Well, actually, it's pronounced egg-air, which brings to mind some sort of sulphurous stench or something, which is not entirely inappropriate, because there are many sulphur laden swimming baths here in Hungary. Most people have probably never heard of the place, and neither had we until we did a little reading. In the end, the feature of Eger that drew us in was red WINE. The region is apparently world famous for it's reds, so we figured we would have to come out here for at least a day or two to give it a shot. We reached Eger by taking a small commuter train from Budapest, through which we simply passed quickly, having left Vienna in the morning.
The hostel in Eger was fantastic with a sumptuous breakfast complete with meats and cheeses served by a lovely Hungarian lady, and the little baroque town was very quiet and beautiful. I think we are lucky coming this time of year when the crowds have gone, but the crush is still going on at the small wineries. And boy do I mean small. Most of the wine operations in the area are along a small horseshoe shaped valley called "Valley of the beautiful women". We are never told why the valley is called this. It could be that there are many beautiful women around, or it could be that there are many beautiful women around after a few drinks. It could easily be either. Anyway, each of the small operators has cut out a roughly hewn cavern into the side wall of the valley from which they operate and sell their product. There are so many of them that it gets a little bit repetitive, but man is it fun just stumbling next door to try the next guy's stuff. Even better is the way they do it. You simply bring along your empty two litre pop bottle and they will fill it directly from the vat, for only 800 Forint. That's about 4 bucks folks, for two litres of red. Not bad eh?
Well, don't answer too quickly because the stuff is OK, but Bordeaux it ain't, let me tell you. The wine is very punchy and young tasting and has incredible acidity and tannin levels. You sort of go Kazamingzing with your lips every time you take the plunge. Still, it's pretty good and the price cannot be beat. You will see many of the faces I made (In black and white this time) going Kazamingzing while drinking the stuff posted above. Don't ask me what that word means - I just made it up for the hell of it. Kristine's favourite was a guy whose glasses were so thick that he couldn't tell that his entire cave was filled with fruit flies. I swear that we breathed a few in with our sample.
Actually, the story of the wine is a pretty good one. You see, it is very red, and very young so it stains everything. As the folklore goes, the local men were drinking heavily in the days before the Turks first invaded way back in the 1400's. The Turks, seeing the men from afar, noticed that their beards were all red, and in battle, they could see the men drinking and fighting very fiercely. In fact, the Turks were held back here in Eger by the Hungarians during the first Turkish advance. The Turks theorized that the Hungarians were drinking straight bull's blood, and suspected this was why they were so strong and so crazy. They thus became fearful, and lost the battle. Ever since these times, the red wine from the region became known a "bull's blood" - a red blend of a few different grapes. Hell, a lot of it tastes like bull's blood, so who really knows?
After several hours at the wine shops, we headed for the bath house where we could take a dip in the mineral pools. These are common here in Hungary, having been established by both the Romans and the Turks. Actually, the entire region is starting to feel like a gigantic Turkish funnel as the cultures, food, and experiences become more and more Turkish as we are sucked towards the Bosporus. Almost every restaurant wants to serve you "the best gyros in town!"