into the valley

This morning I Ieft Budapest and got a train to a small town in the north-east of Hungary called Eger (that’s pronounced egg-air). Its main claim to fame is that it fought off a large Turkish army that was trying to capture it nearly 500 years ago – for this reason the Hungarians are very proud of it. The Turks came back 44 years later, though, in 1596, and this time they won. They ruled Eger for 91 years before the Habsburgs kicked them out, and they left behind a minaret (the mosque has gone) which is apparently the most northerly minaret in Europe, apart from those built by Muslim immigrants since 1945:

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This is a picture of the town (which was rebuilt in Baroque after the Turks left), looking down from the castle:

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And this is one of the streets in it:

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These days it is a mainly agricultural area; they seem to be having a summer festival, and as I was walking through town a celebratory tractor parade went by. This in spite of the incredible heat; a temperature monitor that I passed read 39 celsius (that’s 102 Fahrenheit) – not far away from being too hot to move. I was on my way to the Valley of Beautiful Women, though the draw was not beautiful women (I didn’t see any), rather local wine, for which the “Nice Woman Valley” (as it is called on the road signs) is the main tasting area (they obviously know their marketing…)

A famous wine called Bull’s Blood comes from Eger, and it seems that the area used to be one of the most highly-rated wine-growing areas in Europe until the Soviets made the vineyards communal and messed it all up. Apparently both quality and variety has increased in the last 20 years though. The valley doesn’t look all that beautiful:

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…but they certainly seem to know their wine. I ended up in pleasant conversation with a very average-looking guy who talked me through four or five locally grown types, most of which tasted pretty good. People came in and out carrying crates of plastic botles which they had filled from the vat – getting in supplies for a party apparently. The idea of getting your wine so locally appealed quite a lot – made me feel I was back in Pannonia again. My server and I had a long and rambling set-to about the past and future of the European Union and its legal systems, while I slowly set back the equivalent of more than a bottle of various local wines – all for less than four euros, including tip.

I call that the valley of a good bargain…

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