Saturday, June 23, 2007


[Esztergom, as seen from Slovakia

Today was another beautiful day in Hungary.

The sky looked a little chancy this morning, but although it remained breezy and windy all day, it was also sunny. The only downside: I feel a slight cold coming on. Too bad there isn't any "Emergen-C" here for me to take. Instead, I just downed a small bottle of orange juice.

To get to Esztergom, I took the train from Nyugati Station. The name sounds like the villain from some 1930s/40s intrigue thriller. "Those were Nyugati's men: ruthless and devious!"

The train went through the hills and towns north and east of Budapest, before coming into Esztergom. This city was the original capital of Hungary a thousand years ago, and it's where the first castle was located and where the kings of Hungary converted to Catholicism. Destroyed first by fire and then by the Turks, a huge cathedral was built on the site in the 19th century, and the original castle was excavated in this one.

I started, as I always do, by figuring out how I was to get home. I decided to take the high-speed hydrofoil back since the slower boat took four hours and wouldn't get here until 8:30 pm. Then I had dinner at a restaurant across the street from the ferry landing that my guide book recommended. I ordered the cold cherry soup and the "spicy carp." The soup was fine, but unexciting; I've been spoiled by the better one served at Bagolyvár. The spice in the spicy carp turned out to be garlic. I had forgotten how long it takes to eat fish when you have to remove the bones one by one. It was ok.

[Which reminds me, I checked my credit card receipt and the restaurant I ate in last night has changed its name. It is no longer "Vörös és Feher," and is called "Klassze" instead. I don't think they changed the menu or service, however, as both were excellent. Located at Andrassy ut. 41, just a block or so south of Oktogon station.

After lunch I walked up the path to the cathedral. There were stunning views of the whole city and the Danube, with Slovakia on the other side. The cathedral was built in the 19th century and is the largest in Hungary.

(Esztergom Cathedral)

I toured the "treasury" -- mostly reliquaries -- and then headed over to the castle. This traced the history of human settlement on the overlook since the arrival of the Celts to the present.

After that, I headed down into the town again, where I made sure to visit the former synagogue in Esztergom. Turned into a technical school by the communists after the war, there is a plaque in front indicating that the Jews of Esztergom were deported on June 5 and 6, 1944. The plaque was put up in 1995, along with a small memorial statue in front.

(The former Esztergom synagogue)

After that I sat for a while in the town square. The place was very quiet. As I walked towards the boat landing, I saw that most young people were on the island area separated from the town by the small canal. They're having a three-day music concert in the town stadium (people are camped out in tents). The ferry landing was just a block away, so I went and sat under the trees along the Danube until it was time to get on board.

The journey back was uneventful. The hydrofoil was much more cramped than the ship I took last year back from Szentendre. A young couple sat next to me. At first I couldn't figure out the odd aftershave the guy had on until I finally realized I was smelling beer. They had two 12 ouncers in the short ride back to Budapest.

Tonight I'll have one last dinner at Bagolyvár. Tomorrow I check out, but don't actually leave for Poland until 6:30. Hopefully, I'll be able to make one last post before my train leaves.

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