Thursday, July 1, 1993

1993 Hungary: Esztergom, Etc (7/1/1993)

Thursday, July 1, 1993
We all slept in until 9:00! After breakfast, at 9:45 we walked over to the front of Parliament, then took the diagonal Vécsey utca to Szabadság tér to see a monument with a gold hammer and sickle right in front of the United States Embassy, which was a yellow building with a US flag! In the circle in front of the embassy, we found Tom’s car, and used the spare set of keys to get in and drive off! It was a small Volvo 440 with diplomatic plates DT-00-47. We followed directions to cross the Margit Bridge, and Kent turned on the headlights, which is a must in the rural areas. But then the guy in the car in front of us jumped out and yelled, indicating he was being blinded by our lights. So we turned off the headlights, and hoped to remember to turn them on when we did reach the rural area. We came to a fork with no indication of where Rte-11 went and veered left. We tried to get back to the straight-away, but it was hard when U-turns are not allowed! We ended up going around what looked like a mini Roman amphitheater, which turned out to be in Aquincum, settled by Romans in the 1st century. We headed to the Danube Bend, known for varied topography, including plains for agriculture, spas, beaches, volcanic mountains, limestone hills, and historic towns.
We arrived in Szentendre at 11:20. It was a small town on the Danube, but the waterway was narrow because of the large Szentendre Island. It had a quaint Mediterranean flavor with red tile rooftops on the hillside, cobblestone streets and narrow alleys with steps. At first it had been a Roman settlement of Ulcisia Castra. The Magyars arrived in the 10C, but the area was destroyed in the 16-17C. Settled in 1690 by 6,000 Serbians who were fleeing the Turks. The Serbs were joined by Greeks, and Catholic Dalmations, and later the Germans and Hungarians, then Slovaks. The Serbs left to return to their homeland, but they put up most of the 18-19C buildings. The name of the town means St Andrew.

Shop with bunches of Boldog Hungarian Paprika Spice Peppers
The town is full of baroque steeples that we used as best we could to guide us when walking from one to the other. The first church we came to seemed to be locked up, so we continued past quaint homes and shops selling wooden carved pencils (?) and a lot of lace and embroidery work. The town has been known for its artists since the 1920s. Over 50 artists were given studios here by the Communists. Now there are more than a dozen permanent collections of art and many museums. We risked getting lost, by taking an alley in the direction of another steeple.
Brynne in front of a unique house
A wooded cemetery
Went all around the Belgrád templom/Belgrade Cathedral, a Serbian Orthodox Church with the Szerb Egyházi Múzeum/Serbian Orthodox Museum.
Belgrád ortodox székesegyház/
Belgrade Orthodox Cathedral
We noticed a group of people inside, and started to go in as they came out, followed by a priest who locked up after himself. So we just had a peek inside the small church with a hugely ornate iconostasis from 1777. The door was carved in Rococo style, and nearby was a relief of a skull and crossbones. We climbed stairs to the Templom tér/Church Square that was full of craft and souvenir stalls, and the Catholic Parish Church of St John the Baptist, the oldest church in Szentendre. There are signs of 13C and 15C elements, but most is from the mid-18C. Went in to see the Rococo pulpit and altar.
View from Keresztelő Szent János-plébániatemplom/
St John the Baptist Church of Annunciation Church
Rooftops seen from St John the Baptist Church
Market at St John the Baptist Church
Mom at the market (PBB)
We found our way to the former Marx tér, now simply Fő tér/Main Square with a Greek Orthodox memorial cross in the center, erected by the Serbs in gratitude for the town escaping the plague.
Fő tér/Main Square
Fő tér/Main Square Memorial Cross
Blagovestenska templon/Church
The church on the square, Blagovestenska templon, is one of four remaining Serbian Orthodox churches. (Originally there were seven, but two were sold to the Catholics, and one to a Reformed church.) This one dates to 1752-1754, with a Rococo iconostasis dated 1802-1804 with paintings by Mihailo Živković. We paid 20 Forints apiece to enter the church for a close-up look at the iconostasis. Next we went to the Kovács Margit Kerámiamúzeumban/Margit Kovacs Ceramic Museum.
Kovács Margit Kerámiamúzeumban/
Margit Kovacs Ceramic Museum sign
She is a nun who did ceramic sculptures and reliefs in a folk-art manner. Saw a book of her works, but the museum was closed for this week only for renovations! We wanted to visit at least one artist’s museum, and got a whole family at Ferenczy Museum. Paid 30 Forints each to enter this multi-level museum, seeing works of Ferenczy Károly (1862-1917), who lived here 1889-1917, and of his children: Valér (painter and engraver), Béni (sculptor), and Noémi (tapestry artist). Brynne was glad to leave that museum.
Daddy (PBB)
Szentendre as seen from the Danube River
We wandered slowly back to the car, and drove back to Rte-11 to continue northward to Visegrád. As we drove along the river, we passed the ruins of the 15C Royal Palace, which was once extremely grand with 350 rooms on several levels overlooking the Danube. It is still being excavated. The palace was begun in the 1250s and in 1320 King Charles I of Anjou transferred his seat of power here. It was the setting for the Visegrád Congress of 1335 where the kings of Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights (who ruled the Baltic) could not find a strategy to deal with the Habsburgs, but they apparently drank a lot of wine. King Louis the Great moved here in 1355. Some parts of this era survive, even after the burning/razing by the Turks in 1541-1542. Excavations began in 1932-1934.
We found our way to the mountain top, to the Nagy Villám Vendéglő restaurant, recommended for Hungarian and fish and game meals. We paid 55 Forints to park, and hiked up a hill. Sat on a terrace with a view down of the Danube.
Nagy Villám Vendéglő restaurant
Brynne and Tamiko at the Nagy Villám Vendéglő restaurant
View of the Danube River from the restaurant
We had brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Brynne, but she did not want to eat. A small girl came over to try to talk to Brynne, who, of course, did not understand. The girl’s father came speaking German (could have been Austrian), so we agreed to let Brynne take a walk around with Sophie, also age four. Sophie had a speech impediment, which is why I did not understand that she was speaking German. She gave Brynne candy, and they hopped and skipped and went to see the gypsy musicians. (The gypsy musicians did not come our way for tips.) Kent had a beer and I had mineral water. We shared a salad (sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and chopped pale green pepper in vinegar, venison in cranberry sauce (aack! too much alcohol!), and Fogash (a pike-perch fish from Lake Balaton) Carpathian style (with a thick white gravy). The fish came with a mountain of tasty parsley potatoes, and the venison came with rice and five bread-crumb covered potato tots!
We used the restroom and crossed the parking lot to see the Wiegand Toboggan Run. Brynne sat in a low flat cart and was pulled 35’ before Kent sat behind her. They were pulled another 100’ up hill, then released to careen down in a winding metal trough (like a bobsled run) with only a hand brake!
Wiegand Toboggan Ride
Brynne and Kent on the "toboggan"
Sophie and her dad
Brynne and her dad
Great fun! We saw Sophie and her parents there, too. We returned to the car to make our way to the fortress atop the next hill.
Visegrádi Fellegvár/Visegrád [Upper] Castle on hilltop
The Upper Castle is connected to the Danube through the Lower Castle
The Visegrádi Fellegvár/Visegrád [Upper] Castle was built by King Béla IV as part of a defensive system, as he had learned the lesson of the devastating attack by the Mongols in 1241 and he began building castles. Originally meant to be the retreat of his daughter Margit, as part of the House of Árpád. (Descended from Árpád who is considered the father of Hungary, as he, or his father, was the first head of the confederation of Hungarian tribes, and Árpád was the one to bring them to their new homeland in the Carpathian Mountains. His dynasty lasted from about 895-1301.) In the Middle Ages, the Upper Castle housed the Holy Crown and other regalia until they were stolen in 1440. In 1463, Matthias paid 80,000 Forints to have the treasures returned from Austria. The castle fell to the Turks in 1544, then was taken by the Habsburgs in 1595. Here we only had to pay 17 Forints to park. There was a display of medieval weapons that one could pay to try, and ponies one could pay to ride. We paid 40 Forints to enter the castle and climb many stairs, turning this way and that for increasingly more breathtaking views. There were small exhibits on folk life and hunting in these mountains.
Upper Castle Wall
Mommy and Daddy at the Upper Castle (PBB)
Brynne and Tamiko at the Upper Castle (KSS)
View down from the Upper Castle
View down from the Upper Castle
View upriver of the Danube Bend
View beyond to gap in background mountains that is also the Danube River
Kent, Tamiko and Brynne (self-timer photo)
Hungarian ladybugs
Last look at the Upper Castle
We drove down the mountain back to Rte-11 and continued northward. We passed many pastures of horses, and neat old towns full of flowers and red-tile roofs. Brynne napped briefly in the car. We arrived in Esztergom and went straight to the Esztergomi Bazilika/Basilica. We were already so used to paying for parking that we thought these two young men standing nearby would come over for money. But they did not, so we did not pay for parking. From Papnevelde utca, we climbed steps next to a large tunnel portal, to reach Szent István tér at the back of the immense cathedral dedicated to the Assumption and St Adalbert.
Esztergom Basilica
It is the largest cathedral in Hungary, built in Classical style, and dominates the city while it overlooks the Danube. Building began in 1822 on the site of the 11C St Adalbert Church, with a 100 m/328’ cupola supported by 24 columns. The porch has eight 22 m/72’ high columns. The architect Pál Kühnel died in 1824, and the builder János Packh was murdered in 1838. József Hild continued the construction The Basilica is located on Castle Hill, the birthplace of St Stephen of Hungary in c. 976. He inherited the principality from his dad, Géza, a century after the Hungarians migrated to the Carpathians Basin from what is now the Ukraine. Stephen turned Hungary into a feudal Christian kingdom that was a power in Europe in the Middle Ages, and Esztergom was his capital. (The royal capital later moved to Buda in the 13C.) The archbishopric was founded in 1001 and remained until the Ottoman Turks took the city in 1543. The Gothic cathedral was left in ruins, and later the Turks were out in 1683. In 1820, the Archbishop Sándor Rudnay returned to Esztergom and had the present basilica built. We entered a side door to the sound of organ music and a view of the red marble Bakócz Chapel, built in the 16C, which was carefully disassembled moved from its original location and attached to the new basilica. In the chapel was a white marble altar by Andrea Ferucci da Fiesoli (student of Michelangelo). Also a copy of the Image of the Virgin at Máriapócs, an image that has wept, and provided miraculous cures for those who see it. A worker waved us into the treasury that was to close soon at 16:30. We paid 40 Forints each to see the priceless collection of ecclesiastical treasures and vestments. So many very ornate things! Reliquaries, chalices, bishops’ hats and scepters.
Esztergom Basilica View SE
We exited out back to the terrace with a view of the Danube and across to Czechoslovakia. You could see the remains of a bridge that was blown up by Germans and never rebuilt. (They use a ferry.)
Esztergom Basilica View across Danube River to Czechoslovakia
Esztergom Basilica View of Royal Palace wall and
Loyolai Szent Ignác-plébániatemplom/St Ignatius Loyola Church
We could have also seen the remains of a medieval royal palace, but we wandered back to the car. We followed Rte-11 to Rte-111 out of town, passing the Magyar Suzuki auto plant. There were more factories along this route. At Dorog we took Rte-10 to head back to Budapest. Before crossing the Margit Bridge, we saw Sophie and her parents and waved! We were back by 18:00 and Kent dropped us off, and took the car to the embassy for Tom. Tom was home for a late dinner of roast pork and potatoes, kohlrabi, salad, and rolls.
Next: Pest.

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