Monday, September 24, 2012

Hungary - Loving Esztergom

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42 miles – Sunday, September 11

I crawled from the tent, automatically inspecting the sky. I smiled. Another sunshine filled, crisp morning. Too tired the evening before, Andy and I strolled at 6 a.m. through the vast dewy grounds, not only to stretch our legs, but also investigate the campground/swimming park. As we’ve discovered, swimming is a favorite sport. This area housed 4 huge in-ground pools.

Often the earliest risers, we left before other bicycle tourers had unzipped their tents. We dream of pedaling alongside like-minded adventurers; cycling can be lonely, but I doubt whether anyone would like our schedule. Our days are rather like a job; getting a jump on the day allows ample daylight to shop, navigate, sightsee and move a significant distance before nightfall. I presume this is not relaxing for those on a week’s holiday. Also, there is the language barrier. But, we remain optimistic. There must be others who are on an extended tour.

Danube River view from vineyards.
We climbed a small hill through vineyards to a sweetened view of the Danube. A smoggy whiteness hovered along the river’s bottom land. The blue waters flowed toward a hillier East. Until now we had glimpsed the slower waters, disappointed we had yet to encounter cliffs and hillside castles commonly in photos of the Danube. But, not long thereafter we entered Esztergom, a picturesque community perched like a dream.

View from Esztergom

I immediately liked Esztergom; the name itself is exotic, easily identified as of Eastern European origin. A fortress loomed above the city with green domed church. The need to keep moving often monopolizes our thoughts, so this time we resolved to wander and observe.

We walked the outer walls, stopping for red roof views that patchwork Esztergom’s dwellings. Across the now very wide Danube, in Slovakia, another puzzle of quilted houses spread for an equally stunning vista. A barge moves slowly upriver while a white tour boat moves faster. We lingered, mesmerized by the panorama. The calm and quiet Danube, at this height, stretched eastward toward Budapest, somewhere on that distant horizon.

St. Stephen's Basilica. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Eventually we stepped inside St. Stephen’s church, largest edifice and tallest building in Hungary. Grey and red marble adorn the walls, ceilings, even the crypt. It’s more airy compared with older, gothic style edifices. I appreciate the English translation at the entrance; we are often left on our own to imagine a site’s significance. Several churches were built and burned, until the recent 1850s completion of the current structure. As with all churches, there is that peace among muffled footsteps. A whisper. I gaze upward into a vast void. Faithfull to no particular religion, I’ve come to appreciate the solitude, the grandeur of any theological space.

We cruise a busier highway, but now we’re pedaling along the Danube, water keeping us company. A large castle suddenly glowed, the afternoon sunlight casting an ethereal presence 1000 feet above Visegrad. Luckily, it’s the town where we rest our heads tonight.


  1. The church is actually called St. Adalbert's Basilica. St Stephen's Basilica is in Budapest.

    (Btw, I took that photo for Wikipedia about 5 or 6 years ago :) )

    1. Thank you very much for the correction. At the time we visited Eszterdom in 1994 we knew it as St. Stephens. Could the name have changed?

    2. Nope, it was always called St. Adalbert's Basilica.
      St. Adalbert is the patron saint of the archdiocese.

  2. I envy anyone organised enough to get an early start. Too often I set off about 11am! (Which could explain my pathetic mileage). :-)

  3. This day and description of touring is what I often dream about. Well written and felt like I was there experiencing it with you.


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