Elusive Eger

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Botax motel
Europa Pension

Flag of Hungary  ,
Sunday, July 11, 2010

We got some very curious looks when we turned up at the Hungarian border on foot. The border guard stamped us into Hungary and asked where we were going 
"Kelebia" we tell him, the nearest border town with a train station. 
 "Ah" he says. "Walking?"
"Autobus?" we ask confidently
"No" he says equally confidently, "8km walk" and proceeds to give us directions, ending with "maybe you find taxi"
We found ourselves on what was once a major highway lined with restaurants, now all completely deserted and quiet. No taxis. We walked 2km to the turn off, which turns out to be an even quieter country lane. No taxis. Families in shiny Peugeot's stared at us in astonishment as we try flag down a car, before eventually a battered old Lada ground to a halt, the elderly Hungarian man inviting us into his car with a friendly smile. Five minutes up the road (five minutes in a wobbly Lada is not far in kilometers) he stopped at a pub, mimed drinking and told us to wait in the car "Ein minuten". German is widely spoken around here. Two minutes later he returned, rubbing his beer belly in a satisfied manner. He dropped us off at the train station, where the Lada promptly conked out and refused to restart, even when we gave it a push. 
Buying train tickets involved a visit to the next door pub to change Euros into Forint. (ATM? no. Bank? no.) It was deserted except for one woman asleep on a bar stool, hand gripped around a shot glass half full of plum brandy. The noise of our shoes on the sticky floor woke her briefly, but she managed to sleep through us hammering on the bar to attract the attention of the barmaid.

The train, for once, was actually within an hour on time, and we arrived in Eger about 7:30pm. This is when we discovered that there was a wine festival on in town. The pensions we tried either wouldn't answer their door or were full - could they help us? "no, full goodbye". Hmm. A few rounds of town later we resorted in desperation to a five star hotel, where they gave us a map and told us where to find a cheaper hotel, where we booked into the last room. 
By this time, the wine festival had packed up in favor of big screens showing the world cup final, and all the restaurants had closed their kitchens, the chefs evidently also watching the soccer. And so we reached the ultimate low point of our night... even worse than Spain winning the world cup... having to eat dinner at McDonalds.

Thankfully in the sane light of a new day, Eger is a lovely town and almost worth the effort to get there. The highlight and tourist drawcard is of course the wine. Just out of town in the "valley of the beautiful women" (I think that title might be alcohol induced) are rows of wine cellars dug into the rock. Inside they are delightfully cool and filled with huge barrels of wine, which is sold by the litre (byo bottle). Eger castle with its underground tunnels is also pretty popular.

We visited nearby Bukk National Park on a daytrip, a 4km popular walking trail leading up past lakes to visit a couple of waterfalls. Large signs declare the importance of not making too much noise in the park, while the little novelty tourist train rushes past on noisy tracks, blowing its whistle at ear piercing volume. Just outside the entrance is a famous Lipizaner stud (those white horses that Austria and Hungary are so famous for). Unfortunately closed to the public the day we were there, we hung around the entrance long enough to see a few of the horses heading out for a ride. 

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Candice on

Emily, this is the best entry yet. Gold, gold.

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