I was fascinated to discover a few years back that some of my ancestors were from Hungary. These people were born many centuries ago, but I was instantly fascinated with this country in Eastern Europe that constantly walks the line between trying to become modern and firmly clinging to the many colorful traditions of the past.
Miskolc began as a settlement in the ancient era and is mentioned in the 14th century as a market town. Hungary has risen from the ashes many times and Miskolc is no exception. Each time it fell, it rose again gracefully, becoming a haven for its citizens. Today this hidden gem of Hungary is a charming destination that offers a few great attractions. There are various regions in this huge city, each with a distinct flavor. Diosgyor Castle, though in a ruined state, is an amazing symbol of the greatness of Hungary. Many actually prefer deserted, mysterious ruins to stately facades filled with picture-snapping tourists! Nature lovers who come to Hungary for natural beauty will soak up the amazing Szinva Waterfalls in the region of Lillafured. Hungary is blessed with wonderful scenery that you sometimes have to dig deep to find.
Esztergom in its ancient form exists in part underneath the modern town; the original town was created in the early medieval era. Even before this, the era that would become Esztergom was administered by Romans and was called Solva. Popular during the time of the Arpads (a famous Hungarian dynasty), Esztergom was considered to be of high importance during the 1200s when its fortunes were considerably rising. Tatar invaders mutilated the old town in medieval times but this city heroically rose from the ashes, albeit in another form. It regained its favorable reputation in the Renaissance era but suffered another defeat in 1526 in the form of a foreign attack.
Esztergom, like Hungary in general, rose and fell throughout the centuries. The city was torn between Hungarians, Russians, and Germans in the 1940s, and finally became the beautiful city it is today. Religious places to visit include Esztergom Cathedral and the Renaissance-era Bakocz Chapel, while cultural activities include Peter Pazmany Street (a narrow old thoroughfare that will give you a taste of old-time Esztergom), and an impressive castle. The Maria Valeria Bridge is a very nice example of fine engineering. Most of the inhabitants of Esztergom are (according to a census taken a few years ago) of Magyar origin. The Magyars are an ancient Hungarian people from whom I (and likely most poeple of European extraction) partially descend.
Budapest is the most famous city in Hungary and has many great cultural, historical, and religious attractions. The city we know today as Budapest is located near what was originally a Roman town called Aquincum. Budapest was the center of the Arpad Dynasty (begun by famed Hungarian leader Arpad) during the Middle Ages and was a popular destination in the Renaissance era. The city was conquered by Turkish soldiers and later rejoined its place in European culture. In World War II it met its ultimate match, destruction in the form of bombs. Almost 40,000 citizens lost their lives and Hungary reeled from the blow.
If you’re coming to Hungary to learn, you should visit Budapest’s Hungarian National Museum (great choice), the Aquincum Museum (showcasing items from the time the area of Budapest was a Roman settlement) and the Museum of Fine Arts. If architecture and/or religious history is your thing, check out St. Elisabeth’s Church, the Great Synagogue, or St. Stephen’s Basilica, or if you love the romanticism of the past, stop by Vajdahunyad Castle. Here’s a little-known fact: There were once three towns here; two of them were called “Buda” and “Pest.” In 1873 they merged to become the capital city of Hungary that we all know.
Debrecen existed in the early 1300s. Defended by both the Ottomans and the leaders of Europe at different times throughout its history, Debrecen was touched deeply by the Reformation and many citizens became followers of John Calvin. Following a long and colorful existence, the town met its fate – as did many European cities – throughout the treacherous years of World War II. This gem hidden away in the vastness of Hungary has a few beautiful colonial-Baroque architectural sites such as St. Anna’s Church, a lovely ochre-yellow masterpiece.
These are just four beautiful cities you should visit on your travels through Hungary. If you can’t actually make the trip now, check out travel websites to marvel at the beauty of the architecture and the natural resources that these regions of Hungary have to offer. Arm-chair travel isn’t the same as seeing the country in person but it’s a lot better than not having the opportunity to see these beautiful sights at all!