.Eger & The Fantastic Train Ride

In June, Arno and I decided to go to Eger for a little day trip. I had stayed up late the night before playing laser tag and was so hungry and groggy on our first out of three trains that I thought I might nod off. An old folks group on the final train to Eger wouldn’t allow for it though and as Arno and I sat on the train, I was thoroughly amused by their 40 year old chaperone/guide who called out loudly on the train “WHO NEEDS TO USE THE BATHROOM?!” and nearly every hand shot up. Normally, Hungarians don’t show much emotion in public but I couldn’t help it and busted out laughing. The old folks group looked at me and started to laugh too, and for the next hour or so the group bonded with us as we giggled about little things that we were observing. As the group went one by one to the bathroom, the chaperone decided to amp things up a little and pulled out his boombox, walking up and down the aisle playing Dancing Queen by ABBA. I mean… what?! What kind of trip were these people on!? Arno and I were in stitches.

We arrived in Eger, walked past the gorgeous yellow basilica in town and made our way to Eger Castle. It’s well known in Hungary for defending a Turkish attack in 1552 (called the Seige of Eger), when Hungarians powered by red wine created a giant wheel of explosives that they rolled down the hill into the Turks, securing their win.

After a walk around the castle ruins and an hour or so in the well-done museum, Arno and I took a little stroll around the town before settling down to eat at the only place that listed a cheap daily menu. While Arno gawked at the low prices (Dorothy, we’re not in Budapest anymore) I was challenged to speak only Hungarian with the monolingual servers. The food was pretty good but our focus was drawn to the ice cream shop near us that constantly had a long line. So, of course, when the line was short post lunch, we took our chance and enjoyed large, ridiculously tasty, icecreams.

They were quickly consumed as we made our way to ‘Szépasszony-völgy’ or the ‘Valley of the Beautiful Women’, an area on the edge of Eger known for it’s high amount of wine cellars. The 20 minute walk in the heat of the day turned into a run-and-duck-into-the-shade game, but our final destination was absolutely perfect. The Valley is a large park surrounded by about 50 or so different wine cellars, each linked to a separate winery. We found a spot that had a tasting of 4 wines for about 5 USD and couldn’t say no. We tried the two famous wines, Bull’s Blood (Egri Bikavér) which is the red wine that gave the Hungarian’s strength to beat the Turks back in 1552, and we tried Leányka or ‘Little Princess’. They were both good, but nothing to write home about. What was really funny though, is that while we were sitting there drinking, the music changed to none other than ABBA’s Dancing Queen and we realized that that song (thanks to the old folks on the train) would be forever changed in our minds.

Feeling satisfied with our day and knowing that we would have to go home soon, we decided to save the final thing on our to-do list, the Turkish baths, for another trip, and instead made our way to the train station. It had been an amazing day. And what we didn’t know was it was still about to get better.

While we were walking back to the train station, Arno looked at me and said, “You know what would make this day better? Seeing those old people again.”

And spoken not a moment too soon.

As we rounded the corner and the train station came into view, a bus of our favourite people was being unloaded, boom box blaring and liter containers (they were old Pepsi and Water jugs) filled with what we assumed to be wine were under each persons arm. We sprinted to the ticket counter, bought our tickets and loaded onto the same train car as the group. As we walked on we were instantly recognized and made our way down the aisle to the tune of drunken applause. It was a beautiful moment.

As soon as the train started to move the music became a bit more folksy and soon half the group was standing up, dancing in the handicap zone. Well, we weren’t about to pass that chance up and we quickly joined, with Arno finding a lovely women about 80 years old who continued to kiss him on the cheek and me finding an old man who kept mumbling Hungarian to me as we danced. With Arno not understanding a lick of the Hungarian being said, his responses were often laughs and it was completely infectious. Old people and young kids (who were with their school group in the train car) came up to the dancing section to film and the 2 hour train ride went by all too quickly. What an absolutely amazing memory.

Back in Budapest I wasn’t sure if the trip had been a dream but the sweat on our brows from too much dancing told the truth and we both wandered home with huge smiles on our faces.

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