Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I’ve admittedly been a lazy blogger of late; something about writing into the black hole of the internet loses its luster when you’ve got graded assignments to do all the time.  But a sufficient number of you have complained to convince me that people at least sort of read my ramblings, so I’ll attempt to get back into it (with a couple of backdated entries).

Anyway.  Sometime in early October, I visited Esztergom, a small city of about 30,000 right on the Slovak border, and home of the biggest church in Hungary.  It served as the capital of Hungary from the 900s to the 1200s, evidenced by the fort near the Basilica. 

Esztergom’s proximity to Slovakia should have dawned on me, but didn’t.  We sat at the Danube near the river in a nice, relaxing park area, but the thought to walk across the bridge and be in another country just did not compute.  If you ever need evidence that the Schengen Zone is working, that such a national border can be so unassuming, I guess that’s your first argument right there.

Statue down by the river

The Esztergom Basilica is not only the biggest in Hungary, but it also serves as the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church.  Given its prominence on a cliff overlooking the Danube (and OK, given its immense size), it’s readily visible from most everywhere in the city.  Nothing like an easy point of reference to avoid getting disoriented.

The center of town is well kept as well, and though it doesn’t have the obvious age of Eger, it equally doesn’t have the rampant tourism of Szentendre.  As such, I rather preferred Esztergom to both of those other day trip forays from Budapest.  Despite having such an obvious draw, there’s a feeling that people actually do live their daily lives in Esztergom.  All of this in spite of no obvious economic draw besides that one single basilica, looming over head.  

That said, the legacies of communism can be found everywhere, even in smaller cities like Esztergom.  While our train got us back to Budapest easily and cheaply, well, let's just say the train station has not received any post-Soviet stimulus funds.

The lapsing of the train station into slow, transportation obsolescence aside, I found Esztergom to be rather nice - and the lack of English speaking forced me into my first (and to date, only) successful all Hungarian interaction with a passerby.

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