Last Saturday I went with a few fellow CEU students to Eger, a city east north east of Budapest. One cannot visit Eger without getting to know the name of Dobó István (Stephen Dobo). He was the leader of the defenders of Eger castle against the Ottoman Turks in 1552. It was quite a story. About 2000 defenders held the castle against 80,000 soldiers. I’m not sure whether this is a testament to the tenacity of the peasants defending their homeland, the value of fortications, or the difficulty of waging a long-term foreign campaign, but it’s amazing nonetheless.
The seige was made famous by Gárdonyi Géza when he wrote Egri Csillagok the most famous Hungarian novel. He is buried inside the castle, and even the little children know the words on his headstone: „Csak a teste!” which means “Only his body” implying that his spirit is gone.
We took a tour of the castle with a Hungarian guide, but luckily one of my companions speaks Hungarian and was able to translate for us. This picture is one of the many cannons used in the defense. I apologize for the low quality but, as you can imagine, it was very dark inside. We were told that because of the great heat created in firing the cannons they had to be cooled (hence the barrel) and could only be fired every ten minutes. It really made me wonder how useful they were, but apparently they did the job.
The castle provides a good spot for viewing the rest of the city. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the castle from outside since my camera ran out of batteries before I could take any, but here are some photos taken from the castle walls including this lovely festive looking flag.
There is something I love about churches with statues on top. I wish I had been able to take a picture close up.
For some reason this seems extremely European. And very pretty as well.
Outside the castle is the northernmost Turkish minaret in the world. That’s right, the Turks returned 44 years later and conquered Eger and occupied it for 91 years. You’ll notice on the top is a crescent moon, and on top of that a cross. The cross was placed there after the Turks left, though why it wasn’t destroyed outright I don’t know.
You can also climb up the spiral staircase inside the tower. If I recall correctly, there are 97 stair. They are definitely not OSHA approved. They are very steep and extremely narrow. It’s quite cramped and if I puffed out my chest I could touch the center column and the side of the tower with my elbows. I think it would be very difficult to fall down the stairs for that reason (though I did not test this hypothesis).
What else? I ate some gulyas (GOO yash a.k.a. goulash) and ice cream; saw bees hanging out at a fountain (I’m not sure what they were doing there); rode a train; looked at some paintings, torture implements and artifacts; restrained myself from going to the weaponry museum where you get to try on a helmet because nobody else wanted to go and I can go with Rachel when she gets here; and pretty much had a grand old time.