Thursday, Drew and I made the trip down to Hongseong. We only got on one wrong train, and were able to remedy our error before the train had left the station. Drew’s birthplace is a cute little town. It’s much more rural than Seoul or even Pusan. We wandered around the downtown area and found the hospital where Drew was born. We actually walked in and got to look around the lobby, but didn’t think trying to wander further into the depths was a good idea. I suggested Drew try to cross the street at a red light to get a more intense hospital experience, but he declined.
We also found the Hongseong elementary school, where, we assume, Drew’s brothers attended classes. There are several historic spots around the town, as well. There’s a fortress in the middle of the town’s thoroughfare, and a tomb memorial for freedom fighters who perished in the uprising against Japan in 1906.
Hongseong is known for its cockles, cavern shrimp, and its beef. Apparently, Hongseong supplies 6% of the nation’s Korean beef (han-u), and there were butcher/restaurant combinations touting local beef everywhere. We picked one randomly for lunch, and it turned out to be THE BEST meal we’ve had. As Hongseong’s fairly rural, no one we encountered spoke English, so we rather randomly picked a kogi dish off the menu. We got a variety of cuts of beef, from thinly-shaved shabushabu meat, to good sized chunks, to a whole steak. No seasonings, the ahjumma sliced it ten feet away from us on the meat slicing machine and brought it to our table. The meat was so nicely marbled, and the flavor was incredible. We even broke off a couple chunks of fat from the giant cube the ahjumma gave us and fried those on the grill. It browned wonderfully; the surface was nice and crispy and the center melted in your mouth.
After lunch, we hiked around some of the quieter back roads and got to see some of the countryside, fields, and rice paddies. Our ride home was long and tiresome, but definitely tinged with something of “real Korea.” We got back to Hongseong’s train station around 5 pm. There were no trains to Seoul until about 10 pm, but there was a train to Yongsan at 6. You can pretty easily get to downtown Seoul from Yongsan via metro, so we got tickets for that train. Though, we forgot to take into account that on Friday evening of a long holiday weekend (Buddha’s birthday is Monday), many people would be travelling. The seats on the Yongsan train were all full, but we were able to get two standing room tickets. It was a long two hours, standing in the “foyer” of car number 2. Stuffy, bumpy, and crowded. But we managed to get home in one piece! Drew subsequently spent the next day lazing around in bed.