Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

Budapest

Budapest

Budapest, the capital of the Hungarian Republic, is one of the most attractive cities in Europe to visit. Known as the ‚Queen of the Danube’, it is often compared to cities like Paris, Prague and Vienna.
The city you can see today is the result of many years of rich history. The area was inhabited as early as in the Paleolithic era. The Magyar tribes arrived here from the Urals in 896 and the Hungarian Kingdom was established in 1000. In 1247 Buda became the capital and permanent royal residence for Hungarians kings.The golden age of the city corresponds with the reign of King Mathias in the 15th century. He declared Pest an equal city to Buda. Further development was stopped by the Turks, who took the region in the 16th century and ruled for 150 years. Next centuries were marked by the rule of the Habsburg family. It was a period of intensive economic and architectural growth.

Budapest was officially founded in 1873 after the unification of the two twin cities: Buda, on the west bank of the Danube and Pest on the east. The Chain Bridge, connecting two parts, used to be considered as on of the world’s wonders.
As a result of the First World War, the monarchy fell and Hungary lost two thirds of its territory.
During the 20th century the country staggered from one terror regime to another. The capital witnessed several revolts, but free elections took place only in 1990.

The city is filled with marvelous architecture, from medieval to Baroque to Art Nouveau.
Most of the city tourist attractions are found on Castle Hill in Buda and in the central part of Pest.
In 1987 Budapest was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard often compared to the Champs-Élysées. At the end of the Avenue lies Heroes’ Square, which is the main entrance to the City Park with its romantic Vajdahunyad castle. The main street accomodates also the House of Terror. Located in former headquarters of State Security Police, it recalls the Fascist and Communist regimes and acts as a memorial to those who were tortured or killed in the building.

Budapest boasts Continental Europe’s first underground railway, built in 1896 to celebrate country’s Millenium and the largest Parliament building in Europe. The impressive Saint Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in all Hungary.

The Margaret Island and Szechenyi Baths are Budapest’s best recreational spots.

Szentendre

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The picturesque town of Szentendre with its winding roads, narrow alleys, colourful houses and 24 museums, is one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in Hungary.

In medieval times, it was populated mostly by Serbians and Bulgarians. In the 18th century, after the Turks left, Szentendre gained a more Mediterranean townscape with Croatian, Slovak, German, Greek and Romanian newcomers. The city has retained a distinctive blend of cultures.  

Szentendre is famous for its seven churches – among them a bishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church and the world’s smallest synagogue. Besides the baroque buildings, the beautiful Serbian Orthodox churches and Cyrillic-inscribed monuments form the main attractions of the city. On the castle hill there is a medieval Roman Catholic church with the oldest sun clock in Hungary.

Szentendre is a town of artists and museums. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been home to an artists’ colony, where a great number of artists still live and work today. You can find small galleries on every street corner.

The Open Air Etnographic Museum, called Szentendre Skanzen, exhibits the folklore architecture and culture of the Carpathian basin. Among other museums there are: The Kovács Margit Museum displaying ceramic works, the Serbian Orthodox Museum, the Doll Museum. They are all worth paying a visit, but you definitely can’t miss the unique Szabó Marzipan Museum. It offers exhibition of figures made of marzipan, including many Disney characters, a 2 meter tall Michael Jackson, a Princess Diana, the 160 cm long Hungarian Parliament building and many more.

The town is filled with souvenir shops and stalls where artisans and ceramic artists sell their work.

Esztergom

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Esztergom is a charming town, located on the border with Slovakia. It is Hungary’s oldest town with a lot of historical importance. It used to be the capital of Hungary until the Mongol invasion in mid-13th century, when King Béla IV moved to Buda.

During centuries the city was the see of the Archbishop of Esztergom, traditionally the most powerful Christian personality in the Hungarian Kingdom. He was the leader of the ten bishoprics founded by Saint Stephen. The Archbishop had the exclusive right of coronation. He was also often in charge of important state functions and had the biggest incoming in taxes after the monarch.

Esztergom is still the seat of the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. The enormous cathedral situated on the hill and dominating the city is the largest church in the country. It is a very symbolic place, since it was the nation’s first cathedral. According to tradition Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king was born in Esztergom and crowned there. The building of the present neoclassical church began in 1822 on the site of the previous one, destroyed by the Turks.

Another historical attraction of Esztergom is the castle, which, during its time as a capital, used to be the seat of government and the residence of the royal family. It was built on a high hill by Prince Géza in 10th century. After the Mongols’ attacks, the castle and palace became the residence of the archbishop. In 16th century Esztergom was conquered by the Turks. They destroyed most of the buildings. Apart from the ruins of the castle of Esztergom, there is a castle museum and a big exposition of the old church bells. On the eastern end there is a small bastion and a big statue of the baptism of the first Hungarian king.

The former Bishop’s palace houses today the Christian Museum with Hungary’s largest collection of religious art. Founded as early as 1875, it offers amazing collections of paintings, sculptures, religious pieces and items of famous Hungarian and European artists.

The famous Maria Valeria Bridge links the city with Štúrovo in Slovakia.

Visegrád

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Visegrád means ‚High Fortress’. It is a village with fascinating history, situated on the right bank of the river Danube. It was first mentioned in Latin documents in 1009.

The first fortress, built by Romans and then used by Slavs and Magyars, was destroyed by the Mongols during their invasions in 1241-42. In 1250, King Bela IV constructed the hilltop Citadel, the Lower Castle and the Water Bastion on Danube bank. In 1320 King Charles Robert started the cnstruction of the Royal Palace, one of the finest in Hungary, although it was used as a primary residence only by one king.

It was here where the famous Royal Summit took place in 1335. An alliance against Habsburg Austria was formed then between the kings of Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, the Marquis of Moravia and the princes of Bavaria and Saxony.

Charles’ successors continued with the construction of the palace, even though the royal court had moved back to the Royal Palace of Buda.

The golden age of Visegrád came under the reign of King Matthias. Thanks to his Italian wife, the Royal Palace and Castle were renovated by Italian masters in Renaissance style.

During the Turkish occupation the town got almost completely devastated. The remains of the fortress were exploded under the command of Leopold I, Austrian Emperor in 1702. The excavation of ruins, conducted by the most famous archaeologists of that time, took place only in the 20th century. The restoration of historic monuments is still under progress.

Tihany

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Tihany is located on the only peninsula of the Lake Balaton. It divides the lake into two parts. It is considered to be the most beautiful place on the lake.

The town is home to an old Benedictine Abbey, surrounded by the famous nature reserve where a number of rare animals and plants can be found. It was the first landscape protection area in Hungary, created in 1952.

The abbey was established in 1055. King Andrew I chose Tihany as a burial-place for the royal family and founded a Benedictine monastery. The oldest written record of the Hungarian language is connected to its foundation. The original document is kept in the Pannonhalma Abbey.

In 1267 a fortress was built around the church. It was regularly attacked by the Turks, but it was eventually destroyed in 1702 by the Habsburgs. They ruined many of the Hungarian castles in order to eliminate the means of resistance against their reign in the country.

The echo of Tihany is a well-known phenomenon since the 18th century, when the abbey was rebuilt. The words shouted from the top of the Echo Hill are reverberating from the abbey’s north side wich is more than 300 metres far. In the 19th century many poets were inspired by the Echo Hill which was said to repeat the words even sixteen times. Currently the echo is disappearing due to increased noise and many other buildings built in the area.

The abbey is still functioning. The monks are also in charge of the Benedictine Abbey Museum.

Herend

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Herend is a village of the world-renowned Hungarian porcelain. It has been made here since 1826. This ceramic factory is the biggest in Europe.

During the visit you can get to know everything about porcelain manufacturing process.The Herend Porcelain Museum offers the largest collection of porcelain treasures in the world. In the shop you can buy hand-painted products with patterns such as flowers, birds and butterflies.

Lake Balaton

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Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, with a 200-km shoreline. Local people call it ‚the Hungarian sea’.

The lake became Hungarians’ most frequented holiday resort after the World War I and The Treaty of Trianon, whereby the country lost direct access to the Adriatic sea. During the communist period, the Balaton Lake and the whole region surrounding it were a very fashionable destination among all the states of the Eastern Bloc.

The lake lays in a large wine growing region.  The surrounding towns offer attractions of historical and cultural nature: many fabulous beaches and modern thermal spas mixed with historic buildings.

The north shore is famous for cities such as Balantonfüred, called ‚Balaton Riviera’. It has a splendid lakeside promenade, from where the cross-lake ferry departs. It is the oldest and most popular spa resort.

Veszprém

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Veszprém is located in the scenic Bakony mountainous region, near the Balaton resort. According to local legend it was founded on seven hils, like Rome. It is often referred to as ‚the City of Queens’ thanks to Giselle, the wife of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. For centuries, the queens of Hungary were crowned by the bishop of Veszprém.

The history of the city goes back to the ninth century. It had an important religious role during the Christianization of Hungary. It was here that king Stephen I defeated the armies of his cousin, Koppány who claimed the throne and had him executed as a pagan. In 1009 Veszprém became one of the most significant centres of the Catholic Church as the bishop’s seat.

The historic centre of Veszprém is the Castle Hill. According to the notary of King Bela III, the castle had been built before the first Hungarians settled in here. It was probably a 9th century Frankish fortress. Destroyed during the Turkish occupation and the subsequent battles, the castle, blown up by the Austrians in 1702, never had its medieval parts rebuilt.

In the town square of the Castle Hill among many beautiful Baroque-style buildings there is also a spectacular Bishop’s palace. Next to the palace is the most important historical monument in Veszprém, the Gisela Chapel. It was built in 1230 and served as a private chapel to the bishop and the queens who resided here. It is believed to have been founded by the Blessed Gisela. Damaged during the Turkish period, today’s Gothic building has one of the oldest interiors in Hungary: the 13th century frescoes of the apostles on the walls.

In Saint Michael’s Cathedral you can find the remains of Saint George’s chapel, a monument of national importance. Thousands of pilgrims come here to see the relics of the head of Saint George.

Two most important symbol of the city are the Fire Tower and the Viaduct, offering a wonderful view of the town and its surroundings.

Kőszeg

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Situated at the foot of the Alps, near the Austrian border Kőszeg is a charming, almost 800-year old town, known as the country’s jewelery box.

In the 14th century it gained status of a free royal town and since then it has played an important role in the Hungarian history. In 16th century, Kőszeg became the major target of the Ottoman attack, but  the inhabitants, under the leadership of the captain Miklós Jurisich, managed to repel the siege. For its heroism and saving Vienna from the Turkish attack, Ferdinand I granted the city an eternal exemption from duty and tax.

The monuments in Kőszeg remained almost in their original form. The colorful Jurisich square with its original Gothic, Renaissance and baroque buildings claims to be the prettiest in all Hungary.

 The real symbol of Kőszeg is the Jurisich castle. It was restored in 1958 and since then it has been the cultural centre of the city. In the castle museum there is a permanent exhibition of the pictorial history of Kőszeg. In the yard you can see the statue of Miklós Jurisich.

Currently, Kőszeg is famous not only for its historic past but also for its unique ‚honesty boxes’ placed in front of the houses. They are full of locally grown vegetables, fuits and flowers which you can buy just by dropping the money into the small boxes. Noone keeps an eye on them! The city is very proud of the excellent public security and reliable people.

Apart from its architectural heritage Kőszeg offers also the natural beauty of its surroundings: the Kőszeg-mountains, with the highest peak Írottkő (882 m). The sub-alpine climate and the soil in the area are favorable for winegrowing and wine-production. Kőszeg is well known for the Kékfrankos and Blaufränkisch grape variety responsible for strong dark red wines.

Győr

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Centred around the confluence of the Danube, Rába and Rábca, Győr is known as the town of rivers. Founded by the Celts and developed under the Romans,  it has been inhabited ever since.

During the Magyar period it became a bishopric. During the Turkish Wars the city was damaged. In 1529, the defenders set the town on fire, because they knew they could not defeat the Turkish army. When the Turks arrived they found nothing but piles of ashes, which is why they called the place ‚Janik Kala’ (Burnt City).

Győr was then rebuilt in Renaissance style with the help of Italian architects. The Turks came back and managed to occupy the city, but they only stayed for 4 years, while in other parts of Hungary they ruled for 150 years. After they left, the new artistic era begin.  The beautiful Baroque buildings date from this period. In 1743, Queen Maria Theresa gave Győr the status of ‘Free Royal Town’. The last siege of Győr took place in 1809, when Napoleon won the battle against the Habsburgs and occupied the castle. The house where he stayed during the battle functions today as the City Art Museum.

After its military role diminished, Györ became the major industrial town in northern Transdanubia. It is still often referred to as the City of Meetings as it is an important economic and industrial centre.

The Old Town, with the Chapter Hill crowned by a Cathedral and The Royal Town are full of splendid Renaissance and Baroque monuments. The well preserved Baroque city centre with its churches, palaces, museums, characteristic corner-balconies and narrow lanes was granted the Europa Nostra Award for monument protection in 1989.
Győr is particularly rich in sacral heritage. The Chapter Hill is home to the Bishop’s Cathedral, where the reliquary of king Ladislaus I, the patron saint of Hungary is kept, and the Episcopal Palace.
The Vienna Gate Square is one of the most beautiful Baroque squares in Hungary. On its southern edge stands the Carmelite Church, modeled on the Carmelite church in Rome.
The most notable sights on The Main Square (Széchenyi tér) are the Benedictine church of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the monastery.

In the downtown area changed to pedestrian zone The Town Gallery in the former Esterhazy Palace can be found. The Town Hall is the symbol of the city. From its distinctive tall central tower (59m)you can enjoy the view of the city center.