In Keszthely a couple of days earlier, I had been close to tears to have discovered for the first time in my fifty five years on Earth the existence of a marzipan museum and then to have my elated state immediately snatched away from me when I found that it was closed.
Today in Eger I stumbled upon another marzipan museum and it was very much open for business . . . sort of. As I seemed to be the establishment’s only visitor, it was hard to tell whether it was open or not but the three ladies who worked there insisted that I was welcome to examine their exhibits for the cost of only a few Forint.
Now if you go to a war museum or a railway museum or a doll museum you turn up with a bit of an idea of what you might see inside but with a marzipan museum I hadn’t a clue what to expect. Surely it wouldn’t be just lumps of marzipan in different shapes, colours and sizes from down the ages. It turned out not to contain any marzipan at all but a vast array of artefacts sculpted from sugar icing. Now I’m no dilettante but I recognise a bit of art when I see it and this lot was astonishingly impressive . . . and tasty too!
In actual fact it was a shrine to the local champion confectioner, Lajos Kopcsik, who could make a replica of anything with a packet of Tate és Lyle. I wondered had he really won a world record breaking ten gold medals at the Berlin Gastronomic Olympics in 1996 or had he just made his medals out of icing?
The items on display in this most strange and intriguing of galleries included a two metre tall model of the Eger Minaret, a three metre tall recreation of a bottle of Egri Bikavér, a set of Russian Dolls, an old fashioned gramophone, a football commemorating Hungary’s 6-3 victory over England at Wembley in 1953 (though I couldn’t understand why they would want to commemorate that as they must have been a bit rubbish if they let England put three past them), an exotic butterfly collection, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting, the entire contents of a room from the baroque period of Eger’s history, a fondue set, a microwave oven, a cuddly toy, etc..
It cost me 600 Forint to gain admission to the Kopcsik Marcipania and I’ve got to say that I left the place feeling that every Forint was well spent. So I automatically assumed that the museum shop would be the ideal place to buy gifts to take home for my loved ones. Imagine my horror when I found out that the cheapest items that they had on sale cost 1,000 Forint (three quid) and they being marzipan sweets that my kids would have been able to swallow whole. The phrase ‘sod it’ didn’t appear in my English-Hungarian phrase book so I simply said ‘köszönöm’ (thank you) to the nice lady behind the counter as I sheepishly replaced my empty shopping basket and departed.