Sleepy eyed I hopped onto a bus to travel for three hours to have delectable strawberries for a late morning breakfast. After reading that you might be thinking ‘What the bleep? Couldn’t you have gone to your local grocer instead?’ Hold on a moment, you need to understand that this does not involve a regular café-sized portion of strawberries atop your yogurt and muesli.
The Nonsan Strawberry Festival, now in its 11th year, offers you this mouth-watering, speckled berry in every form you can imagine. From strawberry-shaped flower arrangements, strawberry-flavoured gochujang (a spicy Korean condiment) to strawberry mascots (one of which proclaimed his undying love for me), strawberry tteok (rice cake) and a jam-making experiences for the kids.
Silence pervaded the greenhouses and a eat-as-much-as-you-can policy resurrected the little glutton in me. No, I take that back. Who am I kidding? It didn’t need any resurrecting. I pretended to accidentally miss the tour bus back to the official festival grounds. ‘Oh, woe is me,’ I gasped, palms cradling my cheeks and mouth agape. I sighed deeply (all those drama classes came in handy) as I was told I would have to wait for another 20 minutes for the next bus to arrive. I tried my utmost best to pretend to be disappointed, but I wasn’t fooling anyone. The ensuing toothy smile was in plain sight, for all to see. I just about ran back to the greenhouses to continue indulging in my banquet. The festival officials were kind enough to call me when the next bus arrived – or was it that they were worried I wouldn’t leave any strawberries for the others?
The festival was not what I had anticipated. I had recollections of my younger self roaming beneath the Hartbeespoort sky among the strawberry shrubs, in mind. Here a forest of white tent canopies pointed skywards. However, for KRW10,000 and after a ten-minute bus ride you were dropped off at the gates of earthly heaven where you could eat strawberries to your tummy’s content. I brought back three boxes-full and didn’t eat anything else for the remainder of the day. Now the freezer is as far as I need to go if I want to make frozen strawberry smoothies for breakfast.
How to get there: By train: From Yongsan train station take a train to Nonsan station. It runs from 5:20am-11:10pm and departs every 10-15minutes. The estimated travel time is 1hr 30mins. The festival grounds are a 15-minute walk from the station.
By express bus (which is what I did. It cost around KRW13,000 one way): From Seoul City or Express bus terminal take a bus to Nonsan bus terminal. It runs from 6:30am-10:45pm and departs every hour.