9:20 pm CET
This weekend we BSCS folk went on a trip to Eger, a wine-producing town to the northeast of Budapest. We woke up practically at dawn on Saturday so we could catch the train at Keleti pályaudvar (the East Station). On our first train, Tristan, Annabeth, Carrie, and I made the mistake of choosing a compartment with the window open. It turned out that it was stuck and couldn't be closed, so it got ridiculously cold. We all tried to close it to no avail, and the Hungarian guy who was also in our compartment attempted to kick the window shut, but that didn't work, either. To pass the time, and since the train had compartments and it therefore reminded us of the Hogwarts Express, we decided to start assigning Harry Potter characters to everyone we saw. It was quite entertaining, to say the least. Especially Skater Harry. He was probably the best one.
We swapped trains in this tiny village and took a much newer train to Eger. Once there, we walked from the station into the town center and looked around a bit (we climbed a Turkish minaret left over from the Ottoman occupation of the area) and then dropped off our stuff at the house we rented on top of this huge hill overlooking the town. From there we went to the medieval castle that also sits atop the hill. There was a big archery tournament being held at the castle, and people from all over Hungary were in attendance. Some of the archers were wearing costumes from different ages in Hungarian history, and it was extremely interesting to see all the get-ups people had on (there was a guy who had an entire fox pelt that he was using as a cover for his quiver. It was a bit disturbing, actually). We wandered around the castle for a couple hours, checking out the dungeons and an art gallery that is on site. A few others and I walked up to the outer battlements to see the view, and we passed a little boy (he couldn't have been older than four years) who was playing with a wooden toy sword. He was swinging it in my direction (with sound effects that perplexingly resembled a blaster from Star Wars), so I pretended to die. I clutched my chest and slumped over on the stairs, making some overly-dramatic heaving noises before going still for a few moments. He seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of that, and his giddy smile certainly made my day a bit brighter.
After leaving the castle, we went downhill into town and found a place to eat. Following lunch, we went to the Basilica and got a guided tour of the giant maze of wine storage tunnels that runs beneath the town. It was cool, but all I could imagine while making the countless number of turns was getting lost in this dank underground labyrinth of tunnels and not being able to find my way out. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be doing that again.
When we returned to the sunlit world above, we walked back down the street to the Basilica, where we saw two weddings and some local bands playing on the stairs leading up to the church. A mayoral candidate was having a meet-and-greet-type thing where people were giving out free wine and cookies, and the bands were part of his program. By this point we were kind of tired and we opted to go to directly to Szépasszonyvölgy (literally, "The Valley of the Fair Lady"), a valley at the southern edge of Eger where some of the wine is made and there are several wine cellers all next to one another. We started at one cellar and made our way to four more (I think...) over the course of the evening. To keep this short, let's just say that there was a lot of wine, some weird bread, and a couple creepy older guys who tried to kiss people and intrude on our conversations. Since we started drinking so early, most of us were pretty far gone by 10:00 pm, so a few of us called a cab and went back to our accomodations to sleep and recover (I was fine, but others were far from it).
The next morning we woke fairly early to catch another train to the even smaller town of Szilvásvárad. There we walked to the Bükk National Park so we could see the mountains, forest, and theVeil Waterfall (Fátyol-vízesés). The falls were stunning and the fresh air in the woods was a welcome change from the past month surrounded by metal and stone. The scenery out there is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm immensely glad that I really got to appreciate how truly beautiful this country is.
After spending the day wandering around the entrance to the park, we went back to the train station so we could return to Eger, where we got on another train to go home to Budapest. The trip was a ton of fun, although now I am glad to be able to relax before the new class starts tomorrow morning. Our professor for the next week is our friend, Gabor; he's been coming on our excursions with us and he hangs out with us sometimes, too. It's going to be interesting to see how the dynamics will change now that he has to go from drinking buddy to teacher. I'm sure it'll be fun, though, even if that means another week of philosophy for me.