Saturday, April 30, 2005

Eger, Hungary

Statue of Dobo Istvan
We woke up early —4 A.M.!— and walked to the train station. The town was mostly deserted and very quiet. Caught the 5:10 A.M. train to Hungary, a short time later we passed through border control. The Hungarian border guards were extremely nice and spoke English well. One quick glance at the passports, two stamps and we're done. So much easier than the last border crossing, though we have a few Slovak Crowns left in our pockets for crossing the border, just in case.

Eger Town Square
The train stopped in Fuzesabony, a town about 15Km from Eger. We had some time before the next train, so we headed off to find some cash. I was happy to find an ATM this time! Another train ride and we arrive in Eger around 9 AM. The map in our Lonely Planet guide is useless, so I commit the town map outside the train station to memory and we start walking.

(Steph calls me the "human GPS" for my ability to navigate with, or without, a map. If I've walked/driven/rode someplace once, I will never forget how to get there again. Who needs sattelites?)

Beer For Breakfast
We walked to the center of town and found our hotel, the Hotel Senator Haz. Unfortunately, it was too early for us to check in, so we dropped our bags off and headed out to check out the town. First things first, we need some breakfast. We found a small bakery shop and grabbed a few sandwiches. The town was setting up for some kind of festival. This time we'd be sure to get to join in for all the fun. This is a great way to see Eger at its best! I started drinking at 10:30 A.M., I figured I should do as the locals do! Too bad the first Hungarian beer I tried, Soproni, was like Budweiser with a little added flavor. Yech. The Dreher Bak (Bock) I drank later in the day was much better. While quafffing my first beer a German tour group walked by and was admiring the statue of Dobo Istvan. One of the older men in the group pulled out a single-serving bottle of Jaegermeister and sucked it down right in front of me. Beer with breakfast, sure. But Jaeger?

View from Eger Castle

Seeking to recreate an Amazing Race 6 moment we walked up to the Eger Castle and did a short tour of the grounds. Not nearly as impressive as either Prague Castle or Wawel Castle and the hike wasn't as deadly as the Spis Castle — but it was open for visitors! The castle was nice, but the more interesting sites were the views across the city itself. Before we left, we replicated the "Canon Ball Run" scene from Amazing Race. Yes, we're reality TV watchers. And we're currently missing the final few episondes of the Amazing Race 7!

Recreating the Amazing
Race "Cannonball Run"

Back down through the square, things are getting going now with cheerleaders and a very bad marching band. We headed to lunch but we had trouble finding any local cuisine. Eger is a big tourist town so they had everything you could want, including McDonalds. So we ate at a Mediterranean restaurant where they served gyros without the pita. Weird. Spent some time people watching and Steph was evesdropping on the Israeli couple next to us to see if she still remembered her Hebrew. After lunch we headed off to see the local wine museum. Amazingly, it is out of business!

View from Eger Castle

Instead we found our way via taxi to the wine caves at Szepasszony-volgy, the Valley of Beautiful Women. We explored a handful of the cellars, some were dark and dank, others brightly lit and nicely decorated. The all shared one common theme, mediocre to really bad wine! Thankfully it was only 50HUF (~$.25) a glass! One of the cellars had a very lively band with 3 fiddlers and a bassist. They came over to us and tried to guess where we were from, intending to play our national anthem. They guessed wrong numerous times and we weren't helping them much. Everyone thinks we're German! Finally, we told them we're American and they played "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof! Weird.

I've been a very
bad boy

After a few glasses of wine we decided to head back to the center of town and the festival. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a taxi to save our lives, but a nice waiter from a local restaurant was kind enough to call one for us. When we paid the driver he counted back our change in German! I guess that Eger sees a lot of German speaking tourists and not many English speakers.

Eating Cotton Candy
We continued to pop in and out of the festival through the day and ate some cotton candy, local pretzels, drink a few more beers and enjoyed the local color. Early in the evening a very funny — and very BAD — rock band went on stage. They were covering a number of songs that we knew, but it was clear that they didn't speak English so the words came out funny. Imagine "Born To Be Wild" sung completely phoenetically! They also sang quite a bit in Magyar. The local teenagers clearly knew the songs and sang along. It was so bad that it was good!

Barrels of Wine
During the show I spotted two kids wearing McDonalds/1996 Atlanta Olympic Games hats. That was definitely not expected, but it put us in the mood for dinner so we headed to the local MickeyD's. The day had been long and we were too tired to try and figure out a menu in Magyar and knew that there weren't many choices for local Hungarian cuisine. It may not have been called a Quarter Pounder With Cheese &mdash or a Royale With Cheese — but it tastes the same. I was annoyed, however, to have to pay for ketchup! Walked back to the hotel and packed our bags before bed. Tomorrow we're headed to Budapest, the final stop on our trip and where we'll spend our 2 year anniversary!

"If I were a
rich man..."

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