today I went to two old places outside of Budapest, connected with Hungary’s history. When the Hungarians came out of the east 1200 years ago (they had originally lived in Asia, between the Caspian and Aral seas), they settled first around a place called Esztergom. It’s not much of a town these days, but what is is with people wanting to build giant churches right above the Danube (like at Melk last week)?
I climbed right to the top of the dome on the outside – plenty of exercise, especially as it was already beginning to get hot…this was the view from up there over the Danube, which here is an international border, so the buildings on the other side are in Slovakia:
Then I got on a bus and had my first non-transactional conversation for ten days, with an affable old Hungarian drunk who sat down next to me. Thing is, his English was as good as my Hungarian – zero – so we had to make do with lots of shaking hands and sign language and the odd collocation that we were able to piece together, like “Manchester” “United!”. This was on the way to Visegrad, an old fort overlooking the beginning of the Great Bend of the Danube, where after traveling eastwards for hundreds of miles across Germany and Austria and northern Hungary, it turns south and begins to head towards Budapest and the Balkans. You can see it on this map, right above Budapest:
There was a while about 400 or 500 years ago when there was a danger of tribes invading from the East, and when the Turks were beginning to threaten Europe, that this was pretty wild frontier territory, so it helped to have a castle high up on a hill commanding the Danube:
Only thing is, I had to climb up to it, and it was already beginning to seriously swelter – temperatures in the 30s – as you can see from these people cooling themselves off in the river:
Fortunately the path was green and shady, with lots of butterflies flitting around:
And the views from the top were well worth it. The first one is looking back up the river, as it comes out of the mountains, and the second, with a chunk of the old castle wall, is looking downstream – you can see the river beginning to bend to the right, i.e. to the south, behind the hill…
The train back to Budapest had no cooling system except for open windows, which were pretty much no use at all! Everybody was cooking in the heat. Even though I had a good night’s sleep, I nodded out on all three of my journeys today. I don’t know if it was just the heat, or the long-term exhaustion finally catching up with me…