How we spent a weekend in Eger
Travelling to foreign countries and far away locations might be the ultimate thrill, but sometimes time and financial constraints simply do not allow extended trips. This shouldn’t be a reason to despair and stay at home dwelling in self pity. There are lots of beautiful locations right in the neighborhood waiting to be explored. Visiting places near you, in your own country and learning about your history and the local culture is just as much fun and a great way to escape the every day rat-race for a weekend.
One such place in our proximity is the historic town of Eger, where we intended to recharge our batteries with a stay at a spa combined with a city tour. The location of the hotel we stayed at helped with our plan to get away: at the edge of the town, near age old wine cellars and holiday camps closed for the winter.
The 4 buildings of the hotel extend on a spacious garden area with a restaurant separate from the building where the rooms and the spa are, all of it far form the noise and traffic of the town. We had all the ingredients for a really good night's sleep.
Our hotel was not far from the center, only about half an hour walk, so we made the distance by foot. The streets were clean and most of the houses renovated, with many of them transformed into guest houses.
It seems that the area is more visited by tourists than we originally thought. This might be due to its fame for the local wine and the fortress. The closeness of the Slovakian border also results in more foreign visitors - we suppose Eger is popular among them since we heard a few people speaking Slovakian.
Our first stop was at the Cathedral of Eger built in classical style which is impressive rather due to its height, than its decoration. It has 17m high Corinthian columns and a 37m high dome and it was built in the 19th century on the place of a smaller church.
After taking a few pictures we continued our tour towards the city center. A neatly renovated pedestrian street lead to the Minaret which was unfortunately under reconstruction as it started to fall apart due to its age and neglect.
We weren´t lucky with the Kopcsik Marcipánia and Bell Foundry House either, as it closed unexpectedly for renovation (no mention about it on their website).
We decided to console ourselves with a lunch and a good coffee. The restaurant we went for after an internet search is in the Eger fortress.
We enjoyed a pleasant lunch with desert and coffee at this brick wall restaurant decorated in Turkish and modern style. The waiter was very attentive, the food was delicious and the place clean and elegant.
The fortress itself was a bit of a disappointment. The main reason for this is that we visited in the off season. During summer there are lots of fun activities and programs to attend, like the reenactment of the famous siege of 1552.
The second reason is that it was left to decay for a long time and only the inner part is left of what once held back a Turkish army of 40,000 soldiers. Most walls do not have their original height and one of the bastions was cut off to build a railway track through it during the communist era.
The reconstruction is still ongoing though, there are plans to rebuild much of the fortress.
By visiting the István Dobó Castle Museum you can get a glimpse of the historical background of the area. The Wax Museum is underground where wax figures representing the famous historical characters from the Turkish assault in 1552 are on display. We had the chance to see also a temporary Ottoman weapon exhibition.
The fortress became famous due to the book ˝Eclipse of the Crescent Moon˝ (˝Egri Csillagok˝) written by Gárdonyi Géza who was a citizen of Eger himself. According to the legend the idea for the book came to Gárdonyi when he was with his son at the fortress, telling him the story of the heroic defense against the Ottoman horde. He decided to take history as anchor and write the events in the form of a novel. The book got so famous that even a movie was made based on it. The remains of the writer are buried in his beloved fortress.
Since the sun was setting, we decided to return to the hotel. Our route led us through the Dobó Square, named after the Hungarian noble man and soldier who was the captain of the defenders when Eger won against the Turks.
There is also a statue built in his honor. On the left side of the square is the Church of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue of which we saw some nice pictures on the internet, but in reality the church is really dark, which is a pity as it would make a pretty sight if it was kept in better shape. The windows are covered with cobwebs and the musty air made a suffocatingly depressing atmosphere.
We hurried out of the church and took some pictures of the square and the city hall instead.
We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel´s spa, warming up in the hot water. By the time we came out of the water, it started to snow, so we took the cameras and went out for a walk. Though we found no good composition, we enjoyed being outside and just watching the first peaceful and quiet snowfall of the year.