The scene is Central Europe. It’s 1990-something. After a bicycle tour of the Czech Republic’s Bohemian countryside, Jim Harper and his girlfriend have traveled into Hungary and a town called Eger, two hours by train northeast of the capital.
In a small valley not far out of town, there are dozens of underground wine cellars where vintners store and sell the local wine, Egri Bikaver, also known as “Bull’s Blood.” As the evening winds on and the cellars close, visitors concentrate themselves more and more tightly into the remaining open cellars. The wine and proximity make for good conversation and new friendships.
Late on, this particular evening, as our table edged toward overstaying, one of our group stood up and sang his country’s national anthem. He was Estonian.
It was a very long song. I’d like to say otherwise, but his singing wasn’t all that good. And he was quite overly serious about it. With the song going on so long, and the wine having its full effects, the scene edged toward the comical.
Since that evening, the Bull’s Blood wine and our Estonian friend have provided touches of mirth and memory that interesting travel will. The Estonian singer has been the subject of some affectionate joking, I’ll admit.
That’s a little bit regrettable, because I now know that there’s more to the story. Watch the trailer here.
Estonia’s Mart Laar was the winner of Cato’s Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2006.