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Gainesville's sister city enchants Hall County visitor

Eger, Hungary boasts fine wines

POSTED: December 11, 2007 7:19 a.m.

Doug Hanson doesn’t sound like an ambassador to Europe. His thick Texas drawl makes him sound more like a promoter of the Lone Star State.

For several years, Hanson has supported an orphanage in Romania that he visits annually. Most times, his travel route takes him through nearby Hungary.

When he found out Gainesville has a sister city in Hungary, he contacted officials from the city of Gainesville. Loaded with letters and gifts, he paid a call to Eger, Hungary.

"I was humbled by my reception in Eger because it was more than I ever expected," said Hanson, who lives in North Hall. "I went there as an ambassador, but I was treated like I was the president."

Eger, about two hours by train from Budapest, is a city that is known for its fine wines and well preserved baroque architecture.

In 1582, following an invasion by the Ottomans from the Turkish Empire, a small band of 2,000 Hungarian soldiers defended the castle at Eger from 80,000 Turks, sparing all of Eastern Europe, including Austria and beyond.

Complimenting the architecture of the city are the rolling hills that produce some of the finest wines, most notably Bull’s Blood, a robust smooth red in the merlot family.

Armed with a goodwill letter from Mayor Bob Hamrick, brochures of Gainesville and Hall County, and assorted memorabilia and T-shirts, Hanson came knocking on the door of city officials in Eger.

Eniko Csaszar, the city’s sister city director, became Hanson’s guide to the city. He was treated to a preview of an art exhibit, a tour of Eger castle and tickets to a Transylvania dance presentation.

"These people not only welcomed me with their hospitality, but gave me gifts of books that I was able to bring back to the mayor’s staff here in Gainesville," Hanson said.

Hanson’s many pictures of his visits are like picture postcards of historical structures, most of which have been either maintained or restored to pristine condition.

He stayed at the historic Senator Haz, a 11-room inn built in the 18th century.

The city of Eger has 10 sister cities. Of them, Gainesville is the only one in North America. Little has happened since the formation of the relationship in 1998, and Hanson has pledged to go back to Eger to mark the 10th anniversary.

"Eger is the most beautiful city of 60,000 that I’ve ever been in," he said.



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