Eger, Hungary: a cultural city guide
Nick Harrison reports from Eger, a city much invaded over the years and still devoted to a 16th-century hero.
8:00AM GMT 30 Dec 2012
The Hapsburgs, the Nazis and the Soviets have all left their mark on Eger, but from the castle’s Gergely Bastion, it’s the minaret, the northernmost point of the former Ottoman Empire, that draws my eye. It looks out of place amid a vista of church steeples and Baroque buildings so impressive that even the drabness of the occasional communist building fails to diminish it. Before leaving the castle grounds I pay my respects to Dobo in the Heroes Hall, joiПing a queue of people shuffling around his sarcophagus with the same solemnity demanded of a visit to Lenin’s tomb on Red Square.
It’s a steep walk from the castle’s 16th-century Varkoch gate down to my favourite street in Eger – the narrow, cafe-lined Dobo Istvan Ut that snakes its way to the city’s central square. Wine shops on either side sell the famous Eger Bikaver (Bull’s Blood) that Dobo and his soldiers supposedly drank to fire them up for the battle.
Devotion to Dobo continues in the city’s main square, named after him. Two giant statues featuring the captain in battle poses stand at either end and are flanked by the 18th-century city hall, old priory buildings and the mustard-coloured Minorite Church that was dedicated to St Anthony of Padua in 1771.
I leave Hungary’s finest Baroque church and climb to the top of the 14-sided minaret for wonderful city views. It’s phenomenal that it still stands considering that in 1687 the city’s inhabitants attempted to demolish it using 400 oxen.
After squeezing down the 97 steps I head to the Marzipan Museum across the square. Inside not only is the minaret recreated in marzipan but also a whole living room, including the family dog. After this madness it is no surprise to pass the creator’s head commemorated in chocolate at the exit.