Time to take a break from my Vietnam adventure to jump back to my reunion with Warren Kim & Seoul Hiking Group at the Yeongdong Grape Festival. I’m super excited to announce that this post will be my debut as a blogger for Seoul Hiking Group as I take on the official role of “helper/volunteer” for this lovely group that has helped me enjoy many adventures here in Seoul! If you read till the end you’ll even catch a video of Korean kids stomping grapes to Gangnam Style!
Saturday morning brought a handful of hugs and a 3 hour nap-filled bus ride before we arrived at a vineyard. After a quick stroll around the castle and a viewing gallery of wine art we ventured forth discovering a wine foot bath! The heated jacuzzi filled with a red wine was refreshing on our bare feet as we relaxed for only ₩5,000.
Next up we stepped into the orchard and were given a box for another ₩5,000. At this pick your own section us foreigners started unbagging bunches to see which were the bluest (ripest) and snuck a few mouthfuls along the way. As I tried to stuff my 6th bunch into the box (designed for 4) an ajjuma came over and started spouting Korean at us. We thought we were busted for grabbing too many grapes but it turns out she just wanted to help. The grapes last longer and don’t get squashed if you keep them in the paper bags so she rewrapped all of ours!
We regrouped at the bus and had a short drive to the main event, Yeongdong’s annual grape festival. Our first stop was to buy tickets for grape stomping later in the day but our first thoughts were of food! As the only foreigners at the festival we were granted instant celebrity status with a camera man catching us and waving instantly. We wanted to eat first so began strolling through the tents, keen on finding some lunch as fruit stall after fruit stall failed to satisfy our hunger. We did have a chance to sample king’s berries, persimmons, dozens of grapes and a handful of other unnamed fruits. Warren brought us to a tent giving away Hana Beef (a top choice from the local region) cooked into a bulgogi like stew. After a taste everyone looked around and happily realized we were at the restaurant corner!
I joined a group for a giant slab of samgyupsal, mushroom pajeon and seafood pajeon while others feasted on pork stir fry and other Korean delicacies. Our stomachs finally full and still an hour before grape stomping meant we could check out some of the other festivities. Each stall had something a little different but that often meant a different brand of wine. Sampling a dozen or so sweet, dry and medium dry wines we all agreed that the blueberry jam was the most flavorful! Wait, wine. Sorry got a little distracted; wine-not talk about the delicious jam? I guess my pun wasn’t that grape.
Most of us agreed that the sweet wines tasted a bit too much like grape juice and although I rather enjoyed a few of the sweet concoctions a medium dry struck my fancy. After another sample I remembered my intent to have a sober September and opted not to buy a bottle. On our way back to the grape stomping we passed archery games, make your own grape juice, cheese, grape-art and tea stands. I paused for a photo with 2 mascots before passing a series of water balloon catapults and finding the make your own bingsu station near the grape stomping ground.
Finally, the moment we were all waiting for, grape stomping! We queued up, handed in our tickets and donned plastic booties while quickly realizing that the crowd was by vast majority, children. Who cares, as Warren mentioned on the bus many of these activities at the family friendly festival would be geared towards kids but if you want to have fun pretend you’re a kid too!
Moments later we were jumping and dancing on bunches of delicious grapes as a Korean DJ rocked out on stage. Slipping and bumping into each other the camera men caught us with fists raised and kept asking us to jump and smile when a wee child came over and grabbed Diana’s hands. We had met moments before and now it was time to dance the afternoon away. Ajjumas and kids grabbed our hands as we spun around and waved our hands like we just didn’t care when suddenly Gangnam Style!
In the end we all had a blast and they even interviewed 3 of us for an English section in a documentary, or perhaps the local news station. If you have a chance to check out the Grape festival next year its certainly worth a stomp!