Solvang, California

Heading off from Santa Barbara we take a detour from the Pacific Coast Highway and head less than an hour inland.  Cutting through tree lined winding hills and wineries spreading out from both sides of the road we enter a tiny town named Solvang.  The outskirts of which look like any Californian town but then changes dramatically when you turn onto the main road.  Suddenly you are in little Denmark.  Danish houses line the street.  True that the road is too wide and the buildings too spread out to really be Europe.  It hits you that this is more of a Disneyland version of Denmark.  IMG_1151.JPG

We slowly drive down the main strip towards our hotel admiring the view, though quite often interrupted by loud, spewing pick-up trucks which severely ruin the European feel of the place.  Arriving at our hotel, Wine Valley Inn, we get our bags and check inn.  The hotel feels like a cozy cottage and we enjoy the little maze we have to walk to our room.  Our room is fantastic.  It feels like it is out of a fairy tale.   After settling in we set out to see the town the European way, by foot.  IMG_1157.JPG

Our first stop is actually part of the hotel, Tivoli Square.  This is not a main square in any sense.  It is really just a little open area in front of a clock tower.  After posing for some pictures we move on.  There is only the main street and maybe one or two small side streets for tourists entertainment.  We cruised up and down these looking in the shops and taking pictures in front of the Danish architecture and tourist traps such as the windmill.  After finishing our sightseeing we got down to brass tacks.  What Solvang is really about.  The wineries and wine tasting.  IMG_1162.JPG

After visiting four of these establishments I was unable to count how many more there were but I would say at least a dozen, plus many more within driving distance.  My memory is hazy after starting on this adventure but I clearly remember a place with dog in the name, Wandering Dog perhaps.  I remember delicious wine and something else called a Shrub, which I think was good and spicy but I will stick with wine, thank you very much.  The misses and I were drinking there alone as it must have been the off season.  The next place we stumbled to was nearer our hotel and here we enjoyed some glasses of nectar with the one other gentleman in the place.  Our evening continued on like this.  A wonderful atmosphere and nice, but cool, weather.  It was extremely enjoyable.  IMG_1155.JPG

It the morning we had breakfast at one of the bakeries which was just satisfactory(The coffee was bad) and continued on our way back to the Pacific Coast.  It was a wonderful night in this pretty village but I couldn’t imagine spending more than a night or two.  Maybe in the high season it is more fun since there would be more people to talk to but I enjoyed the low season with just us, the wine, and a comfortable bed.  IMG_1164.JPG

Wine in Eger, Hungary

You have probably never heard of Eger, and there is a reason for that.  Eger is not Budapest.  All visitors to Hungary stay within that beautiful city.  Actually, let me adjust that statement.  If you are German you are probably also familiar with Balaton Lake, which happens to be the biggest lake in Europe but that is for a different story.

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This lack of travel outside of the capital is a shame.  Even though Hungary is not a beautiful country it does have some worthwhile sites, and Eger is one of them.  Let us begin with my favorite part of Hungary, the wine.  The Eger area makes fabulous red wine, and they have a wonderful spot to enjoy it.  Within walking distance of the center is a square of near one hundred wine cellars where you can go wine tasting.  From the outside they don’t look like much but inside some of them are fabulous.  Some have three or four levels where you can sit and enjoy wine and make friends.  The stone and brick cellar combined with wooden tables and chairs makes a very inviting environment, especially on a hot summer day.

I need to say something about wine tasting in Hungary at this point.  This is not your normal sniff and little sip.  A “taste” of wine in Hungary is a full glass.  Sometimes they even skip the glass and the host will just pour the wine straight into your mouth from a long glass tube.  This is quite fun.  I highly recommend it.  And when you make your zig zag way out of the door do not forget to buy as much as you can.  One Euro will get you a liter or two of this liquid gold.

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Continuing on to the city itself.  It is not very impressive.  By Hungarian standards it is in the hills.  There is a  castle in the center that offers good views of the city, and the center itself has just been redone, but in a poor manner.  While not beautiful or too intersting it is a nice place to spend a few days.

I can sum up Eger with one sentence.  If you enjoy excellent and cheap wine, visit it.