Daegu, by thy river shall I know thee

Daegu, by thy river shall I know thee
Daegu, Korea Rep.

Daegu, Korea Rep.

Favourite sight in Daegu, a young man with his girlfriend, the man carrying a shoulder bag with his tiny dog inside.

I had no plans for my next move, other than thinking I’d go somewhere before Seoul. Gwanju on the west sounded interesting, but my hostel informant reckoned ‘not interesting for foreigners’ and much as I just fancied a city after days of walking, heading to the west for no big reason now seemed less tempting. Said informant had embarked on explaining a couple of things before denouncing them as boring (“Oh, Daegu! My highschool is there. Um, it…ah, boring”, “You know there is festival in Gyeongju? It is dream festival [looks down]. Hmm, actually, boring”), suggesting to me that with an (even) greater vocabulary he might have told me about them, but was left to use the word boring to escape from a conversation he couldn’t end. I’m going with the flow where I can so was prepared to take his word for it. Andong was a popular destination, for its mask festival, but I couldn’t spot a place to stay, and hostel man had suggested Jeonju. Booking on a Friday for Saturday night works as well in Korea as in Japan, which is not very, so with nowhere to stay in Jeonju till Sunday, I hopped over to Daegu.

Tall, red-brick Cathedral

It’s just an hour on the bus, but cities here have an intercity bus terminal and an express bus terminal and I think I went to the former. No great problem, but it dropped me somewhere in Daegu, I still don’t know where. I had tried to get off the bus too early and been taken under the wing of a local, who then got me on a bus and made me repeat my destination (byongshjoc degeree, byongsjok degeree) until he was confident I would hear it and be able to match sound to memory. It worked, though when I looked at the name of the subway (Myeongdeok) it bore little resemblance to how I’d have spelled the sound I was making. Maybe my more practised ‘Anyang Hesiou’ – hello, more literally have a great day – from walking past lots of friendly walkers is not as accurate as I think it is – funny how you can ‘hear’ it wrong.

I was at the hostel a bit after one, to find the owner waiting for me. Hostelworld always ask for an arrival time, I always have to make it up. This time, the poor girl was off out and I was the last one in, so she’d had to wait for me. But I was there. Happy to do very little; Daegu is a pretty cool city, like Korea in general it has developed at a rate of knots; unlike Seoul, Busan and Gwanju (or so I read, those three are the most finished), there is still much to do. Possibly not so much that counts as a must see, and I was only there because…oh, alright, time to get out and see some of it. Bernice, a very friendly South African monster who helps out in the hostel talked me through the local area, so as I then wandered down mobile phone alley (small bright shop after small bright shop) to the traditional medicine street, I had her words in my head. The houses of two important Nationalists, Lee Sang-Hwa and Seo Sang-don, have been preserved, partly by moving them closer together so a huge apartment building can be put in, and it is odd to see two traditional Korean houses right in between other big buildings. Turning left at the end of the medicine street I did indeed, Bernice, spot the big church and mistake it for the cathedral. Actually the church on a hill (Cheongna hill) is the first Presbyterian church, with three missionary houses looking conspicuously Western in its grounds, while the cathedral is the other side of the road. From this hotbed of history it’s an easy stroll to the big Lotte department store, with a cinema on the fourth floor. There’s a desk marked ‘English speakers only’, which I interpreted as ‘…should only come to this desk’ rather than ‘you must speak English here’, but it could go either way. A very helpful man stopped to check whether I needed help, but I wasn’t quite up for a film, just seeing what was on.

White/grey bricked modern church

The malls underground, next to some of the stations, particularly (by which I mean the first mentioned below I saw, while the second was listed as 2nd best attraction in Daegu by Trip Advisor, which shows really how much TA’s visitors have had to say about the city) Banwoldang and Jungangro, are worth a look too. And finally, there’s a useful app, even the lite version of ‘Subway in Korea’ lets you check which line and direction you might need.

I headed East to the river for my run; South today, I’ll go North tomorrow. This is another river with a whacking great track next to the river, and well maintained shared cycle/run/walk path where that ends. In the evening I crossed the road from Banwoldang where I was staying and was submerged in youth and bustling streets. I think the cries of ‘amigo!’ were to tempt me in, but I continued my search for a quiet restaurant and found one called ‘School Food’. I had two courses, probably both mains, both excellent – a kind of sushi and bibimbap. The latter is the speciality of Jeonju, where I head tomorrow, so now I can compare. It was all excellent, anyway. I was in and in bed by 10, in common with half of my room. The other half were all home and in bed by 6 in the morning; how the other half live.

Bronze statue of a boy, on top of two book-statues, pile of 6 beside him
Taken by this chap.

Saturday’s short run – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/3862 19975.

Sunday’s long one – check it out, if I’d made a loop rather than an out and back, I’d have gone round most of the city http://connect.garmin.com/activity/3862 20047.

Reading: Janet Evanovich, Four to Score.

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