Castles in Hungary, part 3

In this part, I’d like to show you some photos of one of the oldest and probably the most famous castle in Hungary only second to Buda and built in the 1250s. When you are driving up to it, this is the view you get (the other kinds are made from the other side of the Danube, from where you can’t approach Visegrád).P1130174It has a famous Slavic name, though, also made famous by a part of Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) cycle: Visgrád in Hungarian, Višegrad in Czech as well as in Serbian to denote not only Smetanas mucis but also the castles in those territories. The name meanst Upper Castle, or High Castle. Out of those castles, it is probably the Hungarian Visegrád which stands upon the highest elevation above its neighbourhood. When you’ve made it upstairs, wonderful panoramic views can be enjoyed.P1120211P1120248There are two ways of approach. One is when you drive around the mountain to a parking place relatively high up on the mountain side and pay. Then the entrance is through this tower.P1120208One can park near the Danube, though. It is the much longer path, but on the way, one can enjoy the ruins of the 15th c. palace of the famous king Matthias, who brought the renaissance and power to Hungary before the kingdom was submerged in chaos and was overrun by the Turks. Here are a few photos of the remains of the last real golden age of Hungary.P1020739P1020780P1020783P1020763After the palace, the ascent takes us up through the Tower of Salamon, one of the earliest of the fortifications.P1020811After some more, steep climb, we get to the high castle, where we have to pay for the entrance. There is a small waxworks exhibition inside as well, but the point is the castle itself, which has been restored in good taste.P1120212P1020872P1130155P1020891

by P.S. and S.Z.J.

Castles in Hungary, part 2

To follow on with this topic, you can find some more examples of real castles in Hungary. Contrary to castles in the Netherlands, which were mostly built of bricks, at least in their present state, never really played parts in wars, so they are almost exclusively intact and could best be described as palaces of some sort, most Hungarian castles were built of stone boulders for and used in wars and suffered several instances of being blown up.P1120293My first example here is the castle of Esztergom, which was one of the earliest castles in Hungary. It became one of the most important centres of the king before the Tartar invasion. As the castle withstood that invasion, its importance served as an example to what the country should do to prevent another invasion to happen. Unfortunately, the castle suffered enormously during the Turkish occupation and changed hands many times. Afterwards, the stones were carried away by locals to rebuild their houses. The basilica we can see in the above photo from the Slovak side of the Danube was finished at the place of the fortifications and the earlier palaces in 1869. This view is also the only kind that can show that Esztergom used to have a castle with defence lines and bastions.

The next and perhaps most typical example is the castle of Buják, which is hidden among the low hills of the Cserhát mountains, North-East of Budapest, in county Nógrád.P1130565The ruins can’t be seen from the roads, you even have to guess which road actually leads to near it. The reason has a lot to do with the fact that the area still belongs to the army. But as I was appalled by the fact that for this reason I couldn’t see these ruins 45 years ago, I gave it a try this time, when the army is no longer so important. Still, you are shooed away from the parking place, so you have to park a car by the roadside nearby. Then you have to climb a path of a few hundred metres on a dirt path to reach the ruins. P1130568What is a-typical here is that it was not blown up by the Habsburgs – the Turks blew it up before other castles met this inevitable fate. Not much can be seen today, but the view is beautiful.P1130558

The last castle I’m showing you today stands above the only Hungarian village on the World Heritage list: Hollókő, again, among the Cserhát mountains, only a few kilometres from Buják – though no direct road exists between the two villages, so you have to drive a lot more.P1130585From the village, where you can park your car (but don’t be surprised if the parking metres don’t work), a few hundred metres again lead to the rebuilt fortification:P1130570Again, it’s not a big castle, but shows the middle-ages well. For a small payment, all the restored parts can be visited.P1130571P1130576You can even enter a room which has been somewhat furnished (very rare in Hungarian castles except in Buda).P1130575P1130578The view over the low hills from the walls is again beautiful.P1130579With this, I bid farewell for a while. Hope you enjoyed it all and can visit the places some time to come.

by P.S.

Castles in Hungary

I showed a large number of “castles” in the Netherlands and some in Germany in this blog and in my first photoblog as well, but so far nothing from the country where I come from: Hungary. The reasons are numerous, the important ones being that I only visited them a long time ago and my relatively recent visits to the country were not about castles. I did visit some of them, however, over the last few years, so let me start with the largest one in Hungary, the Buda Castle.P1120035Buda castle is the largest castle in Hungary, probably second largest in the world only to the Hradzin in Prague (please enjoy my earlier photos about it starting here), and it’s definitely the most important in the country’s history, as it was the official residence of the kings of Hungary when they were present in the country. This was not always the case under the hundreds of years under the Habsburgs, nevertheless, it has always been the most important administrative centre of the country since the Tartars left in 1243. A morning view from further off shows a great deal of why Budapest is so famous and popular among foreign tourists.P1080001Although it was the ground for many a battle for the hegemony over Hungary, Buda castle survived relatively well, showing a lot of its original fortifications, partly thanks to its importance, which made it imperative for its rulers to restore damaged parts over the centuries. Here is a rarely-photographed side.P1020116Inside the huge complex, there are still scores of buildings going back to at least the Renaissance, which are mostly housing restaurants and shops for tourists today.P1020195A lot of other, usually larger buildings are used by various organisations, the National Gallery, museums, churches, a theatre, and among them, the building of the Hungarian president can also be found. This one is one of the most beautiful of the early remains, just opposite the famous Matthias Church:P1020231As Buda castle is one of the most widely photographed areas in the whole country, I’ll just show a couple of more photos for those who’re unfamiliar there. This is about the famous Fisherman’s Bastion, which is, despite its fortification-like looks, is a late-19th c. addition, followed by views of the Eastern side of the city, Pest.P1020221P1100094P1100096P1100093Definitely beautiful but touristy, so let’s head to another beauty, which is a lot more typical of what kinds of castles are mostly found around the country. This one is above Lake Balaton (or Plattensee for German speakers) and is above a village called Szigliget. The castle was built on a smaller one of the famous and picturesque volcanic leftover mountains above most of the Northern side of Europe’s largest lake.P1040242It has also had a turbulent, but typical history of wars, battles and desolation in Hungary, but has been restored quite well, without overdoing it, not trying to show any of its “full” form, but it’s not in complete ruins either – both of which kind I’ll show some examples in my following post. So let’s scale the winding paths and stairs and see it.P1040299P1040264P1040274We’ll definitely notice the beautiful landscape around, which is a lot less touristy than that from Buda Castle, but definitely enjoyable for rovers. The bigger mountain opposite is St. George’s mount, a bit further from the lake than the touristy Badacsony.P1040283Hope you’ve enjoyed roving around with me and you’ll join me on the next tour as well.

by P.S.