As I’ve been trying to get the word out about events before they actually happen, I’m pleased as puddin’ to announce that it’s that time of year again for the Gyeongju Soju (소 주) & Ddeok (떡) , or Liquor and Rice Cake Festival. As always, the festival’s in Hwanseong Park. The official word is that it kicks off Saturday, April 17th and winds down Thursday the 22nd. I’ll be posting the actual daily events schedule as I get it.
The Liquor and Rice Cake Festival is the biggest yearly festival in Gyeongju. It’s usually a lot of fun, though it definitely helps if you’ve got a taste for Korean liquor and ddeok (떡), or “rice cake”. And if you’re thinking of those crunchy puffed rice snacks, I’m afraid you’re in for a surprise. Korean rice cake is dense, very chewy and has a consistency almost like taffy. For me ddeok is like a lot of things; I love it if it’s fresh and made well (if it’s been sitting on the shelf of a 7-11 for days, I’d rather eat the eraser off a pencil). Fortunately that’s not usually a problem here.
But if ddeok isn’t really you’re cup of tea, there’s always the second billing: soju. Fortunately when they say “soju” they don’t actually mean that usual brew of watered-down ethanol and corn syrup that usually induces hives and two day hangovers (yeah, I’m not a fan). Instead there all manner of strange and beautiful Korean wines and liquors here, like Bokbunjaju (복분자주) and Beopju (법주), my personal favorite. The way it’s worked in the past is that several dozen vendor set up stall lining the main drag through the park…. and they all give out free samples. This of course leads to a very festive atmosphere that can carry on late into the night.
The Festival will probably kick off on the evening of the 17th with fireworks and maybe a K-pop singer or two. They’ve not released the events schedule yet in English. But to give you an idea of what usually goes on, here’s the event’s schedule from last year. And incidentally, I’d love to know just what they mean by the following:
“Changing People’s Perceptions about Drinking Alcohol!!!
• Breaking the existing image of liquor
• Rubbing liquor/spreading liquor/sinking liquor/food liquor”