It happens like so many spontaneous things happen; you think you are on the path doing one thing, and then something changes and you find yourselves on a romantic weekend getaway without children! Yeehaw!
We were interviewing a couple for a job position at LivEnglish, talking about the wonderful area in which they live, when we decided to stay and see with our own eyes. Eger is just 2 hours outside from the country’s capital Budapest, that has such a diversity in activities for all ages, and the beauty of the open countryside of Northern Hungary near the Slovakian border.
On route we went over rolling hills, stunning mountainous terrain, with short stout trees in a variety of rich greens. Cows spectacles the hillsides, rivers cut through into dipping valleys and rooftops peeked out of fairytale-villages.
Would Hansel and Gretel be tempted by these parts, these houses cookie cutter shaped homes? Hopefully without the witch inside! The area attracts people to stop and visit, taking pictures of gorgeous views along the roadside. Travellers are drawn to this picturesque area, with many wineries, wellness centres, and undercover getaways perfect for honeymooners, but enough party atmosphere for stag parties alike. It truly offers something for any kind of tourist exploring Hungary.
My parents actually had their honeymoon here in 1971. Of course their love story ended just short of, ‘And they lived happily ever after’ however the memories that remain are a spectacular city with many great things to offer. This is and was always a hot spot for couples.
Near Eger is a place called ‘The Valley of the Beautiful Woman’ where in the 1550s Hungarians fled to the near-by caves to live in hiding during the Turkish 150 year invasion. They dug deep into the rock. Later, Hungarian winer-makers used these caves as a place to store their wine barrels. They were deep and with cool temperatures made them ideal. Today, they are used as wine cellars to the local wine makers to exhibit their stocks to tourists visiting the area. Tourists have access to over two hundred vendors in one spot, making this a pub-hop for wine enthusiasts.
On 5400 hectares of vineyards, the Eger wine region is located on the southern slopes of the Bükk Mountains. Eger wine region (Egri Borvidek) is a Hungarian wine region in North-Eastern Hungary. It is famous for its red blend, Egri Bikavér or Bull’s Blood, and for some whites like Egri Leányka, or Debröi Hárslevelū.
There is a famous story about the castle of Eger, where a few thousand soldiers guarding the castle fought off a hundred thousand Turkish invaders. The captain gave the fleet of men Eger’s strong red wine to drink as they fought, and the soldiers engaged in battle drunk with the stains of the wine running down their faces and attire. The Turkish soldiers thought the men to be mad or possessed. They believed the men were drinking the blood of bulls to gain strength, and the Turkish men ran off as if they saw the devil himself. And so the wine became known as Bull’s Blood.
We walked from the 53,000 populated city centre of Eger, down the winding paths, took 20 minutes descending into the valley. On the way down we noted little doors with the names of wineries painted on them, each door no more than 1-3 meters wide. On one of them were iron bars and it revealed a deep and dark entrance, dank with low ceilings carved into the raw stone. These caves along the path were privately owned or vendors and wineries that needed the space during tourist season to exhibit their wines.
Once at the bottom we followed a group that looked like they knew where they were going, and in the circular cul-de-sac like section, ran a oneway road along the side of the mountain with a giant tree-shaded park in the centre. People were having picnics, drinking wines from open bottles, where some were arriving on bikes to this little peace of heaven.
Each entrance to a winery had little tables and chairs, some umbrellas to guard from the strong summer sun, enticing warm tourists in to rest with signs of local grape varieties, mounds of decorated cold plates loaded full of cheeses and meats.
We picked a spot, and ate and drank, the total bill was 15€, cheap eats with an ambiance where locals, and travellers, rich and poor people rubbed elbows, all who like us, just happened to stumbled across a culinary hidden treasure.
Eger has monument, churches, views from the top of their castle, enough to satisfy any history buff too. The castle from the famous book, ‘The Stars of Eger’ was not a disappointment, telling the story of how the Turks invaded and captured the city. Remanence of their civilization still remain, with many architectural influences from rounded domes and Turkish baths. The views from the top of the castle are worth the 5€ entrance fee, but a guided tour for those who don’t know the history is always a good idea.
The charms of Eger are hard to beat, from the cobblestone walking paths, to quaint little shops and restaurants offering everything imaginable from souvenirs to Hungarian foods.
Make sure Hungarian wines is on your list of things to try while visiting Hungary. They will not disappoint.