Last April, I had a privilege of attending the famous Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Run. This is a national event that attracts runners all over South Korea. Springtime is when many Koreans travel to different parts of the peninsula in search of the best sites for cherry blossom viewing. Personally, I do not prefer to just stand there and admire the flowers at a crowded tourist attraction. I would rather run under the rows of cherry trees that are in full blossom for the season.
We came to do the 10km run that loop around the Bomun Lake, a beautiful body of water lined with cherry trees. The run offers full and half marathon, 10km run, and 5km walk. At the registration, it wasn’t too hard to spot foreigner participants. We registered as a group called Daejeon Hash House Harrier, which is a running/drinking club based in Daejeon. Before we left for Gyeongju, we even printed out matching T-shirts. Now we’re ready for the show!
Before the run, we stopped over at a Hwangnam bread shop. It’s a 80-year old bakery certified by the government for making traditional pastry. The name is bread but the sweet and savory treat is more like deli manju. A thin layer of crust wraps the lump of sweet red bean paste.
There was a lineup when we arrived and I guess it’s not uncommon. They had a machine giving out waiting tickets as if we just walked in to a bank. A spacious lobby had seating area for people who wait for their treats. My expectation started to grow.
There were number of same type of bread shops on the street but this was the only place that could use the original name Hwangnam. The name derived from the neighbourhood Hwangnam-dong. As the delicacy gained national fame the “fake” Hwangnam bread shops opened up and used the name “Gyeongju Bread” as they could not legally use the licensed brand “Hwangnam”. Gyeongju breads are cheaper but I say it’s definitely worth it to try the original one. If you visit the store in Hwangnam-dong, you can buy a single warm bread freshly out of the oven for 800won.