our inattention, at the end of the tour we were given a wine foot soak and taught how to make the awesome princess leia style hats out of towels(reference in the pictures). After our foot soak we were taught to make Wine Balls that we could take home and use to recreate the foot bath experience with our loved ones and friends.

I bought a bottle of wine before we were sent back to the busses. Almost immediately upon getting onto the bus everyone fell asleep and we woke up 40 minutes later at the Ginseng Museum. Again, we were taught a fun craft, this one being a ginseng sachel (we have no idea what it’s for) and while the tour was lost on us, most of the museum had English explainations. Here’s what I learned about Ginseng.

1. It takes one year for ginseng to grow a leg. So, if you have a ginseng with 5 legs, that ginseng is, at least, 5 years old.

2. Ginseng can cure EVERYTHING. Headaches, cramps, AIDS (potentially), diabetes and many many other things. (I’m skeptical about this point)

3. There are many folk tales about Ginseng in Korean Culture. Let me tell you one:

There was once a young boy who lived with his father in a small village. One day the father got very ill. The doctor said the father would die unless the boy found some wild mountain ginseng. That day the boy went to the mountains to find some ginseng. He searched for hours but was unsuccessful. Not wanting to give up, he slept in the mountains to begin his search again in the morning. That night he had a dream. A voice told him to go to the other side of the mountain. There he would find a cave with 12 bodies in it. He must cut off the left leg of the 12th body and feed it to his father.

The boy awoke and immediately set out to find the cave. When he finally arrived he went to the 12th body and cut off it’s leg. As he was leaving the body got up and began to chase him. The body chased him all the way home. When he got there, he grabbed a knife and attacked and killed the body. He then made a soup of the leg and fed it to his father. The next morning when they boy went into the kitchen he found a huge ginseng with it’s left leg missing. Shortly afterward, the boy's father got well.

Yeah. So, after the ginseng museum we were taken to the town and the ginseng market. I have never seen so much ginseng in my life. Where does it all come from? What do you do with it? I hope to have answers to these questions in the future, but I can tell you that Fried Ginseng=yummy.

On our way back to the train we detoured past (and into) a really creepy cave with mildewing bottles and casks of wine. This is the only time I was really sad about not being able to understand what was going on. Regardless of the creepy cave there was a beautiful orchard with gorgeous flowering trees that we briefly frolicked in before our ride back to the train.

We got on the train around 6:45, drank some more wine, were serenaded by an acoustic guitar, got fed some snacks and played some more games. When we finally arrived back in Seoul we decided the best way to end our day was with some beer so we booked it to the nearest restaurant for a cold brew and reminisces of the days adventure.

Exciting things about Korea:


Korea has wineries! I had no idea! Most Korean wines, as mentioned above are very sweet.


Bars in Korea are called “Hofs.” In many ways these are just like bars in the states but there are some sublte differences. One being that the beer and soju is super cheap. For this reason, you must order some sort of food when you are there. However, because everyone shares food in Korea, you only need to order one dish. But be careful not to accidentally order silk worm larvae. You may be surprised.

Public Drunkeness and Vomiting (WARNING, MAY BE A LITTLE GROSS):

Is not illegal. You see many many many people stumbling drunk and being helped by their friends. Also, in all of Korea you can wander around with open containers of alcohol. However, you do not see many Koreans wandering with beer (although plenty of westerners), because it is sort of a faux pa to eat or drink anything when your walking - we rarely see people even walking with coffee. Anyway, with this being a huge drinking culture and public drunkenness being OK there's often vomit on the streets (not lots, but more than i've seen at home).

Anyway, why this tangent? Well, as we were getting back on the wine train a woman was throwing up and her throw-up was pink. And I realized that ALL the puke I have seen in Korea is Pink or Red. Why? I'm guessing becuase of kimchi and red pepper sauce.