Bathing and Bull’s blood

So much sweet white wine left us feeling a little worse for wear and in need of some fresh air and pampering. After meeting a lovely British couple on a campsite in the middle of nowhere in the centre of the Bükk national park we decided the baths we had missed in Miskolc were worth a look. But first, our experience of a Hungarian national park was a little disappointing. The palace of Lilafüred on the edge of the national park with its lake, waterfall and terraced garden were quite nice and there was a map of the walking paths. We drove to our campsite with plans to go for an afternoon walk to a nearby cave. We set off on our walk, hoping to walk through some of the beautiful forest we had driven through. Sadly, although the paths were marked, the signs were confusing and we spent the best part of an hour walking along a main road or within 15m of it. When we did manage to get off the road and follow some signs, the path quickly deteriorated into piles of sticks and fallen trees. The highlight of our walk was spotting a Ural owl in a clearing and seeing it fly across to a different perch. After that gem we turned back towards our campsite along the road.

Our best bird yet

The campsite was by Hungarian standards average with very old facilities and not much flat land to park on. Alright for one night but we didn’t really want to stay any longer. In any case we had a spa day to look forward to. Miskolc has special thermal baths carved into a cave system. To reach the baths, we followed the satnav religiously including round half of the housing estates in Miskolc and down a questionable gravel road/river, so when we finally found a car park and signs we were quite relieved. A four hour ticket costs just 2500 HUF per adult and gives you access to all the pools and outdoor areas although saunas and flotation pools cost extra. The baths ranged from 28-34 degrees Celsius and included massage fountains, a jacuzzi and a lazy river. The pool system is a bit of a maze but thankfully there’s plenty of signs in the cave corridors. We really enjoyed the lazy river, which was pretty fast and powerful but there were also lots of pools to relax in. The limestone is growing over the tiles and walkways in many places so looks really natural. We were so glad we made a detour to see them and relax a little.

The entrance to the cave maze

Refreshed, we set off to Eger the home of the famous red wine Egri Bikaver (Bulls blood); we obviously haven’t had enough wine yet. Rather naively, we took the scenic route and spent the next hour on winding roads skirting the national park. Our campsite in Eger was beautiful and full of fellow wine tasters, not forgetting the campsite cat who we named George. With one full day to enjoy both town and wineries, we got up early. First we wandered through the old town and visited the Basilica. Eger has lovely narrow streets of shops and cafes with a large open square in the centre. Later we walked up to the castle which is a great museum complete with English signs and an exhibition on the history of the castle. The castle was used as a Bishops seat for the Hungarian empire and each bishop improved the defences and increased the size of the castle chapel until it became a monumental cathedral. Unfortunately only ruins remain of the castle and cathedral, but most of the castle has be reconstructed. Eger is also famous in Hungary due to the novelist Gezer Gardonyi  who wrote about the love stories and struggles of Eger castle, a novel that was made into a film in the 1960’s. The film included 10,000 extras and the actresses and actors were selected by a vote of the Hungarian people. After his death, he was buried in the castle grounds and an exhibition about his life and novel was created.

Inside Eger castle

A view of Eger from the castle

Our last stop in Eger was the valley of the beautiful women. This valley contains 48 wine cellars and a few restaurants. The wines produced here are not quite as fascinating as Tokaj and its Aszu berries but they are still pretty tasty. We sampled Bulls blood, rosé, Menoir, and Merlot to name a few, but it seems they grow almost any grape here. The Bulls blood is a blended wine consisting of at least 50% Keckfrancos grapes and up to five others. It comes in regular and superior versions with the latter being aged in barrels for at least two years before being aged on bottles for another two. The name comes from a legend about the Turkish invaders not knowing what the local people were drinking. They saw the red colour and how bold and courageous it made people and thought it must be Bulls blood. Ever since then it has been known by this name. We enjoyed tasting wine and had a yummy dinner but discovered that wine is not kept in the cellars nowadays, they are purely a tourist attraction.  

A small part of the valley of beautiful women

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