Hungary – A place where history, wine and heroism unites


Before my first trip to Hungary two years ago, I had no knowledge of Hungarian wine. To be honest, I didn't think they could make wine! I changed my mind after that trip. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was back in Hungary with my sister and brother-in-law. This time we went to Tokaj and Eger, which are located in the north – eastern part of the country. Both are only a few hours by train from Budapest. Eger has a lot to offer besides wine. It's a beautiful city that has a large amount of beautiful baroque architecture, churces, food and cakes. Eger has a very special place in the history of Hungary. A special event that links it's history to the area's most famous wine.

The reason for this goes back to events in the 16th century. At that time the Ottoman Empire expanded northwards and in 1541 they had taken control of the capital Buda (present-day Budapest). Then they attacked Eger in 1552. They thought it would be easy and quick to take the city. But it turned out they had to give up. They met resistance from about 2000 inhabitants who had fortified themselves in the castle. It is said that the Turks had 100.000 soldiers outside the castle, but that might have been an exaggeration. This event has become an important symbol of Hungarian patriotism and heroism.

On our first day of exploration we went to the main square - Dodó Tér - and the castle that the Turks had besieged in 1552. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of maintenance going on at the castle making larger areas unavalable. Because the castle is located slighty higher than the city, the view was formidable. As far as I have been able to find out, the castle has been here since the Mongols invaded the city in the 13th century. But the city is remembered due to the year 1552 and the siege of the Turks that didn't lead to anything. Parts of the castle buildings exhibits weapons, clothes, equipment, historical maps etc.

The most famous of the local wines in Eger is called Egri Bikavér which means "Bulls Blood". It is said that this name derives from the Ottoman siege in 1552. At that time the warring men were cared for with good food and wine. The Turks belived that bulls blood was added to the wine. That is how they chose to explane why the Hungarians could fight so bravely. I do think that sounds like a sensible explanation.

From the castle wall we got a great view of the city. Here we are looking down at the main square called Dobó Square, named after István Dobó. He is the hero who was leading the defense against the Turks. The church towers belong to the Minorite Church.

This church is dominating the square. It's impressive on the outside, but I think it's just as impressive on the inside. A beautiful baroque church built sometime between 1750 and 1770. Just look at the frescoed ceiling! Absolutely beautiful work done by an artist.

On our second day we went to a place called «Valley of the Beautiful Woman». It hasn't got much to do with women, as the name might suggest. It is all about wine. This is a place where you will find small wine houses in a row. Local producers have a small wine cellar where you can then sit down to taste wine. I guess the vast majority of these winemakers(maybe all) make an Egri Bikavér, since it is after all the most famous wine produced in Eger. But all of the producers have a wide selection of wines, so you just start tasting and see if you can find your favorite wine. The map shows that there are at least 47 wine cellars. What we did, was to select four of them. It would not be possible to stop by each and everyone! But in case of having too much wine, you can walk back to the city center. It only takes 15 minutes.

Our last day was spent in the city center. The narrow streets are filled with beautiful baroque buildings. It is a real delight to look at the houses in different colors and all the detailed carvings. We also had time to have coffee and cakes in a cafe. The Hungarian cafes have an impressive variety of cakes. We had a hard time choosing. I wanted to taste more than one....

Because we had a lot of time we chose to visit a museum, located in a beautiful building directly opposite the basilica. It's an astronomical museum with exhibitions, a viewing platform and a Camera Obscura. It is located on the 9th floor and we had to walk the stairs all the way. On the way up there are various rooms with exhibitions of astronomical equipment, cameras olign. From the platform there is a great view of the city.

Here we look down on the beautiful Basilica of St. John. Unfortunately it was under renovation and the entire entrance area was well covered. The Camera Obscura was designed in 1776 as a way of getting a good view of the city and maybe as a way of looking at people to see what they were doing.

During our planning my sister and brother-in-law had told me that a trip to Eger must include a visit to the Thummerer vineyard outside Eger. They have been here some years ago and were determined that this was an experience of food and wine that we should not miss.

Thummerer is a family business that has been into winemaking for almost 40 years, making a variety of wines from their own vineyards. A renowned and respected vineyard that has won many prices.A trip to the wine cellar with Eva (Thummerer) as guide was an incredibly good preparation for the evening's wine tasting. The cellar has mold on the walls, old wooden barrels and a number of good smells. End of tour was at the room with the steel tanks. Eva is an excellent guide, who could tell us a lot about the family business and all the wines they make.

photo: Charlotte Poulsen

It really was a culinary experience beyond the ordinary. Eva is an excellent host. Even the breakfast was a delight! Guided tour of a wine cellar and an exquisite dinner with wine pairing. There could not have been a better end to the trip to Eger.

Sources: information brochure at the hotel

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All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)

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