Although on our tours the focus is generally on the countryside, nature, charming villages and vineyards, we cannot talk about the Bükkalja without mentioning the main town of the area, Eger. Nestled among the vineyards of the Eger wine region, this historical settlement attracts visitors with its beautiful baroque center and the famous castle.
The town has been an important center of the catholic church for a thousand years, and also played an important rule in the fight against the Ottomans. The first big siege of the castle happenned in 1552, and it's a very important date in Hungarian history, as the small group of Hungarians led by Dobó István managed to defend the castle from the huge Ottoman army. Eger had a crucial position in protecting the northern part of Hungary, which had many of the gold and silver mines of the country. Unfortunately the Hungarians lost the next battle, and the castle was occupied by the Ottomans in 1596 for almost 100 years. I have written more about the battle in the blog post about the Bull's blood wine of Eger.
Today the castle still dominates the view of the town, the baroque historical center was built directly around it. In the castle the museum named after Dobó István hosts several exhibitions. Dobó and his people, soldiers and women alike are national heroes, and you will find several monuments around town commemorating them.
We love walking around the historical center with its colourful buildings, nicely decorated windows and gates, the most famous one created by Fazola Henrik, the master of wrought iron.
The Ottomans still have their presence in Eger. The most visible monument is the 40-meter-high minaret, which you can also enter. 97 stairs lead up to the balcony, which offers a great panorama, but I don't recommend it if you suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia. We really love the statue of Evliya Celebi, which is standing in the shade of the castle wall. Evliya was an Ottoman traveller who was travelling around the Ottoman Empire for decades, and wrote a famous travelogue about it. You also should not miss the Turkish Bath of Eger, with its stunning golden cupola and relaxing hammam treatments.
The towers of the Basilica of Eger and those of the baroque church reach towards the sky not far from the minaret. The basilica is the third biggest church of Hungary, it was built in the first half of the 19th century in classicist style. It is facing the 18th-century late baroque building of the Lyceum, which is home to the University of Eger as well as a beautiful library and an observatory. On the main square of Eger, also named after Dobó, you can find one of the most beautiful baroque churches of Hungary.
The Dobó square has always been the center of life in Eger. It used to be the location of the market, today it's a popular meeting point of local people, with cafés, restaurants, fountains and historical monuments. The statue of Dobó is standing in the middle of the square. He is angrily looking at the modern ferris wheel in the background. Just like Dobó, we also don't understand what this huge wheel is doing among all these historical monuments.
Take a stroll on the small streets, peek into the cute little shops, stop for an icecream in one of the many confectioneries around town.
Once you have discovered the historical town, let's go underground. There is about a 140-km-long cellar system under Eger, many of these cellars used to store the famous wines. Make sure you visit the wine cellars of Eger and taste some local wine. Although the Szépasszony-völgy (Valley of the Beautiful Women) is the center of wine tourism, and it surely offers you a large selection of wine and food, we much prefer to visit the quiet rows of cellars, like the Verőszalai or the Kőlyuk cellars. If you go to the Valley, make sure you know where you'll be tasting wine. Some top wineries also have a cellar here, but unfortunately there is still lots of low quality wine around. If you are looking for guaranteed quality, please check the list of our favourite wineries in the area.
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