Like yesterday, the weather looked rather grey, wet even, bordering on the autumnal. Is our summer drawing to a premature end? I hope not. Anyway, it was quite nice too in a way, to have a slightly cooler if greyer day. We walked from the hotel into the centre of Eger for a morning of mooching around, with wine tasting planned for later.
Eger itself was a small charming provincial town, easy to like, with a somewhat Mediterranean feeling as well as a sense of history and fantastic renaissance and baroque architecture. We wandered along the normal streets. Well, they were normal except for all the impenetrable signs in Hungarian! It does seem to be a particularly impenetrable language. This brought us out by the large yellow basilica, an imposing church with an ornate interior, wonderful stained glass windows and so on. A beautiful church inside and outside. From here we continued into the town, with its many pedestrianised streets which made it pleasant to just stroll around. Oh yes, across the road from the basilica, or not far from it, we visited the astronomy museum, housed in a large 17th-18th century building, the former academy or university or something.
The central tower in one of the sections around the courtyard housed a number of small attractions, all related to astronomy and science. From the top of the tower a long Foucault pendulum hung the length of the stairwell. We visited the fascinating camera obscura first, right at the top, after waiting for a school group to leave. On a flat white panel in a darkened room we could see in fantastic detail what was going on in the town all around us, by employing the fantastic contraption of lenses and mirrors which reflected the light onto the table. From the terraces at the top of the tower we had great views over the town. Lower down we had fun in the small science exhibition with hands-on exhibits and listened to the recording describing the various astronomical instruments and the meridian running through the room, marked out with a channel.
After the fun museum we had a coffee at a café on the pedestrianised street and then strolled around the rest of the town centre, roughly following Lonely Planet. We the saw the narrow minaret, the only remaining bit of the mosque built by the Turks during their occupation. Eger had held out against them for a long time in a siege (1552), and the local wine is known as “Bull’s Blood” as the Turks thought that that was what the locals were drinking to fortify themselves, seeing their red wine-stained beards. The walked passed along the bottom of the ruined castle walls and then towards the main square, which had a beautiful baroque church and statues related to the city’s history, especially the defence against, and occupation by, the Turks.
By now it was well into the afternoon and time for us to head for the wine tasting! For a bit of fun, and out of a little laziness?, we waited for the dotto train. This took us first in a loop round the town centre, more or less the way we had already walked, and then out towards the south-west of town. Szépasszonyvölgy, “Valley of the Beautiful Women”, was basically a U-shaped area lined with small wine cellars set into the rocks, a central area of green parkland, and a crescent road around it. Some cellars were clearly out of service/business, whereas others were fully set up for the tourist trade. The first one we came to had a gypsy band playing inside and several benches full of tourists. We visited a few different cellars, more or less following Lonely Planet round. Actually, we just went into every single one starting from the top along one side of the square.
They ranged from the basic, no frills, where you just bought a glass and sat outside (or inside) to drink it, to the more sophisticated ones, but they were all friendly, convivial and a wonderful and very different drinking environment. No chi-chi “tasting” here. You just buy a glass of whatever choice the cellar had, or could do as the locals do and bring along your plastic bottles to be filled with your choice of plonk, straight from the source so to speak. We kept bumping into the same people who, like us, were doing a little crawl of the cellars. We finished with one of the low numbered smaller cellars at the bottom and then went for dinner at one of the eateries that have been set up, à la Mikołajki, at the back of the houses. By the end of the day we both felt pretty squiffy. The wines were allright, gluggable but nothing remarkable, just good honest plonk. We returned to the hotel, a short walk, and crashed out, feeling very satisfied and relaxed, again!