I’m Just Asking

Day 8. 25 July 2004

Sunday. Our first day off, and a lie-in till the late hour of 7:25. When we do wake and rise into the day, breakfast feels strangely wrong. Served at a table, in a building – it does not feel right. Where is our field? Where is our hay meadow? We all instinctively feel the loss, and wish fondly for the smell of new-cut grass and the drying dew.

A little after 8 o’clock, Zoë and Ewan climb into the back seats of the Green Monster with Gabor and his girlfriend in the front, and whilst Claire and Francoise join Attila and his girlfriend in the brown micra, the rest of us take to Imre’s small, blue minibus.

We drive south to Eger, first through rolling fields of grassland with storks standing on one leg and feeding, then villages with wagon wheels on the ridges (for the storks), and latterly though bleak, sprawling, industrial subhurbs. We pass a huge out of town Tesco’s before turning up a tree-lined road flanked with metred parking and tall tenement blocks.

From here, we descend down the street, and a narrower alley with views over the terracotta pan tiled roofs, and the forested hills beyond, into one of the main streets. We are given a walking tour of the old medieval town, and through narrower streets to the castle, where some enjoy ice creams; for myself, I am drawn to a stand selling wooden goblets. It’s a festival today and they have a market that ranges from traditional crafts to tourist tat. We ascend broad stairs onto the castle walls from where we are presented with a good view of the changing of the guard. The changing of the guard involves traditional military dress in bright colours, and much marching around the castle grounds and firing of muskets and cannons, and must take some thirty minutes to be completed…

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