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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Eger in December

Since November of last year, we have been spending more time in Hungary and Budapest. While here, we decided to stay in a spacious flat in the V District, close to Vörösmarty tér, instead of our longtime haunt of the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.
I have been remiss in my writing from here; this blog will start to correct this.

Dan & Judith - Castle Wall
Travelling by car, Eger is two hours east of Budapest. I found it an optimistic and young town compared to the more traditional Magyar state of melancholy; fresh student faces and an upbeat mood pervaded. The town is bursting with history; the Eger Castle was the country’s defender in the six week 1522 siege by the Turks; Hungarians outnumbered five to one. The ten foot outer walls would be menacing to even the most fearsome foe and the Turks retreated, but were back 44 years later to eventually claim this prize. In 1702 the Habsburgs completed the destruction – the castle now mostly ruins – slowly being restored.
Still, the Bishop’s Palace has been redone and houses a very nice historical museum. Also, there is a very nice café, the “Teto Centrum” where we warmed up over cappuccinos.

Cathedral Fresco
Walking down from the castle’s plateau, we crossed the Eger and travelled along Kossuth Lajos utca, a wide boulevard studded with 18th century Rococo mansions. The nicest is #4, the Vice-Provost’s Palace dated from 1758. Further along, the Eger Cathedral, second largest in Hungary, anchors two other buildings in a pleasant square.  Unique, its cupola is shorter than its two western towers, the east displaying an impressive colonnaded façade with figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity.  The interior is a bit somber, with the exception of the ceiling fresco adorning the central cupola. The remaining two buildings are the Lyceum, demoted from university status only because of its connection to the church, and the grand Bishop’s Palace, unfortunately closed for renovation.
17th C. Minaret

Moving north, there is the second main square of Eger, Dobó István ter. Pleasant in spite of the Christmas Market chaos, the Minorite Church of Saint Anthony dominates. The rounded, tiered façade with its twin towers is much richer and ornate than that of the Eger Cathedral. After visiting, we stopped for a so-so lunch at Főtér Kávézó.
We finished our tour seeing a 17th century minaret, the northernmost Ottoman relic in Europe. The mosque next door was demolished in 1841, but the minaret stubbornly stands, its sleek 131 foot, fourteen sided symmetry withstanding the storms of this town’s history.

All in all, a good day trip; we were back to Budapest for dinner. 

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