Project Description

Visiting Hungary is not only to see its capital city, Budapest, but also the great sites along the Danube Bend and its picturesque scenery, as well as other famous places of the Hungarian history such as Gödöllö, the former summer residence of the Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) and Francis Joseph. Therefore, you will find below a summary of three days of travel in the Hungarian countryside with different organized tours.

DANUBE BEND

We leave Budapest early in the morning towards Esztergom, a small town located about fifty kilometers from the capital city, on the banks of the Danube and surrounded by mountains. True north gate of Hungary, the town is also connected with Slovakia, specifically with the city of Štúrovo by Mária Valéria Bridge and the Danube forms a natural frontier between the two countries.

When we arrived, we visit directly the masterpiece of the area: St. Adalbert Cathedral-Basilica of Esztergom, the largest of the country and the headquarters of Hungarian Catholic Church. We begin without delay the visit of the building, burial place of famous Hungarian Cardinals such as Primate Archbishop Joseph Mindszenthy.

The religious collection is truly impressive, as it is said that it is the richest in the country! The interior as a whole, as well as the Treasury of the basilica and the tomb of Cardinal Mindszenthy in the crypt are equally remarkable.

After a complete tour of the inside of the cathedral, we leave the building and head to the backyard. There, a small place offers an impressive view of the Danube, natural border between Hungary and Slovakia, which can be reached by taking the Mária Valéria bridge which we can see on the picture below.

Back on the road towards Visegrád, always with the Danube at our side. When we arrived, we head to the top of a hill overlooking the town and then enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the famous bend of the river and its surroundings.

We also see through the trees the medieval fortress from the 13th century on top of a nearby hill before we go in a typical restaurant nearby where we have an excellent and traditional meal.

After lunch, we hit the road one last time towards Szentendre, a small baroque town with some Mediterranean atmosphere, known for its beautiful location, narrow streets, romantic squares, Orthodox churches, craft shops and cafes.

Szentendre is also known as the city of artists and arts through its many museums and galleries. During a visit of the city center, we discover many attractions such as City Hall, the Greek Church and the Catholic Church, which is the oldest monument of the city. We then stroll a few hours there before returning to Budapest by boat, always along the famous Danube.

ROYAL CASTLE OF GÖDÖLLÖ

Today I go back a few centuries in the past to admire the second largest Baroque Palace in the world and the largest in Hungary, Gödöllö Castle. The city of Gödöllö is situated 30km from Budapest (less than half an hour). Its most important curiosity and my visit of the day was one of the favorite castle of Empress Elizabeth, also known by her nickname “Sissi”. We will spend a few hours there and will also take the opportunity to visit the beautiful adjacent park.

The 17’000 square meter castle was built by Antal Grassalkovich in the 18th century. In 1867, it was offered to Francis Joseph and Elizabeth by the Hungarian State as a coronation gift. During the Second World War, the building suffered extensive damage and most of his furniture was carried off by German and Soviet soldiers. The renovation of the castle began soon after the change of political system and opened its gates to the public in 1996.

The policy of the building is very clear: no photos or video once you’re inside and security staff is constantly keeping an eye on you about this. Therefore I have to store my bag and my camera away. But all this does not prevent me to enjoy the various interesting collections of the castle, the largest being devoted to its history and to the people who have lived there. In the numerous rooms furnished in the very typical style of the 18-19th century can be seen large collections of porcelain and furniture used by the royal couple, as well as beautiful paintings!

During the visit, we obviously discover the history of the place and the daily life of Francis Joseph and Elisabeth in Gödöllö, a true step back during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire! After visiting the castle, I have the right to get my bag back for a stroll in the 28 hectare English Garden, and then I offer myself a little break with a delicious Viennese coffee and some fine Hungarian pastries. A quick tour through the gift shop (which offers a wide selection of items related with Sissi) and we go slowly back to Budapest.

KECSKEMÉT AND THE PUSZTA

We begin this new day of sightseeing with a tour in Kecskemét. This town can be proud of its rich past: in fact, the painter Adolf Fényes and composer Zoltán Kodály were born here. Kecskemét is mainly a destination for culture lovers who will definitely find their happiness in the museums of the city, while architecture lovers will be delighted by the buildings of the city center. This is also where we go and visit the most important sights during a guided tour. These include the Palace “Cifra”, ornate in art nouveau style, the colorful Town Hall building, the Old Church, the old Synagogue, the Zoltán Kodály Institute, the neo-baroque József Katona theater and the oldest monument in the city, the Franciscan church of the 14th century.

By mid-morning, we leave Kecskemét towards the “Puszta”, the largest contiguous dry steppe land in Europe that extends from the line of the Danube to the east border of the country. The type of landscape is thus determined by the location here-and-there of sodic lands, grasslands, ponds and swamps. Thanks to the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, unique and rich fauna and flora have survived in this region. We go to an equestrian park to attend a horse show with the famous “Csikós”, Hungarian horsemen.

After an escort of our bus by one of those riders, we are welcome according to the local tradition with a glass of “pálinka”, Hungarian liqueur and a “pogácsa”, delicious salty pastry. This is followed by a visit of the area in a carriage during which we have a closer look to the infinite Puszta and its unusual wildlife such as gray cattle, racka sheep, Mangalica pig, nóniusz horse, etc.

After this tour are held the “Games of the Puszta” which we are invited to watch. Riders are divided into groups of 5 to 10 people in a rotation system. They go through different activities and perform different challenges on which they are noted (eg using a whip, driving a carriage, riding a donkey, throwing of a horseshoe, etc.). The cavalcades are impressive and this is our opportunity to see and understand their daily life and traditions. After the games, we even have the opportunity to test our address to the whip, and it is easier to see than to do!

By mid afternoon, we finally treated to a traditional meal accompanied by Gypsy music and “csárda”, a Hungarian couple dance. For once in this kind of organized tour, there is an important quantity and choice of food and the atmosphere is really friendly! We finally set off again to Budapest at the end of th afternoon.