Hungary Highlights: The Danube Bend
The Danube River runs throughout Hungary. We also saw its beauty while in Austria as it runs through that nation among many others.
Many years ago the river was heavily used for trading salt among other commodities. Salt was the driving force of the economy for food preservation in an era where you couldn’t just pop your food in the fridge.
These days the river is still used to help the economies of the nations in which the waters pass through. In fact, it is actually the second largest river in Europe so you could imagine it serves many important purposes for the European people.
Checking out various towns and key Hungarian places along the Danube River was most definitely the highlight of the Austria/Hungary Spring Break study abroad course.
The tour started with my favorite tour guide of all time: Joe Levi. Hungarian born top-tier tour guide expert/comedian (in my book at least!) He kept it funny and kept it real as we learned not only history but also about some of the coolest bars, restaurants, shops, and Hungarian hangout spots.
The First Stop: Esztergom, Hungary. Oh, and with a stop in.. Slovakia?!
Our Danube Bend tour started with uncovering an ancient cathedral. Esztergom Cathedral is a minor basilica. Little did I know but apparently the only churches named major basilicas are found in Italy. Otherwise, basilicas in other countries are deemed “minor.”
Okay, let’s be honest, I didn’t know what a basilica was before the trip but that’s what the trip was meant for – to learn – right?
So for those who didn’t know a basilica is basically a church granted special privileges and is very important or dear to the Pope. It is actually deemed a basilica by the Pope.
I was never raised Catholic, I am not sure I ever stepped foot into a Catholic church before this trip. This cathedral, however, was one of the most architectural detailed and boastful churches I’ve ever been in. The structure itself was just so massive. Well, honestly, Austria and Hungary holds some of the most impressive churches so the Esztergom Cathedral was one of many in my book. Inside I saw one of the greatest organs to date however.
Toward the backside of the cathedral was a fort built sometime in the Middle Ages. It was toppled by the Mongols who took over Hungary for sometime but then decided toleave for a reason no one knows. It’s speculated that there was an extremely harsh winter that drove them out. Hungary was later taken back. Walking along further is a spectacular view across the Danube over into Slovakia.
Before stopping at the basilica we actually drove across the Danube into Slovakia. In Slovakia we rode briefly through town and stopped for a nice view of the basilica. I was actually amazed that we could just cross a bridge and there we were entering into another country. It was as if we were only entering into another state.
It was really cool to see the basilica from both Hungary and Slovakia. The views were gorgeous. From the side of Slovakia, the cathedral sat at the hilltop on the left with the blue dome while the medieval fort sat on the right with the brick and orange roof.
The Next Stop: Visegrád Castle
Never had I thought that I’d actually step foot into a real life castle.
Well it happened. In Visegrád, Hungary.
The castle is mostly left in ruins due to war – it was built in the 1200s so you can only imagine all of the pillaging that has happened since. Excavation has lasted for several years and is still underway today. It’s still safe to visit and has rewarding sights and history.
All it takes is a long drive uphill and then another long trek, this time by foot, uphill a long staircase followed by a long hike up gravel road. Finally the exterior of the castle features some medieval wagons as well as torture, murder, and war weapons. Climb a bit further uphill you’re taken aback by a jaw dropping view.
The view doesn’t just stop here! The more your climb the stairways and walk the halls and courtyards of the castle the more you will uncover yet more jaw-dropping angles of such an amazing view of the Danube River and surrounding city.
Once inhabited by kings of Hungary then overtaken by the Turkish and left in ruins. Standing within the castle walls makes you wonder all of what once was.
The Last Stop: Szentendre
Although the cathedral and castle were amazing and historical sights. The shops and square in Szentendre were the absolute cutest.
It was a whole vibe.
Everything from the umbrellas suspended in the air as you walk the stone path down to the Danube River, the shops with cute local charm, the huge lamp shades with various decorations, the coffee shops, and even the tourist shops. It all came together to make such a nice atmosphere and aesthetic.
I wish I had more time to shop here, have a cup of coffee, and soak in every last drop of the city’s charm. This was a good place to get some gifts and souvenirs for the family. Although, I found that this may not be the best place for extended shopping. Some of the prices were on the higher end. There is the possibility of haggling here however. The assortment of goods was vast as well: from food and coffee to handbags to jewelry to clothing to souvenirs to beauty items I mean you name it and it was here.
The pastel buildings also added a beautiful touch. A trip to Hungary isn’t complete without a stop through here. It’s only one hour away from Budapest and so worth the trip.
Without having too much time to see every little detail of Hungary – it is important to at least see the highlights. This Danube Tour was a good way to catch a glimpse into history while also seeing the beauty of the nation’s landscape and local town charm. It was also a nice break away from the city of Budapest and a discovery of a bit of a slower paced Hungary. Doing some sort of adventure along the Danube River to all of these Hungarian cities, if not more, is an absolute must for any trip to this country.