Esztergom, Hungary Posted on February 9th, 2010 by

So if I say the words “Esztergom, Hungary,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head?




Nothing? Not surprising. But when a Google search of “best towns in Hungary to visit in the winter” sends back a big, fat “0 results found”, it begs the question – why not go to Esztergom? From what we had read online and in the guidebooks, it seemed like there were enough museums (and cake shops, of course) to keep us fairly sheltered from the cold weather. So off we went. The tickets were actually surprising cheap! With the discount from our metro passes, it was only 1470 Ft (or about $8) round-trip.

The train ride there was amazing! At one point in time, I couldn’t see anything but shrubbery and snow, and then out of nowhere, these gorgeous mountains were looming in the distance across a plain of snow. Now, granted my idea of mountains is somewhat skewed coming from Minnesota, where a largish hill is sometimes granted the status of a “mountain”, but the view was stunning nonetheless. I had initially intended to take a short nap, but I failed to close my eyes for more than two seconds the entire hour and 40 minute trip. Everywhere you looked there were bright colored houses cozily situated on the sides of hills. It made me want to move there immediately, plant a garden, and spend every second of my day taking pictures of the countryside.

Once in Esztergom, we had only two immediate goals: to find a bathroom and figure out how to take a bus from the train station to the Basilica. True to the generally chaotic natures of our adventures in Hungary, the “bathroom” was the sketchiest I’ve seen since coming here and in order to catch the bus we had to run like crazy American tourists straight from the bathroom while making sure we our trip wasn’t prematurely ended by a Volkswagen. When at last we made it to the Basilica, it became evident that even if we did nothing else the whole time we were here, this would more than justify us coming to Esztergom. It’s very difficult to describe the experience and it was even more difficult to try and capture it in pictures – both because it was breathtaking and because my camera battery died within the first half hour. The columns were really big around and so tall that when you looked up it looked entirely too beautiful to be real. In the picture that we took by the entrance to the Basilica, Melissa and I are no more than dots, while the green doors seem to stretch up forever. Inside was even more stunning with its ornate dome and impressive pipe organ. But what I loved most about the Basilica was actually outside. The views were absolutely amazing!! Behind the Basilica, you could look out over the Danube and see Slovakia on the other side (which I find to be extremely awesome). So we spent a good half hour or so tromping around in the snow, taking pictures and getting our boots soaked. We also ran into a really nice Hungarian lady when we went to buy postcards who was very enthusiastic about us speaking English [something that tends towards giving us the opposite reaction]. We told her that we were studying Hungarian a little bit and she told us she was studying English and when Rachel told her that she’s from Texas, she was extra excited because she had been there once to visit her sister. So adorable.

Having experienced the cultural side of Esztergom, we then decided to find this café that Lonely Planet claimed had great cakes for only 200 Ft. After first having gone to the wrong restaurant [not our fault.. it was a typo in the guidebook] and getting overpriced, mediocre soup, we finally stumbled upon the café. Or more accurately, we stumbled into a low ceilinged building that seemed to be themed “never ending Valentine’s Day inside a pink castle.” But the cakes were good and the tea was even better, and since we got some good shots of the three of us in a heart mirror, we decided the emotional scarring from sitting amongst so much pink for so long was definitely worth it. Extremely full and once again feeling all of our extremities, we went out to walk down by the Danube and in the neighborhoods filled with pastel-colored houses. It was quite possibly the worst day ever to not have a functioning camera. Nearly every single building had an amazing door that was completely different than all of the other ones before it. There were teal doors, rustic yellow doors, authentically antiqued doors, and doors painted in what we have deemed “Hungary green.” Each of them had a story, unlike the shiny maple doors on rows of tan houses back in American suburbia.

Just like with Szentendre we want to come back in the spring to take more pictures and walk in the park along the Danube without freezing our fingers off. Hopefully then we’ll get to climb up into the cupola, which was closed for construction when we were there, and get an even better view of the Danube and the mountains of Esztergom!


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