This past weekend, the city of Cheongdo (청도) held its annual bullfighting festival (소싸움 축제). While even now I’m not sure how I feel about having bulls fight each other, it is an interesting tradition. The first thing on everyone’s mind when I told them I was going to see a bull fight was, “Oh no! I would hate to see a bull killed like that!”, thinking of Spanish bullfighting. However, Korean bullfighting is quite different. In fact, here in Cheongdo, it’s not people that fight the bulls, but another bull.
Bulls square off in the ring, and, through a series of head butts, force one of the bulls to stand down. Throughout the fight, the bull owners coach their bulls by shouting commands. A fight typically lasts between two and ten minutes. Once it’s over, the bulls are lead out of the ring again. No bulls are killed in the process, and I’ve heard that serious injury to the bulls is rare.
However, just like any festival in Korea, there’s always a lot more to do and see than just the main event. Photo ops, traditional Korean games, performers and local products for sale were abound.
Once we had seen everything in the festival, we headed next door to check out the Cheongdo Bullfighting Theme Park (which was really a museum). The museum showed the history of bullfighting in both Korea and abroad, plus featured various games and art centered around bulls.
This entertained us for several hours, but we wanted to see what else the Cheongdo area had to offer. So, we headed down to the ‘Wine Tunnel’ (와인터널).
This tunnel, originally made for trains in 1904, was converted into a winery in 2006. The year-round cool and humid conditions make it the perfect spot for wine making. However, since the local specialty of Cheongdo is not grapes, but persimmons (감), it is only fitting that this winery produce persimmon wine (감와인).
While I’m not personally a big fan of persimmons, I had to give this wine a try while I was here and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s got a great flavor. Slightly sweet, and only a hint of the strong persimmon flavor. You can drink wine here (just 3,000 won/ glass of regular wine), or you can buy a bottle to bring home as a souvenir. Prices start at 18,000/ bottle and go up from there depending on the style or set you purchase.
Evening was approaching, but we couldn’t resist the temptation of making one last stop before heading home to Seoul. Just behind the wine tunnel, we saw a sign for a small temple called Daejeoksa Geungnakjeon (대적사 극락전) located just 100m away. We went up to take a peek.
While it’s certainly one of the smaller temples I’ve ever visited, it is definitely worth a quick visit. Brightly painted doors welcome visitors to this temple. While it was the home of a very large temple during the Silla Dynasty, all but disappeared until the middle of the Joseon Dynasty when it became a hermitage.
To go to Cheongdo, take the train from Seoul Station (서울역). Direct mugunghwa trains (무궁화호) take about 4 hours and 15 minutes, and cost 22,300 won each way. For a faster, but pricier ride, take the KTX to DongDaegu (동대구역) and transfer to the mugunghwa train.