The historic northern Hungarian county town of Eger attracts hundreds of visitors every year thanks to its charming quaint streets, rich thermal bath culture, stunning Basilica and, most importantly, the grand castle that stands poised in the heart of the city. The Castle of Eger could tell a thousand stories, of both triumphs and hardships, to its visitors from the weathered Middle Ages. Let’s get now acquainted with the fascinating story of this impressive landmark!
Captain Dobó and his fearless soldiers
The Castle of Eger bears great significance in Hungarian history as it is one of the few fortresses that successfully held off the Ottoman army, or at least the first time the Turks made an attempt to invade the city. István Dobó, who was previously a respected landlord, was appointed captain of the Castle of Eger in 1548. The main task of the excellent strategist was to make the castle as strong and secure as possible in case of attacks. He ordered to increase the number of guards as well as the supply of military equipment. The Ottoman attack took place in 1552, and in September the castle was besieged: the artillerymen fired on the walls for nearly a month. On 28 September, the Turks captured one of the bastions, but Dobó’s ingenuity enabled the castle defenders to repel the enemy. Rumors spread among the Turks that the Hungarian soldiers had drunk bull blood during the siege, and had therefore acquired superhuman strength. This bull’s blood was actually red wine, hence the name of one of the most famous wines of Eger, the Egrik Bikavér. The legendary battle is still considered one of Hungary’s greatest victories, where the women of Eger also showed unprecedented heroism.
Nearly a century-long Turkish occupation
Following the siege, the walls of the castle were severely damaged. Reconstruction began, and the number of soldiers and the supply of materials increased. Although the castle was in every way better equipped to repel another Ottoman attack, in 1596 the Castle of Eger fell and the period of 91 years of Turkish occupation began. In the 16th century, Arnaut Pasha built a Turkish bath in the city of Eger, utilizing the region’s mineral-rich spring waters. The Minaret, one of the city’s most fascinating landmarks, was also built during this era. Under the nearly century-long Turkish occupation, the castle had been enlarged and fortified. Legend has it that the Ottomans created a Turkish rose garden on the site of a niche in one of the bastions, in order to please the Pasha of Eger. In fact, the place was used for defensive purposes. The castle was finally reconquered by the Turks in 1687 by the combined Austro-Hungarian armies.
The Castle of Eger today
In order to commemorate the heroic battle of Captain Dobó and his brave soldiers, every day at 3:52 PM a cannon is fired in the Castle. In addition, locals also hold an annual historical festival at the beginning of August, called Végvári Vigasságok (Castle Festivities). The area of the castle is now open to the public, and as you wander around its walls, you can recall the glorious battle of the brave Hungarians against the Ottoman Empire, and see the conditions under which the Eger soldiers defended the castle.
The incredible story of the Castle of Eger inspired the great Hungarian author, Géza Gárdonyi to write his partly fictional large-scale historical novel, Egri csillagok (Stars of Eger), which was translated into several languages, including English. The book was adapted into an ‘86 movie, bearing the same title. Although it is hard to find it online, you can watch its trailer in English.
Main picture: The official FB page of the Castle of Eger
– Eleonora Jobst –