Let me start by saying that the internet is an amazing place. Yes, there are all sorts of horror stories and crazy websites, but as someone who travels, it can be a really great resource. Last weekend, for example, I got connected with a group of people who wanted to check out the Daegu Stamp Trail, a mini-tour of the city where you get stamps at various locations and enjoy the variety of things the city has to offer. I was thinking of doing this on my own anyways (it seems like a really easy way to hit all the major points of interest in the city), but doing it with people who have been here a little longer made it a little easier (navigation!) and I got to meet new people, which is always a plus 🙂
We started out at the Yangnyeongsi Oriental Medicine Museum. The area surrounding the museum is a bit more historic looking than some of the other parts of downtown that I’ve seen. The whole area smells like ginseng (which we saw quite a bit of) and the surrounding shops are full of barks, roots, and animal parts that I assume cure various maladies.
I’m very glad the museum was free, because it was slightly disappointing. I’m sure it would’ve been better if I spoke Korean, but even the Koreans in our group didn’t seem all that interested. I think the museum was geared very much towards little kids. They did have samples of the various medicinal herbs to smell, which was interesting, but that was about it.
After the museum, we walked over to Sang-Hwa Yi‘s old house for a visit. Sang-Hwa was a nationalist poet who actively resisted Japanese rule. The house was left to deteriorate until the late 1990’s when a group of citizens restored it. It was dedicated to the city in 2005 and now serves as an educational center on his life and work. The house is quite beautiful and is decidedly pre-war in style. The contrast between the short, intricately carved, wooden structures and the cement buildings which surround it is startling. The house compound was very quiet and peaceful; it was a nice break from the city and I would really like to go back and spend more time looking at the houses and just enjoying the quiet.
From here, we walked to a tiny neighborhood where we wound down many narrow alleys and finally found ourselves at a Confucian Academy. The academy is situated slightly up on a hill and provides a nice view of the nearby cathedral. I imagine in the later spring and summer seasons the gardens are very beautiful, but when we were there, the soil was just being turned for planting.
My favorite part was wandering the alleyways around the academy. The homes were so old and really took me back in time. Peeking through the gates was always a surprise, as most people have very nicely manicured yards. I wonder if they have a garden tour here like they do back in Ann Arbor…
After the academy, we headed over to Seomun Market (which I’ve been to before) to wander around, drink some rice punch, and generally get lost in the chaos that is a Saturday afternoon at the market. The only notable difference was that this time we found a few yarn shops! Now that I know where they are, I just need to figure out a time to go back!
The last stamp trail stop of the day was Dalseong Park. The park includes part of a castle wall (I’m not so sure we saw that; by then I was a little tired and it started to rain). We grabbed some pumpkin taffy (NEVER. AGAIN.) outside the park from a man dressed like a depressed clown and headed in to explore.
The first thing we came upon was the most depressing zoo I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t bring myself to take any photos, as the animals all looked miserable. It broke my heart to see them in such cramped and dirty living conditions. It’s a free zoo, and they clearly do not get sufficient funds to maintain the habitats.
Once we got away from the zoo area, it was a little easier to enjoy the park (though the animals’ living conditions still weighed heavy on my mind). The cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom and I got my first proper view of them.
At this point, we were tired, cold, wet, and hungry. If you travel at all, you know that this can be a deadly combination. One of our group members suggested an udon place nearby and we headed in for a lovely meal. It was one of the famous “red tent” places that only locals seem to know about. As soon as we walked in, we instantly felt better. The warmth and light provided a great contrast to the dark rain outside and we were greeted like old friends. The owner immediately brought over two bottles of pepsi and our food was out to us in a flash. After walking in the rain, the udon and bulgogi warmed us up and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and company (even the high schoolers getting drunk at the table behind us).
All in all it was a great day and I am really looking forward to seeing more sites on the trail. Hopefully I can go with the stamp trail group again, as they really seem to know what’s going on.