Think there is no need to explain that Orange is THE color in the picture.
Love that old orange car!
Claudio Magris described Szentendre as the Montmartre of the Danube; we were eager to find out more about it.
After travelling for about 40 minutes from Budapest, we finally arrived Szentendre (Saint Andrew). Stepping out of the car, the colors of this quaint little town immediately caught our eyes. The buildings of sharp yellow seemed to be the predominant color, followed by crimson and green painted on houses and shops.
The colors looked vibrant and the sunny day has accentuated these colors which are symbolic of the town. The modern town of Szentendre was founded by Serbian immigrants in the seventeenth century, which is why it bears more resemblance to southern European towns than Hungarian ones. The most pleasant way to spend the afternoon is perhaps to get lost wandering the quieter and narrow streets while admiring the various architectural styles – Baroque and Rococo – along with the beautiful Orthodox churches. Is it a strange phenomenon for tourists to avoid tourists ? I guess not at all, every tourist has a comfort zone, wanting to enjoy a place without being disturbed by others.
Known as the Artists’ Village, many artists have flocked to Szentendre. It has been the home of many generations of Hungarian artists since early 20th century. This colorful artist’s settlement has preserved its medieval history with ancient buildings, cobblestone streets, numerous street vendors and musicians which help to give a unique character to this small town.
After a half day tour, we were scheduled to cruise back to Budapest along the Danube on a ferry. Szentendre turned out to be something which is quite different from Budapest. Afterall, Hungary is not just about Budapest, surely there are a lot more places which we haven’t seen. We were to leave Budapest the next morning. We couldn’t help thinking . . . . . . . . another trip to Budapest?
Woke up early in the morning, I was wondering what really were my impressions of Budapest. We have seen the beautiful scenery of Buda and Pest, the blue Danube, the Castles, churches and many monuments. We have also seen the other side of the city with street side sleepers and people scavenging garbage bins for food. Budapest have a glorious past, will it ever rise again? We have been to the Heroes’ Square and were impressed by the statues. Would there be modern heroes to bring the country further forward ?
While thinking about these, I opened the windows and drew the curtains of our hotel room and noted that it opened into a backyard with windows and doors. They looked pretty interesting and regular. I then realized that my impressions of Budapest are in fact composed of various interesting bits and pieces, just as the view in front of me was interestingly composed of windows, doors and ladders.
Budapest have many facets; the bits and pieces are an integral part of the city without which the city would have a lot less appeal and character.
Then we wandered into a shopping area and were happy to discover the many arts and crafts which were made locally. In particular, we liked this shop which displayed very well designed objects of desire: pigs and elephants. We like the pig.
It was almost time for lunch. We made our way to the market. The market was full of life and colors. There were so many things that attracted our eyes. There were also so many things that we were tempted to buy: sausages, foie gras etc. Getting hungry in Hungary, we climbed to the first floor of the market and have a lunch of local specialities.
I was puzzled as to why we have masks in both the Oriental and the Western cultures. Apart for fun, are we trying to hide our facial expression so that people would not know what are our deeper feelings? I was intrigued to see these Venetian masks hanging up in the shop.
Then we wandered by the river promenade of the Danube and strolled as far as the Parliament house. We saw these shoes along the bank . Clearly, these shoes are not made for walking but are created so that we would not forget the terrors of war and the killing of the innocent people.
According to Wikipedia “The composition entitled ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ gives remembrance to the people shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror. The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.” (Source: MTI, Saturday, April 16, 2005.)
When evening set in, we knew it was time for dinner. After a day of tiring walks, we were prepared to replenish ourselves; we found ourselves collapsed in the comfortable sofas of this almost empty restaurant.
Back to the hotel room, I was pondering whether Budapest is just like our travels through life. There is a main theme, but it is the bits and pieces that make our lives more interesting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
We found ourselves at the Heroes’ Square in Budapest. Standing before us was a statue of the archangel Gabriel. At the base of the column was a group of seven mounted figures representing the Magyar chieftains who led the Hungarian people into the Carpathian basin. In the front of the magnificent seven was the famous Árpád considered the founder of the Hungarian nation.
I didn’t know that the Hungarians may have migrated from their original homeland near the Ural mountains in Asia and settled in various places in eastern Europe. Their language may have been inherited from the Finno-Ugric peoples which is related to the spoken languages of the Finnish and Estonian. Well according to history books the famous Árpád with his people galloped into the Carpathian basin around 896 and founded the nation. The monument was built as a celebration of the millennium in 1896.
The seven fanciful figures at the base represent the seven Magyar tribal chieftains (whose names were Árpád, Elod, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, and Tétény) that came to the area in the ninth century. They all looked brave and appeared real heroes to me.
Near to the monument is the Vajdahunyad Castle, a castle that was built between 1896 and 1908. It is a copy in part of a castle in Transylvania, Romania, that is also called Vajdahunyad. The castle displays a mix of different architectural styles: Romanic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Originally it was made from cardboard and wood for the millennial exhibition in 1896 but it became so popular that it was rebuilt from stone and brick. In the court-yard, we found a group of students gathering together on the grass. They reminded me of my college days when my fellow classmates and I used to sit on the grass, discussing world matters as if the whole world was controlled by us.
The statue of Anonymus, also displayed in the Castle court, was a chronicler in the 12th century. He wrote the first history books on the ancient Hungarians, mostly based on legends. He was the unknown author of The Deeds of the Hungarians, a record of early Hungarian history. He described himself as Anonymi Bele Regis Notarii (‘the anonymous notary of king Bela’), but is generally cited as Anonymus. In my simple mind, I thought Anonymus is still alive. . . . . . I have seen lots of his articles and letters of complains!
We then went up to the Castle Hill. The Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesques style situated on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill. It was designed and built between 1895 and 1902. The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen that was responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages. It is a viewing terrace, with many stairs and walking paths.
Gazing at the Danube and the beautiful Pest side, we were happy that we were given another interesting and sunny day in Budapest.
To say the truth, I was not terribly impressed when I first reached the bank of the Danube overviewing Budapest. Maybe my expectations were raised too high through viewing too many great images of Budapest prior to my arrival. In my heart I quickly ranked Budapest after Prague, thinking it was a fair assessment.
My heart changed on the second day in Budapest when we cruised back on a ferry from the medieval town of Szentendre along the Danube. The sun was setting and the sight by the river was just lovely. . . . . . can’t help falling in love with Budapest from that moment on.
The setting sun illuminated many of the landscapes, castles, domes, buildings and bridges giving them a romantic touch. The sun’s illumination on the bridge has accentuated its warmth. . . . . . . . .the Parliament house was also at its greatest beauty when viewed 3D from the river.
The Buda side has always looked more picturesque than the Pest side. With the sun setting, the silhouettes of the buildings against the sky were more attractive than the view under direct sunlight. The water in the river was shimmering with a tint of gold.
The waters of the Danube offered an array of moods while the sun imparts its last rays of light onto Budapest giving it a warm feel before dusk finally sets in.
As we alight the ferry, we couldn’t help admiring at the sight of the Chain Bridge before us. A couple was sitting on the bank gazing at the wonderful sight. . . . . .time just stood still.
Have been travelling for the past couple of weeks, covering Switzerland (Geneva), Hungary (Budapest, Szentendre), Croatia (Plitvice National Park, Split, Hvar Island and Dubrovnik) and France (Annecy).
This journey is different in that we also have my Father-in-Law (FIL) of age 80+ travelling with us. While the planning of the trip has tried to be as less strenuous as possible, the trip did require quite a bit of walking up and down. We intended to cover all 16 lakes of great beauty in Plitivice National Park (below) and the 2 km (730 steps) walk on top of the Dubrovnik Castle walls in Dubronik, not to mention the daily walking of several hours when we were not travelling by car, catamaran or Ro-Ro ferry.
It was a test of will and strength for my FIL, as before the journey, he has developed a reluctance of climbing up or down even one flight of staircase between two stories in a building. While in our assessment, he should have the physical strength to complete all the walks in the journey, nevertheless, we were worried that he may not be able to overcome the psychological hurdle of tackling those climbs.
The trip did not have a good start. While loitering in the quiet streets of Budapest my FIL was approached by two men in the street, one pretending to be a tourist with a map in his hand, trying to snatch his backpack. Only when I shouted out loudly from afar did the men hastily turn away.
With the help of two walking sticks, my FIL was able to climb up to the very top of one section of the Plitvice lakes and should have been able to complete the other section if not for the very heavy rain which came pouring down like cats and dogs. When we reached Dubrovnik (above), he was also able to complete the picturesque 2 km up and down walk on the high castle walls of the Dubrovnik Castle on a hot day. All in all, he has reconquered the fears of climbing and was proud of that!
One of the things I pondered after the trip was – what lifestyle and exercise should I adopt now so that I would also be able to travel with confidence and strength as I approach 80 ? While life expectancy is increasing, this does not necessarily imply that we will still be sufficiently mobile in our later stages of life.
We have experienced immense beauty in our trip. . . . . . the unforgettable blue sea of the Adriatic, the scenic beauty of the Plitvice Lakes, the festival and cosy town at Hvar, the magnificent Dubronik castle, the quaint little medieval town of Annecy (above) and finally the tranquility of Geneva. This post is a preview and I will write in more detail about each of the places in this journey.