Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Eger, eh?

Hello from Krakow, Poland! It's 6:30 a.m., and we got off the train less than an hour ago. We have no Poland stories yet, but here's how our day went yesterday:

We said goodbye to Grandma, who had hugs and the traditional two-cheek European kisses for us, and boarded a train from Budapest to Eger. We arrived at 11:15 a.m. and had to catch our train to Krakow at 8 p.m., so we didn't have a lot of time. Shortly after arriving, we already wished we could spend more time in Eger. Though it is a town of more than 50,000, it seemed like a relaxing and quiet place, far from the hustle and bustle of Budapest.

Because we both think with our stomachs, our first stop was the local market, where we shared a langos, which is a Hungarian fried doughnut. We topped ours with sour cream, though other toppings include cheese and garlic. We also bought some strawberries at the market. They looked gorgeous and tasted just as delicious. You don't eat strawberries that good very often.

After our lunch of sorts, we headed to the minaret, which was formerly used to call Muslims to prayer when the city was controlled by the Ottoman Turks. It's just a very narrow, 130-foot-tall tower, and for a dollar, you can climb to the top. Sounds simple, but we didn't know this would by far be the scariest thing we'd done on our trip. (Scarier than getting locked in a Burger King bathroom even.)

To get to the top, you climb a long spiral staircase. Each step is small and narrow, and the staircase is only about 2 feet wide. It would be impossible for someone to go up while someone else was coming down. Also, there are a few light bulbs installed, but one was burned out, so we had to climb a few stairs in complete darkness. Oh yeah, did we mention there's no handrail and the stairs are very smooth (nearly slick)? It seemed like a way to attack all the big phobias at once: claustrophobia, fear of darkness, fear of heights ... We enjoyed the view of Eger once we got to the top. We then braved our way back down and quickly noticed our quads were burning. The climb was quite a workout.

We then visited Eger Castle, which had its heydey around 1500 when Dobo Istvan, supposedly emboldened by the town's famous Bull's Blood wine, led his men to success by unexpectedly stopping the invading Turks.

Our next stop was the Eger Cathedral, which was huge and ornate, as so many Catholic churches in Europe seem to be. It's also the location of Europe's second-largest organ. We wish we could have heard it played.

Our last destination in Eger was the "Valley of the Beautiful Women." Eger is known for its red wine, and the valley is filled with private wine cellars dug into the volcanic rock. We visited a couple for samples, including Bull's Blood, a dry red that's a bit spicy. Unfortunately, the insides of the cellars were covered with mold, which wasn't good because Andrea quickly found out she's allergic to mold. She couldn't stand to be in them for very long, so we sat outside.

We finally boarded our overnight train to Krakow, where we were awakened three separate times for passport inspections at border crossings, not to mention the additional times we were woken for ticket checks, so it wasn't a very restful night. We're now in Krakow, where we'll spend the next four days and get to see the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps and the Wieliczka salt mine. Hopefully we'll be able to post pictures later today.


At 6:22 AM, May 23, 2006, Anonymous Millie said...

The trip up the stairs of the minaret sounds pretty frightening to me. I fear I would panic about halfway and then never make it down.

Are you staying in a hostel in Krakow?

I love you postings.

Love you,

At 8:59 AM, May 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a group of girls read Speed of Light which is a book comparing the Nazis mistreatment of Jews with segregation in America. They got very interested in one of the characters who had been in Auschwitz. I imagine that visit will be difficult, but one I think everyone should have.

I don't have any of those phobias you mentioned, but after being on those stairs I'd probably develop some.

Have fun and stay away from moldy places.


At 8:29 PM, May 23, 2006, Anonymous Lou said...

Hello from Panama City Beach, FL. We arrived Sunday by way of Atlanta, Georgia. It is 90 degrees and the beach is white and nice. It is senior trip time here so the hotel is busy. We snorkeled at the state park yesterday; I am red and sunburned.
Kari took the boys out tonight to shop and to ride the bungee chair (after supper). That should be interesting.

You two have such great adventures. Wow!! Keep the information and pictures coming.



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