BootsnAll Travel Network

Eger: Valley of the Beautiful Women

After a week in Budapest, partying at the Backpack Guesthouse, we needed to get back to some normalcy – a bit of quiet, a private room, and cheap, cheap wine. Where else to go but Eger, two and a half hours northeast of Budapest, and home of the famous Bull’s Blood red wine, so it was there that Bec and I journeyed on October 11th.

About a twenty minute walk from the centre of Eger, a town of about 60,000 or so, is the wonderfully named Valley of the Beautiful Women. Here, amongst all the lookers, are at least 100 wine cellars standing side by side, each making their own wine on site and selling it dirt cheap to anyone walking past. We had been told that you could take empty plastic bottles to the cellars, and the owners would gladly fill them up for you. Almost disbelieving, Bec and I emptied a couple of water bottles, and walked through the late afternoon sunshine towards the valley, a bit of a spring in our steps. The guidebook we had mentioned something like the following when talking about the valley, “The number of cellars can be overwhelming. Cellars 6, 8, 16, 17, 25, and 45 are always popular, but numbers 5, 13, 18, 23, 31, 32, 42, and 44 have better wines.” This sounded like our sort of valley.

As we descended down a narrow little road, lined on each side by small sheds with locked doors, I began to worry that what we’d come to Eger to late in the year, that perhaps all the cellars close their doors at the end of September, when the tourists stop turning up. We reached a fork in the road, and, for no particular reason, chose to go left. This led us down a wider street; on the left was empty grassland, leading to the back of houses sitting up higher on the hill, out of the small valley. On the right, set well back from the road, were largish houses, each one with a long driveway and a locked gate. It wasn’t exactly the warm welcome we were hoping for.

We turned back, and began walking down the other road leading from the fork. Ahhh, now this was more like what I’d expected. Old wooden doors stood open, from which hung miniature empty plastic barrels, and that lead into darkened rooms. At one door, an old man beckoned us over, and we were taken inside. Once my eyes adjusted to the dark light, I saw a small bar on one side of the narrow room, with 10 or so wine bottles sitting in a row, and wine glasses hanging from above. Bec asked for a dry red, and we were each given a small glass of wine to taste. Not too bad, either. It didn’t quite have the spice of a good shiraz, our favourite wine back home, but it was very agreeable. Without hesitating, we asked to buy a bottle, but before we could pull out our empty 1.5 litre water bottle, the owner pulled up one of the plastic barrels that we’d seen out the front, it too holding 1.5 litres. The cost for all this, the equivalent of two bottles of wine, was 750 Forint, or about 5 Aussie dollars.

Felling very happy with ourselves and the world at large, we continued down the street, and rounded a corner into what was the heart of the Valley of Beautiful Women. The street led up a slight hill for about 100 metres, then turned around on itsef and fell back the other way, around a narrow strip of parkland. Lined along the road, all facing in towards the park, were more cellars, most with a couple of tables and chairs out the front. We ventured into another cellar, which at first seemed empty. Again, there was a small bar with bottles and glasses running its length, but no-one was around. We made a few noises, and soon a well proportioned gentleman, with big red stains running around his ample gut (I assume from wiping wine from his hands), walked forth and offered us some wines to taste. We went for a dry again, and after tasting, pulled out our water bottle. He happily took it, walked into a little room in the back, put a hose in the top, and began filling. Another 750 Forint, and we were set for the next few days.

Our second day in Eger was a strange one. Nothing overly dramatic, or exciting happened, but it was just a little weird. After a wonderfully relaxing sleep-in, both Bec and I called our families around lunch time from a pay phone in town. I hadn’t spoken to my family for about 6 weeks after having some difficulties with our phone card, so it was great to hear all their voices. But whilst talking to my sister, a grumpy looking guy in overalls approached and stood right behind me. I assumed he wanted to use the phone, but I was a little puzzled as there was a free phone right next to mine. I gave him a quick glance, to acknowledge that I knew he was there, and tried not to turn my back on him. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, and I told my sister I had better speed things up, so we said our goodbyes and she put my younger brother on the phone. At this stage, the guy disappeared. I sighed with relief, and noticed that I’d tensed up a little whilst he’d been standing there. But just two minutes later, he returned. Not on foot this time though. A white station wagon, with the T-Mobile emblem (the pay phone company) plastered on the side, pulled up right behind me, with tools filling the rear. Had the passenger opened her door, she would’ve whacked me right on the arse. Not wanting to wait around to see what sort of methods he could use to yank me off the phone, I quickly said see ya to my brother, and we got the hell out of there.

As we walked back to our apartment later that afternoon, we were stopped by a guy on a bike. He looked like he might be homeless; the bike was surley on its last tour of Eger, and he was dressed in silky track pants, a US Army camouflage jacket, a Washington Redskins cap, woolen gloves, and some wrap around reflective sunnies. On the back of his bike was attached a shopping bag of goodies. He pulled his bike up in front of us and egan speaking in broken English, something about me having a different lady every time he saw me. I didn’t quite know if he was a beer can short of a six pack upstairs, or if he’d drunk all six and then some. We tried to convince him that he had us mixed up with someone else, and attempted to keep walking. He rode for a bit, then stopped, and began speaking to us again.

“Where you from?”


“Ahhhhh. Australie. Sydney, ahhhhhh”, he said, putting his hands to his heart, smiling. “Ah, Australie, many sharks. Give me your hand. Give me.” he said, as he reached for my hand, which was stuffed firmly into my pocket and holding onto my digital camera. Was this guy trying to rob us? I pulled out my hand, sans digital camera, “Arggghhhhh” he growled as he chomped down on my arm with his hands, “many sharks in Australie.”

Ahhh, “Yes. Yes” we laughed.

I then asked if I could take his picture, and he leant back on his bike with a huge grin, and threw his arms out. But then, after the photo, his face turned sad, “I have no home. No family.” Ah, here we go, now I have to give him some money, I thought. But, almost as suddenly, as though he were a goldfish and couldn’t remember what happened five seconds ago, his tune changed and he began speaking about his family history, smiling as he talked about Kings and Princes. For ten minutes he walked and spoke, sometimes coherently, advising us that the second hand store across the road was a rip-off, and sometimes rambling on indecipherably about his son and some New Zealand jacket, and a dog with nipples. Then he smiled, took his gloves off to shake our hands, wished us all the best, and rode away. Bec and I gave each other that look, the one that says something like ‘did that really just happen?’, but didn’t say anything for a few minutes.

We continued walking home, and turned into a tunnel that led into a picturesque old cobbled street leading to our apartment. Three young guys wearing flourescent vests sat on a bench to the side, and as we approached, one stood up and began barking at us in Hungarian, blocking our path. “Uh, sorry, we don’t understand, we just want to get past.” I said as I attempted to walk past. This day had a real feeling like we were going to get mugged. He yelled at me again, but I continued walking slowly towards the end of the tunnel. The guy looked at his mates on the bench, and they shrugged their shoulders. No, I don’t think we’re getting mugged. At the end of the tunnel, I poked my head around the corner to find the street deserted, and a lone photographer crouching behind an expensive looking camera sitting atop a tripod.

I turned back to the kid and smiled, holding up my hands and nodding in understanding. He smiled back, and Bec walked up to join me. The photographer saw me, apologised for the disturbance, and waved us through before he took his next photo.

That night we went out for a cheap dinner. After being served a couple of beers, “Urrghh, did you fart?” Bec asked in disgust.

“Huh? Fart? No.”

“Then what’s that horrible smell? It smells like a rotten egg fart” She lifted her beer up for a sip, “Oh, it’s the bloody beer.”

I lifted my glass up to my nose. Yep, she was right, this beer stunk like egg fart.

We were served our pizzas, and continued to drink our beers, doing our best to hold our noses as we did so. It was some of the worst beer we’d had on the trip so far, but, unable to waste beer, we dutifully drunk it all.

The pizza was all gone, and the waiter approached to take our plates and glasses, “Bill?” he asked.

“Yes.” Bec replied, and I nodded in agreement.

“Hey look, someone else is having the fart beer,” Bec indicated, as another staff member filled two more glasses of the fart beer (or Krusovic, as it was properly known), “maybe it was just us?”

“Yeah, or maybe they’re idiots.”

We watched as the waiter grabbed the beers, and followed him to see who had ordered the two fart beers. He walked purposefully around the front of the bar, over to our table, plonked the beers down in front of us, and promptly turned round and walked away.

We looked at each other, sighed together, and then laughed. What else can you do? And I don’t know if it was because our taste buds had grown accustomed to drinking beer that smelt like rotten egg fart, or if it was just the two glasses we had been served first, but the beer wasn’t too bad.

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4 Responses to “Eger: Valley of the Beautiful Women”

  1. Bugwan Says:

    I trust you got stuck into some Egri Bikaver while you were there? That is some seriously full-bodied wine…

    Keep enjoying guys – loving reliving all our trips around the region.


  2. Posted from Australia Australia
  3. Bugwan Says:

    PS, I tried the fart beer too – there are some strange hallucinogenic memories from Eger, possibly due to some extra sulphur in the grog. I can’t quite remember.

  4. Posted from Australia Australia
  5. admin Says:

    Hey ya Bugwan, good to hear from you mate, and glad to help you relive your own travel days – well, at least those ones you can remember.

    Not too sure about the Egri Bikaver, but we tried some semi-sweet wine, as opposed to the dry stuff, and it was like bloody syrup. Awful stuff.

  6. Posted from Poland Poland
  7. Farshid Nourbakhsh Says:

    The information was quite useful and amusing. I am planning to visit Budapest and Eger by couple of weeks, so reading your notes mase me more up to date.
    Thank you very much.


  8. Posted from Islamic Republic Of Iran Islamic Republic Of Iran

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