The miracle of Eger
A short walk from the centre of Eger is 'The Valley of Beautiful Women'. Set in one of Hungary's principal wine growing regions, this is where you come for wine tasting on a shoestring - or, more accurately, on the smell of an oily rag. Visitors are invited to taste the wares of a number of cellars grouped together on a short horseshoe-shaped street. The cellars are built into a hill and walking into them is a bit like entering cosy little caves, except these are naturally chilled to just the right temperature for the storage of a large range of delicious wines. Different to wine tastings in Australia, the practice is to enter a cellar, randomly pick a type of wine and pay for a glass. At forty cents a pop, we were happy to oblige.
The pride of the Eger wine region is Egri Bikaver, or 'Bull's Blood' as it is widely known. The story goes that when the Turks were attacking Eger castle 1552, the soliders defending it were plied with large quantities of red wine. It wasn't long before their beards began to drip with the red liquid, and the rumour spread among the Turks that the opposing army gained their strength from drinking the blood of bulls. It must have worked - the castle was succesfully defended, and the Turks had to wait several decades before they got another crack at it.
It was a miracle that the the castle was defended but, as we were to learn, Eger had more miracles in store. It is true that, after six hours of wine tasting in the Valley, we did feel something akin to spiritual enlightenment. And it was in this heady state that I seized my 1500mL water bottle and presented it to the owner of my favourite cellar. Our eyes met briefly and as I mumbled 'Bull's Blood', I could tell she understood. I emerged two minutes later not with water, but with wine. And then J went to the cellar next door, and it happened again - in the native tongue, asvanyviz had been turned into bor. As we walked back into town, bottles in hand and rejoicing at what we had seen, we noticed that other pedestrians kept a wide berth - perhaps we just shone with the wild glow of having been touched by a miracle.
Photos of wine tasting, Budapest love parade, Slovakian sing-a-long and more...