Impressive ! I wrote some things of my own while being there this year: Tokaji Back from heaven. You may ask why, and I have only one answer: human nature as it is very well expressed in Herman Hesse's Sidhartha. When you visit Hungary, the great Blue river of the Danube and Budapest are very impressive but, to know about Hungary you must go into the villages. Several red wines and local beers were consumed, ready to go. Tiny roads leading into small villages that are poor enough to live of nature, waiting for the ferryman to pull his floating vessel over a dark green river. No way you can rush nature here. Half an hour to cross 30 meters, sit back and enjoy the ride. Friends in the car behind me are driving with the AC on and windows closed. I knock on their window. "Why did you decide to come ?" reply: " To experience all this beauty". " Then you should have settled for your T.V. at home, it is bad enough we are driving through this, roll down the windows and thank the wind for whatever smell it brings you". We are invited to a local family, Honored, we accept. The bedroom is immediately turned into the kitchen table. The lady of the house prepared us a lunch from whatever that grew in her garden. A masterpiece. The wines we had with the meal were produced by their neighbor. They apologized for running out of their own. A friend is analyzing the happiness of this village's people. I disagree, happiness is not necessarily the ideal condition, being content is. The fine people of this village realize they are human. What greater blessing could there be ? Joining the rat race to worship the client's money has turned most of us blind. The mountain of Tokaji is emerging in the NorthEast. It very much resembles the road going up north leading to Chablis, only the ancient mountains blocking the northern mistral winds coming from Slovakia, portray a different setting. The junction between the 3 great villages of Tokaji: Mad, Tokaji and Tarcal is monitored by the great looking, French owned Disznoko, winery. I would hardly term it as an authentic welcome to the Tokaji wine region but the winery is producing both dry, sweet and Aszu [ botrytis ] wines of a good quality. What the winery lacked and had been changing towards, in the last 2 years, is cellar-aged wines - the true nature of Tokaji wines. It is important to mention that the winery does have great looking cellars with some beautifully designed bottle storage illuminated to give it a goldish glare, along with top of the line machinery. Breaking left to the village of Mad we visit the Tokaji vineyards. The sun is setting somewhere in Austria. This is one of the holiest places in Tokaji. If only I could forget the tragic history of this land: The Romans [ the first to use Tokaji as a medicine for their wounds], the Mongols, the Magyar tribes [ rebuilding the devastated wine areas], the Muslim rule, the Habsburg empire all the way to the end of the communist rule in 1992. Call the cause of wars what you would, but sitting on the blood soaked earth of the Tokaji vineyards it felt very wrong. The chicks of the Iceland eagle fight each other to the death knowing there is only food for one. We should do better than that. Climbing to the top of Mad, one can see the great beauty of simplicity. Local rule: no church or synagogue may be built higher than the other. A Positive effect of the evening breeze cooling everything down. The Aureum Vinum winery revealed the true nature of Tokaji. One can easily get lost in the Gothic labyrinth dug in the very soul of Mother Nature. Those of us who were ill-experienced enough not to bring warm clothes seemed to laugh at every silly thing regardless of the many different wines we were tasting. Our hosts kept on pouring what would seem as the best wine we will ever taste and we will spend the time beguiled after tasting the next one. The morning of the 31st began with a beautiful eclipse at 3:50 AM. No I was not there and did not even attempt to wake up at this time after 4 hours of Tokaji wine tasting that ended at 1:30 AM, But I did take the viticulturist of Disznoko's word for it when I later met him in the most important tasting in Tokaji - the Tokaji Renaissance annual wine tasting at 10 AM. Absent this year, the fine wines of Royal Tokaji, heard through the grapevine that there was a slight disagreement with the rest of the group. Many great wines and wine makers were present. Amongst the top wine makers were Sepchi and Monyok and Gergei Vintse'. Either I was slow or the organizers rushed things since I barely managed through 60% of the wines when an hour later we attended the Knighthood ceremony of the Confrerei Vinum Regum Rex Vinorum. Amongst the nominee was Tim Atkins, currently the Observer's wine corespondent with an impressive record of magazines behind him. After an impressive lunch along with about 10 different wines in the admirable Degenfeld winery, we rushed to a visit of a recent French-Hungarian venture 'Chateau Derszla, to taste a brilliant bubbly furmint while the very proud French owner fried his polite audience in the hot afternoon sun. The winery had undergone some uplifting changes headed by their new 2000 Chateau Reserve [ a very nice wine indeed yet, does not reflect the true nature of Tokaji ]. Not wanting to mix drinks, later that evening; we had some Egri Bukavir in a classic river fish restaurant in one of the neighboring villages. To proceed to the night, and next day tasting would be boring to some of you [ I am complimenting myself here ]. Long live the simple pleasures in our lives. Night in Tokaji, A walk in the street in a perfect weather while everything seems to blend in perfectly. The local gypsies are playing their guitar much to the enjoyment of the local youth. It's no wonder the gypsy tribes, originating in India, decided to settle in this perfect place. A quick investigation amongst the wine makers in the area leads to the conclusion that these long distance travelers are very much responsible for some of the top wines here. The gypsy families were chosen as the permanent workers of the vineyards, especially at harvest time. We reach the wine tatsting stations of several fine Tokaji wines. Royal Tokaji is present amongst them. Wines are sold either by the glass or by the bottle. We settle near a nearby food stand that offers the best-cooked pork parts. We all order except for a physician who decides to convince himself by lecturing us, that such quantities of food and drinks is unhealthy. He failed and ordered. We continue. A gypsy is playing his guitar with soft enthusiasm, kids 12-14 years old are swaying -walking and their laughter is mingled with the gypsy's law tunes in a manner that would have given a lot of pleasures to conductors. English and French suits followed by some of their hosts can be seen here and there. They were all in the same wine event yet would settle for a polite greeting should their eyes meet. The local bar offered some Irish beers. I stuck to a refreshing, cold, dry Tokaji furmint. A Lesson from a friend, order the worst wine in the pub. No expectations what so ever. The next day I showered in ice cold water as a matter of habit of the last 15 years. O.K. I am lying. The hot water ran out as I was to shampoo. The expressions of the drastic change in temperatures saved me the trouble of waking the rest of the gang. None of them found any artistic relation to my rapidly changing tones activated by the freezing water. "Breakfast ?" None. I roll down to occupy a table for five and start a massive consumption of whatever was there: cheese, meat, eggs, bread and 1 l. of chocolate drink. The spectators may have passed lunch. I started this habit in Germany, whenever there is a wine tasting make sure you eat a massive breakfast. A Visit to 2 of the local wineries is proceeded by a small drive to the northern mountains. I stop in the middle of nowhere surrounded by three-color greens unpenetrable by man. I knock on the window of the friends' car. "What's up ?" they ask. "We are having a kit-kat". Since one of them did pull some kit-kat bars out of the trunk I found again the time to explain about travelling and smell and why the windows should be down and the AC off. Reaching the mountain villages we came to the true source of the Hungarian barrels. 136 l. Local barrel producers can manufacture up to 50-60 barrels a year. The Tokaji Puttonyos system relied on the amount of botytis added to the barrel [ each basket containing 20-25 kg. ] The amount of cellars in the area was beyond comprehesion. We break left and reach the back of Mad. Many new wineries and assets were bought by investors, artists and those who simply seek remedy for their tortured souls. Final tastings and we are heading back to Budapest. On the 160th km. we stop at a small village fare. Two restaurants are facing the main street. One very busy and the other dark and abandoned. We take the road less traveled by. Magnolias, a unique breed of Spanish black hog and a European white hog. This is the only restaurant that serves them as the owners / growers export 85 % of the meat to Spain. The menus show no sign of them but by demand we are presented with the real thing [ my apologies to all those hallucinating in Atlanta ]. Egri Bukaver accompanies the best dishes I will ever have. Our compliments were sent to the kitchen in the form of sparkling clean dishes. Should we have been in Scandinavia [ this being a sign of being still hungry ], we would have been dead by now. 2 hours later and we are in the cellar of the best wine shop in Budapest - Tokaji exclussif. Mr. Willie Kirzner of Aureum Vinum is constantly thanked for his royal hospitality. He humbly asks those experiencing the 5 Putton. and up to stop calling him god. After 3 seconds of debates we decide to have our last meal in a nearby Greek rest. [ not meaning to offend the fine food served on planes ], full. We cross to a government owned rest.-boat. Forget the food. Some fine wines and beers are ordered to compensate. The sun is setting on the big blue. Life.