About Belle Mahoney
Belle Mahoney is a teacher and freelance writer from Northern California. She has lived in Ireland and Ecuador, and is currently bumming around Europe, looking for a place to call home. Her dream is to live on a boat and travel land by camel.
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During a long weekend exploring Budapest, my accomplice and I decided to get out of the city and visit Eger, a wine village two hours away and highly recommended by various friends and guidebooks. We finally found the bus and wedged ourselves into the last two seats, back row middle, directly under the blast of the rattling heater. I tried to peel off a layer of clothing without decapitating the tiny, kerchiefed old woman next to me whose head barely reached my elbow. I gave up and sweated myself to sleep for the ride, drooling on Javi’s shoulder.
Eger is situated in the “Valley of the Beautiful Women,” Hungary’s wine country. We were surprised then that the town wasn’t much to see, besides a renovated castle that we explored like children playing adventurers, and a pizza parlor better than any I’d had in Italy for a quarter of the price. We realized that the real attraction was outside the village, in the actual valley. Thanks to Javi’s excellent nonverbal communication skills, we finally found the road that led to the vineyards with its long, winding strip of wine cellars.
The cellars were tiny and felt like another century, consisting only of locals (some places in the world are still free of the plague of tourism, aside from a couple of twenty-year-olds looking for adventure and a new take on humanity), singing, playing small instruments, carrying take-away bulk wine down the road in what looked like gasoline canisters and old soft drink bottles. We went into the first one, a miniature underground cavern that felt like the womb of a dinosaur, lit with candles and filled with the village grandparents in deep discussion and song. We asked for two glasses and were given the bottle; it tasted like god himself and cost about two euros.
We repeated this in every cellar, befriending several tipsy Hungarian gentlemen who spoke about ten words of English which consisted of the phrase, “Red, big fuck; white, small fuck. Drink red!” They bought us both several glasses of red wine and laughed at everything we said. It was a perfect example of how people who do not speak the same language can still communicate on the most important level, offer each other a unique experience and have a damn good drunken time together.
It was only eight o’clock but we were late finding the last train back to Budapest, getting sidetracked by a tractor towing an enormous wagon of grapes, which I felt the need to embrace, trying to climb into it while Javi kept hold of my jacket. I had the feeling that if Bacchus lived on earth it was in this valley and I wanted to find him. We managed to jump on the train just as it was rumbling away. We drank our take-away wine and smoked on the floor of our compartment, encouraged by the man who took our tickets—“smoke! Drink!” he shouted joyfully. I had no desire to return to civilized Western Europe where one could never smoke and drink in the same place, at the same time.
We watched the small towns fly past in the dark, but must have fallen asleep because then we were being yelled at by a janitor to get out off the train and realized we had stopped in Budapest nearly three hours ago. We had to get a guard to unlock the station doors and let us out. Coming down from the godly wine was like realizing the dream you were just having was not real and life is dark and cold. Budapest looked huge and frightening, so we stopped for kebabs the size of piglets and felt ok again, before walking back to the hostel to sleep off our hangovers.