In my last post, I shared pictures from a train station in Seoul. In my comments with Amanda, I refer to another post with recollections from the trip. Re-reading that, it occurred to me that many things have changed since 2016.
Current affairs have educated me on the histories of the eastern block countries (my cartographic memory is much better) and I’ve learnt more about Slovenia from a personal perspective (Thank you Manja!)
I’ve also learned a bit more about editing and presenting short prose. With this in mind, I’ve updated this post, which gives another snapshot of my trip in 2016.
The original is from a series of “If we were having coffee …” stories where I ramble on about brief encounters in distant places.
If we were having coffee in Seoul then it would be later in late morning … because coffee shops don’t open any sooner. Our hotel was in the Ewha University area, ensconced between two train stations, surrounded by neighborhood eateries, none of which opened before 10 am.
Well, there was one coffee shop. It opened at 8:30 and we found it soon enough. Every morning we’d squeezed through the door as soon as it opened. One latte and one Americano please!
It opened everyday at 8:30am, except for Sundays.
On Sunday, we scoured the empty sidewalks searching for coffee. Finally, we found a European style shop specializing in sweets and pastries; it also sold coffee. We ordered our brews and for good measure, ordered their specialty – a hot, freshly made sweet bread slathered with a choice of jam, chocolate or nut butter. Since it was breakfast, I chose peanut butter and since I was on holiday, I asked for chocolate too.
Making the bread involved winding strips of dough onto a thick wooden dowel and slowly baking it in a rotisserie type oven. It took a while. I got to talking with the young man behind the counter.
“Where are you from?” I asked. It’s a standard question for mutual aliens in foreign territory.
“Slovenia,” he said.
In my head I knew this was part of seceded Russia. My geographical puzzlement must have shown.
“It’s in the same area as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, ” he said.
“Are there many ex-pats like you in Seoul?” I said. The day before I’d been surprised to see a grey eyed Caucasian girl working in an Azerbaijan (another cartographic mystery) restaurant.
“There are some,” he said. “Most Serbians go to America, only a few go east and fewer to Korea. There’s maybe twenty-five of us here. It’s a great place to travel around.”
He removed the rotating dowel and shifted it to a slot closer to the top grill in the oven. On the counter he readied a steel dish fashioned with two support beams at either end. The device looked vaguely familiar.
“What’s this bread called?” I asked.
“It’s a bit hard to say,” he said. “TrrhhdLoh. Like how it’s spelled. TRDLO”
I may be poorly versed in geography but I have an encyclopedic memory about food. I recognized the bread as a traditional Czech pastry and became quite excited to taste it.
Later, I carefully tore apart the warm trdlo. It was buttery sweet, chewy and gooey, messy with melted peanut butter and chocolate chips. An unexpected taste of Eastern Europe in South Korea. Wonderful with coffee on a Seoul Sunday morning.
Seoul, South Korea. May 2016