I had always been eager to visit Eger so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it was pronounced as ‘Aga’. However, snatching a positive from every negative, I made the decision that when I become a green-wellied, middle class git with an ugly big 4x4 and an Aga, Eger is the Aga that I am going to get.
According to my trusty guide book, Eger is one of the oldest Magyar settlements in Hungary, it was a flourishing Renaissance centre at the time of the Turkish Invasion in the sixteenth century when it found itself on the front line after the occupation of Buda (not Buddha), its castle withstood the siege of 1552 when two thousand soldiers and Eger’s women (who hurled rocks, hot soup and fat) under the command of István Dobó, repulsed a Turkish force six times their number.
So, at the risk of being repulsed by the women, I commenced my walking tour of Eger with a trip up to the castle. Here I found impressive fortifications and spectacular views across the town. Eger does churches in a big way. There were no small ones, so the skyline was dominated by grand towers behind which, in the distance, were the lush green Bükk Hills.
From a personal point of view I was pleased that there were so few other visitors but for the region generally it seemed a bit sad really. Eger Castle had certainly seen better days and I don’t just mean during the time of the Turkish Invasion. Quite a few areas of the site were closed or overgrown with weeds and strewn with crumbling masonry. Many of the wooden walkways were rotten, and concrete had been used to botch up structures that were close to collapse. Much of the touristy bit of Hungary seemed to be going through a tarting up process. I hoped that Eger Castle was next on the list for treatment.
The imposing neoclassical cathedral was even more deserted inside than the castle had been. At one point, in the entire building, there was only me and the cleaning lady who was running the Hoover round the altar without genuflecting, I hasten to add . . . such a heathen! I think she may have noticed my stern look at her lack of reverence and promptly switched off and removed her crevice tool. The vast church was then in complete silence. This was an absolutely wonderful experience, the likes of which I had never known before.
But then the real irreverence began. A woman entered the basilica silently, which was fair enough. Her shoulders were covered and her legs were hidden to a point just below the knee by her skirt, which was also fair enough and acceptable. But some bits of her weren’t covered as her tight red low cut top only just managed to do its job and her bright red fishnet stockings along with shoes of the same colour and precipitous stiletto heels also seemed inappropriate. But it turned out that this woman was a friend of the cleaning lady as a full on chinwag ensued up the transept and the serenity I had enjoyed for almost four minutes was shattered in bits on the floor of the frescoed cupola, where JL Kracker’s work depicts the City of God arising in triumph as evil doers flee the sword . . . in their red stilettos!
‘Hoovers suck!’ I declared and dashed off to the Minaret on the other side of town, feeling pretty confident that Islam would have no place for such Jezebels.