Every Tuesday and Saturday, at the end of the long line of train cars at Seoul Station, the last three cars stand out with “Wine Train” written in curling letters. The windows are adorned with gold curtains hanging down. The seats are covered in red patterned velvet. The walls are painted with lavish decoration and wood paneling half way down. It feels like gaudy posh, something you’d expect to see the Siberian railways of past adorn with. Just after pulling out of the station the Korean guides come around with coasters, glasses and present a dish of crackers, oranges and cookies. A speaker comes in and announces that four different kinds of wine will be tried with breakfast and we are to sip each and then upon completion decide which one we like so that we can enjoy a full glass later. There are three reds and one white and as expected the reds are all sweet as tends to be common with Korean wine. A few glasses of wine and much conversation later the train pulls into Yeongdong city.
We are directed to waiting buses that take us down persimmon lined avenues to the nearby Chateau Mani Winery. After arrival we are hustled into one of the halls to enjoy a buffet of Korean and western food and as much wine as we can drink. Bellies full, it’s time for a break from food and wine with a little soap making and a wine foot bath. Even though the soap making begins with something similar to an infomercial and the wine bath is shared with 8 other people it’s hard not to enjoy. After the bath, our legs and feet are lotioned up put back in shoes and we’re given a tour of the wine cellar.
Taken on another short bus ride to “ginseng town” for a healthy stop, we are prompted to make ginseng sachets and told under no circumstances to use this particular ginseng for tea or for food. We are then directed towards having free time on ginseng street, an entire road lined with ginseng shops, restaurants and the like. We enjoyed ginseng rice wine and fried ginseng, not the healthiest afternoon.
Finally, getting back on the train to return to Seoul at 7, everyone was clearly ready for an alcohol induced nap. Our fearless Korean leaders had something else in mind however and we were handed glasses and bottles of wine and platters of mini sandwiches, kimbob, fruit and nuts and told to enjoy while the hired guitarist played everything from Frank Sinatra and Elton John renditions to Korean pop music. It didn’t take much to get the older Korean women up dancing in the aisles and the only two Korean gentlemen to come with them were forced up as well. It was an amazing end to quite a wonderful wine drinking day. We arrived back in Seoul at 10 and everyone headed home full of wine and plentiful food.