Drinking Bulls Blood Wine in Eger, Hungary

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Imagine you are a Turkish soldier in the year 1552. You and 40,000 of your fellow warriors have been marauding across Europe, gleefully sacking towns and declaring victory for the Ottoman Empire. You reach Eger, Hungary, and are expecting another easy win. You lay siege to a castle defended by a small force of a few thousand men and women, led by Captain István Dobó. The women are especially terrifying, pouring cauldrons of boiling tar and oil over the walls. It is a stout defense the likes of which you’ve never seen. The battle rages on for 39 days and the Hungarians ultimately win the day. Defeated and ashamed, you are convinced some supernatural power is at play. The red-stained beards of the Hungarian fighters can mean only one thing –  they drank the blood of bulls to acquire unnatural strength. 

Of course we had to see this legendary place, an easy two-hour bus ride from Budapest, for ourselves.

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The current Eger Castle dates to the late 16th century.

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The women of Eger are so revered, an area close by is nicknamed “the Valley of Beautiful Women.”

The original 13th century castle was destroyed during the brutal battle, and a new one was immediately built in its place. The Turks ultimately succeeded in taking Eger forty years later and ruled until the Hapsburgs kicked them out in 1687. Other than an impossibly narrow minaret, little evidence of the Turkish takeover remains today.

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View of Eger and its spindly minaret from the castle ramparts.

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Those with claustrophobia need not apply.

Visitors can climb 97 steps to a tiny parapet near the top of the minaret, but the structure looked too precarious for my liking. Plus, it was hard to beat the views from Eger Castle.

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Eger boasts several historic churches, though with our time limited, we only visited one: Eger Cathedral. We passed the basilica – the second largest in Hungary – on our walk from the bus station to the old town and couldn’t resist taking a peek inside. The cavernous neo-classical structure, built in the 1830s, is a pastel delight. Rose and goldenrod marble columns form a rainbow guard along both sides and the soaring domes are painted with soft-hued celestial scenes. As luck would have it, we’d arrived just in time for the daily noon concert, giving us even more time to enjoy the refreshing interior.

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For the rest of the day, we were content to wander the cobblestone streets and admire the quaint architecture of the beautifully preserved old town. Since we visited on a Sunday, many of the shops were closed by early afternoon and other tourists were few and far between.

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Captain István Dobó stands victorious at the entrance to Old Town.

Options for lunch were plentiful and the patios facing Eger’s main square were blissfully uncrowded for a warm summer day. We settled on Senator-Ház, the restaurant of the historic Senator House hotel in Dobó Square. Still craving Hungarian food, I ordered the veal, which came with cheesy noodles perfect for mopping up the luscious paprika sauce and a refreshingly light cucumber salad. At 2,300 HUF (US$10), it was a little pricey for lunch by Hungarian standards, but the great flavors and scenic setting meant it was money well spent.

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And, of course, we had to drink the legendary wine. Egri Bikavér, or Bull’s Blood of Eger, is a vibrant red historically made from Kadarka grapes, though these are slowly being replaced by the easier-to-process Kékfrankos. Blended with several other red-skinned varieties, the flavor is said to be reminiscent of wines from Burgundy, France. While we would have loved to visit a winery where the famous beverage is made, we contented ourselves with several glasses at a shop on Dobó Square. We may also have brought several bottles home to enjoy at a later date. Supernatural strength doesn’t happen overnight!

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Have you ever derived super powers from alcohol? What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to sample a local specialty?

Heather Hall

Heather Hall

Passionate about travel, food, history and animals, Heather brings a curiosity and fun-loving attitude to most any experience that comes along. The Virginia native has lived abroad since 2011, first in Shanghai, China and now in Riga, Latvia. Follow along as she explores the cultures and cuisines of Europe on her blog, Ferreting Out the Fun!

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21 thoughts on “Drinking Bulls Blood Wine in Eger, Hungary

    • It really was a lovely day! The town was so charming – if we go back I’d like to spend the night and venture out into the countryside!

  1. No second thoughts on trying the bull’s blood wine. In every place there should something new you have to try. I love your photos. It was really a fine, fine day to get a stroll. Thanks for sharing.

    • I only wish we’d gotten out to one of the wineries. But it was still a wonderful excursion from the bustle of Budapest and I highly recommend visiting!

  2. This looks like an awesome place to visit! I’m bummed I didn’t go there as well. I love a glass of wine, especially if it has special powers! 😉 Also, that meal looks fabulous. I miss all those paprika spiced dishes!!
    Jessica Wray recently posted…ConfessionsMy Profile

    • I didn’t take any day trips the first time I went to Budapest so this time I made it a priority. Some of the little surrounding towns are so cute! I fell in love with the food while I was there! I brought home a cookbook and some paprika, but haven’t attempted it yet.

    • Amen, sister! We’re moving to Europe this summer so I expect there will be loads of local specialties in my future. I can’t wait!!!

    • Thanks, Jessica, it really was a fabulous day! We actually enjoyed the town so much we were a little sad to leave. If we had it to do again we’d spend the night and visit the wineries. But there’s always next time! 🙂

    • Haha, that sums up my alcoholic super powers as well 🙂 But I am very much looking forward to exploring many more towns of Europe and their local specialties in the coming year!

    • I’d love to go back and spend more time exploring the little towns and vineyards. Hungary is one of my favorite countries! Though I suspect it will have some competition after we move to Europe later this year 🙂

  3. Hello Heather,
    Young Adventuress blog led me here! Edger is so breathtaking! I love it already. That Bulls blood wine sounds scary and fun at the same time. I hope if I ever travel to Edger I’ll have the courage to drink it. Otherwise, I love your blog.
    PS: You should visit Kenya in Africa some day. that is if you have not yet been here.:)

    • Hi Naomi, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the post about Eger. I haven’t been to Kenya yet, but it’s on my list! 🙂

  4. I’m an ethnic Hungarian (mostly), but I’ve never made it here. Happily I have many 1st and 2nd generation relatives to live vicariously through. You’ve just given me a little more to add to my bucket list.
    Michael Orobona recently posted…Going Hungary in AmericaMy Profile

  5. I don’t know why I haven’t seen this blog before today. What
    a beautiful town. I wish we had done more exploring while we were
    in Budapest. We didn’t have the best weather though. Great
    pictures and story.

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