Photo: Alexander Stemp

‘Eger castle’ film set still stands in the Pilis Mountains

Cinematic prop now hosts ‘medieval’ fun

For those who have accomplished seeing the Buda Hills and want something more, I recommend the Pilis Mountains and valleys that prevail in a north-westerly direction from the Buda suburbs and lead to an eventual, less familiar way to Esztergom.
13. December 2021 15:11

And if you are enamoured with Hungarian history and literature, the classic and highly popular novel “Egri Csillagok” (Stars of Eger) written by Géza Gárdonyi in 1899 is essential reading. There is an English translation available,titled “Eclipse of the Crescent Moon” and a Hungarian-made film from 1968, and it is the latter that is the main feature for me because a purpose-built set can still be found a light walk from Pilisborosjenő, a village in those hills and valleys 15 kilometres from the capital.

The set builders created a replica of a ruined Eger Castle, a strong focus within this film. Despite its appearance recalling medieval times with its wild, captivating atmosphere, there is still life within this attractive folly. For the cinematic prop is now a cultural landmark and therefore not entirely redundant.

When weather allows, local people dress up as fearless and dashing knights in shining armour and perform robust “tournaments” involving demonstrations of weapons and so forth. This, alongside olde-worlde music and dancing. Should you be passing when such merriment is taking place, you are welcome to join in with the friendly and perhaps eccentric gatherings, as the performers often draw in unsuspecting passers-by.

But during deep winter this landmark and much of the immediate area are generally still and silent. With few ramblers around, one can capture its symbolic splendour in the snow, as well as film history, in very tranquil surroundings, all within half an hour of the city.

Photo: Alexander Stemp

Gárdonyi’s story is based on love, war and legacy, and stars an orphaned peasant boy who is raised by nobility. Remarkably he leads Hungary to victory when heavily outnumbered many times over by enemy forces during the siege of Eger in 1552. This saves the nation and Europe from an Ottoman invasion. The hero of the book is Gergely Bomemissza, a historical figure though strongly romanticised by the author except in his role as an officer during the attack at Eger. Éva Cecey, his wife, is fictional and is based on Gárdonyi’s concept of an ideal woman.

This legendary film is a Hungarian and Bulgarian production, directed by Zoltán Várkony and starring Imre Sinkovits, György Bárdy and István Kovács. There was also a silent film adaptation of the same story made in 1923.

To reach Pilisborosjenő, follow the Number 10 outbound main road from Budapest. Then turn onto the Üröm road, from a newly constructed roundabout. From there follow the nearby and left-turning Pilisborosjenő signpost. Make your way towards the far end of the village and the immediate hills for a fortifying day out. Hiking boots are required.

Eger itself, with its castle, is 120 kilometres east of the capital, and is another article for another time.

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