While the name may sound like a corny 70s sexploitation movie, The Valley of the Beautiful Woman (Szépasszony Völgy) is one of the top sights in the small town of Eger. The town itself is a two-hour bus ride from Budapest and offers a wonderfully quaint pedestrian road in the center of town, lined with shops and restaurants, and plenty of sights—there is a castle, a cathedral, a Beatles museum (for some reason), and, most importantly, plenty of wine.
A 20 or so minute walk from Eger lies The Valley of the Beautiful Woman, a small cul-de-sac lined with wine caves carved into the mountains. If you’re not up to the walk, there are also street trains or taxis that can take you. The walk isn’t incredibly scenic, but walking back can certainly help work off all the drinking you’re about to do. There are more than 40 wineries represented here, with each offering their own wines for sample or sale. There is a wide variety of wines, and many offer the local specialty, the dark red Egri Bikavér, or “Bull’s Blood.”
We must have gone down on an off day, or at an off time. There were very few others around, which gave the valley a quiet lull, and made the experience more quaint and personal. On our walk down we stopped at Kulács Csarda for some quality Hungarian fare, making sure to get some food in our stomach before we started drinking. Thank god we did.
Many of the caves are numbered, which is the easiest way to tell them apart, and we started at the beginning and moved around the loop. We, of course, did not stop at all the wineries—to do so would have been a sure recipe for a lot of vomiting. We had read about a few good ones and made sure to stop at those, as well as any that looked especially interesting. The quaint cellars are all cut into the soft volcanic rock of the surrounding hillside. Moss is allowed to grow, which keeps the cellars at a constant 10-15 C year round.
For the most part, we wandered in and out of the various cellars, trying a wine here and a wine there. If one place had a wine we particularly enjoyed, we’d try another from them. If not, we’d move on. The only real downside to the valley is that there’s no way you can test all the wines—with over 40 cellars, and some having up to 30 varietals, you wouldn’t have a chance. But to spend an afternoon wandering and tasting is a great time.
Especially at cave #2, tucked back into a corner right at the start. You go down a set of stairs into a dark, musty cellar that is somewhat damp, where you are served by a wonderful older Hungarian woman. She didn’t know much English, but we communicated with a series of charades, and she poured wine out of a long glass tube that she held about two feet away from the glass to aerate it. We had such a good time hanging out with her, right at the end of our time in the valley, and we had some extra drinks we probably shouldn’t have had. But we had a 25-minute uphill walk back to Eger to work off the extra alcohol (spoiler alert: it didn’t work).
The Valley, which has multiple explanations for its name (the easiest of which being there were sacrifices made to an ancient religion’s version of Aphrodite), is well worth the trip, regardless of how you decide to get there. Be sure to stop to eat before you start drinking, though, and don’t be afraid to skip any wineries (you’ll have to in order to survive). Hopefully, your visit will be as quaint and quiet as ours was.