Big cathedral Eger
bus to Egerszalok
We have a plan for today. Seriously. No, stop laughing! We want to see the salt formations at Egerszalok.
On our way to the bus station, we stopped into the cathedral. Apparently this is the second largest in Hungary. It is called the Basilica. That is all we know at the moment, there were no signs in English here, so its history is a great unknown. It is impressive though,and again a mixture of sculpture and paint. It was a day for the school kids to see town, and many of them were running around the basilica. The painting was done in the 1950’s under communism, and represented their close connection with Rome, in a period that they could not openly worship. In the ’90s there was another renovation, when people could come back to it as a normal congregation.
We looked at doing the city under the city tour, but it was only a tour of the Archbishops wine cellar. This could have been impressive, as the Bishop would have seconded as much space as he could, and made sure it was always fully stocked, but still only looked form the photos as vaulted ceilings and if we were lucky, old sewers.
Catching the bus out to Egerszalok, where the salt is, we got off in town. This was a mistake, although we didn’t know it yet. Tourist info (Yes, the useless one back in town) had told us it was here. Turns out it isn’t. It is a couple of kilometres away. Signage out here is not the best either. We did find one that pointed in a direction and said 2km. Following that we left the town behind us. More than 2km away, we came to a crossroad. No signs. That’s helpful. Maybe people only come here by instinct, or more likely GPS. We flagged down a passing moped and asked for directions. They knew what we were after when we showed them the photo, and pointed down a very small side road. Thanking them, we set off again. This was the right place.
Now, how to write our experience here? It is a hard one. The first thing you see is a big car park. On the other side of this is a small spa complex. This is the poor persons spa. On the hill behind you is an old hotel, a large building constructed in a fairly traditional style. Following the road, you see a great glass and concrete monstrosity on the hill in front, and then eventually you see a small patch of white.
This white is the salt deposits left behind from the mineral water that is flowing to the surface. It comes from 400 metres underground, and is one of the most impressive natural features in Hungary. Apparently there are only three in the world.
Getting closer, we found that the entire thing is fenced off by the spa/hotel complex. This is unfortunate, but we went in to check if we could have a look around. We could, but it would cost us a three hour ticket to the spa. Saying we just wanted to look at the salt, we were told there was a path above it we could use, but not the spa side itself. Helpful. We walked all the way back to the car park, and up the other side. Eventually we found the road mentioned, and walked up to the top. Here there are all sorts of signs saying it is the property of the spa, and no trespassing. Video cameras were set up and a big wooden fence line in place. OK, so not the pleasant walk around a natural formation that we had expected.
The first section is where the poor person’s spa pumps water down to their pools. A bit of salt is being deposited around here, but it is not that appealing as all the pipes, parts of pipes, and other stuff left over everywhere. IT was a mess.
The second section was a man made terraced pool. This is fairly new, and the salt has not built up on it much. Not surprising, as they are not putting water over it. This seems to be a recreation of a structure on the North island of New Zealand. The middle structure looks the most original. There is a salt hill coming out and flowing down, but from our vantage point at the top, you cannot see much. You can see however, the structure that has been put in place to direct the flow of water. A pump is set up at the top to flood it with water. It looks man made from up here as well. It is the most impressive though, and we (hopefully) managed to get a few good photos of it. Finally there is the last section. This is as manufactured as the first, but even less used. There is another pipe here, that spurts out clumps of water every second or so, but not enough to make it flow down the artificial formation.
A bit further along there is a loud droning, and we joked that this is the building that is being used to house the pumps. It does seem that the water is now being pumped up from underground. This theory is born out by the fact that the water for the massive spa resort below it, is not using water from the formation, but getting it from underground. We assume this has affected the natural flow, and now they have to pump up water for that as well. If it was ever natural in the first place.
The whole thing was very disappointing to say the least, and with the effort to get here, we would not recommend it for anyone without their own car, and an interest in paying a fortune to sit in the 68 degree water pumped up from underground. Many people do find this beneficial, and it is a great soother for gout or other joint ailments, but not for us.
Finding our way back to the closest bus stop, we did manage to catch a glimpse of a lizard and a small black snake, so it made the trip worthwhile!!
Back in town, we decided to find a pub to have a drink. Walking into a promising one, we had someone inside say siesto. Assuming that they were closed, we turned around and walked out. Picking up a few supplies at a corner store, we were greeted with the same word. This person was up and ready to serve us though, so we worked out that it was a greeting. We can only assume what the person in the pub was thinking. I said hello to these tourists, and they turned around and left? Still, you have to learn some way…