A Day Trip To Štúrovo and Esztergom By Train From Budapest
Maybe it was wanting to see some of the countryside or maybe it was adding another pin to our map but on a beautiful Saturday morning we set off from Budapest to visit Štúrovo, Slovakia.
Štúrovo is a town situated on the River Danube. The town sits opposite the Hungarian city of Esztergom. The Mária Valéria bridge across the Danube connects the towns was reconstructed and only opened in 2001 joining the two towns again after 57 years. The bridge was destroyed by fleeing Nazi’s in 1944 during World War II by detonating a truck load of explosives in the middle of the bridge.
If you are staying in Budapest the best way to visit the area is to catch a train to Esztergom. Take a train from the Budapest with a round trip ticket costing only about $8 and the trip taking a little over one hour. The trains run at least every hour with busy periods more often. The Esztergom station is the end of the most direct line. We walked from the station thru Esztergom to the Mária Valéria bridge in only about a half hour but if you’re not up for a hike there is a tourist bus that goes out to the Slovic side of the bridge from the bus depot.
When we got to the bridge there was heavy foot traffic going both ways across the bridge. A lot of people from the Hungarian side were going over to do there shopping as there are better values on the Slovakian side. Also on Saturdays in Štúrovo there is a large open air market featuring lots of crafts and food.
There are a number of cafes and other locations for music especially on Saturdays. While visiting we learned that the Slovakians have a tradition of making and playing bagpipes. In Slovakia they are known as “gajdy” and what we heard was a completely different style and tempo than we have been used to hearing in Scotland.
We spent some time shopping in the market and grabbing something in a cafe. The preferred money being the Euro and often credit cards are accepted. The market offered a lot of great local crafts and it was difficult to walk away without buying more than we could pack to carry home.
Crossing back over the bridge into Esztergom you get a great view of the “Castle Hill” and the cathedral that dominates the city. It is obvious just looking across the river that Esztergom was once an important city in Hungary.
Historically Esztergom is one of the oldest towns in Hungary and was a thriving city in the Middle Ages. Archeological excavations have revealed that the Castle Hill has been inhabited since the end of the Ice Age 20,000 years ago. It was an important Celtic settlement in 350 BC and was later conquered by Rome.
At about 500 AD, Slavic peoples immigrated into the area. In the 9th century, the territory was mostly under Frankish control. In 960, the ruling prince of the Hungarians, Géza, chose Esztergom as his residence. His son, Vajk, who was later called Saint Stephen of Hungary, was born in his palace built on the Roman castrum on Castle Hill around 969-975.
The Hungarian prince’s residence was built on the northern side of the fortified hill. The center of the hill was occupied by a great basilica dedicated to St. Adalbert, who baptised St. Stephen. The Church of St. Adalbert was the seat of the archbishop of Esztergom, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary.
St. Stephen’s coronation took place in Esztergom on Christmas Day 1000 AD. From that time to the beginning of the 13th century it served as the royal residence of the Hungarian kings until the Mongol siege in 1241.
The capital of Hungary was finally moved to Buda in 1354 and in 1873 the two cities of Buda and Pest were combined and Budapest became the nations capital.
Major Sites In The Area
Esztergom Basilica – The largest church in Hungary sits on Castle Hill, and its 72m-high central dome can be seen for many miles away.
Öziçeli Hacci Ibrahim Mosque – This 400-year-old mosque was built in the 17th century, during the Ottoman occupation of Esztergom.
Castle Museum – The Castle Museum is housed in the former Royal Palace, built mostly by French architects in the 12th century during Esztergom’s golden age.Danube Museum – Several miles west on the river is the interesting and high-tech museum with great exhibits on the history of Hungary’s greatest river.