I have never been impressed with these local chains of bakeries in Seoul. Since they seem to copy each other's products, once you've tasted one, you've tasted all. And their ridiculously priced cakes are just colored icing and glazed fruits, and nothing more. None of their cakes could match the cakes at home.
(The view from the Hannam-dong crossing)
(This head...turns heads)
But there's this bakery in Seoul. It's actually a walking distance from my Hannam-dong neighborhood in the Yongsan District; it's just located on the other side of the mountain. Nam-san, that is, and on another district. This bakery is different from those copycat chains and has been baking for decades.
So, one weekend, when it wasn't that scorching outdoors, I took a hike, literally.
(An exercise park next to the Hannam tennis courts)
(Going into the tunnel at the Yongsan-gu side
and coming out at the Jung-gu side)
Although I could have just taken the Blue Bus 420 from the Hannam Bridge bus stop all the way to the Jangchung-dong bus stop next to the bakery, which would have taken less than ten minutes, I decided to walk so as to lose a few calories before I consume a lot more when I get there. And I could have taken that route along the National Theater of Korea and the Jangchung tennis courts, but that busy thoroughfare has narrow sidewalks with speeding buses and cars blowing their tailwinds to all pedestrians walking on the side. I find it scary!
Instead, I walked through the Beotigogae and Yaksu neighborhoods. I have passed these areas while riding a bus; this time, I thought, I'd be able to see the area at street level.
(I crossed the border from Yongsan-gu to
the Jung-gu district)
(Apartments on a hill)
Since it was a Sunday, there wasn't much going on in these neighborhoods. From Hannam-dong, my route led me through the main highway, the Hannam tennis courts, Beotigogae Station until the Yaksu Station. From there, a left turn towards the direction of the Dongkuk University Station.
Small shops, family-owned restaurants, small groceries, a motel next to a church, apartment buildings and a few situated on a hill completed the make-up of the neighborhood. A typical residential village in Seoul.
I forgot how long it took me to reach my destination. With all the walking and taking photographs, it must have been less than an hour. But when I did reach its location, its building looked ordinary and unassuming. Maybe because it's been there for a long time and that its reputation doesn't need those fancy entrances or flashing lights on its doors.
Tae Geuk Dang, the bakery, was established in 1946. That's even before the Korean War. I wonder how many thousands of customers have enjoyed its bread and other baked goodies since.
(The Yellow Namsan bus en route to NSeoul Tower)
(Traffic enforcers at the Yaksu intersection)
(Jangchung Gymnasium undergoing renovation)
But that day, 68 years since it opened, I was there for something it's really famous for: ice cream sandwiches!
And in this hot weather, I wasn't the only one lining up to get those cold goodies. Taekeukdang has two kinds of sandwiches, actually. The rectangular ice cream wafer is W1,500 each; the round one sells for W2,000 each. Of course, I got both to eat on the spot and bought a few more to bring home!
(The intersection next to Dongguk University)
(A church with a coffee shop)
(The bakery's building)
The bakery has a seating area with tables for those who want coffee with their bread or patpingsu, or those who simply want to enjoy their ice cream. Their interiors are made of wood and really looked vintage. They have an 'old Seoul' atmosphere to it, the one you cannot find in any new fancy bakery-slash-cafe, where the mark-up for an overpriced loaf of bread must have included the new cushioned sofa or the white-painted interiors. Ha-ha-ha!
I promised myself to go back again to Taekeukdang. Perhaps, not on foot, but on a bus or through subway. Other than their sandwich ice cream, I will definitely bring home some of their other baked products. I'm actually eyeing that raisin bread.
(Tae Keuk Dang entrance)
(Its interiors look more inviting than any
fancy bakery out there)
(Their bestsellers in the freezer)
By the way, the almond bread I got from Taekeukdang was the snack I brought with me to the Beatification Mass.
(Re-stocking their easily sold out ice cream sandwiches)
Taekeukdang is just right outside Exit 2 of the Dongkuk University Station of Line No. 3, and is actually a couple of bus stops from the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park area.
(Enjoying their ice cream sandwiches on the spot!)
(All the walking was definitely worth it!)