Štúrovo and Esztergom An Hour Out of Budapest
Maybe it was wanting to see some of the countryside or maybe it was adding another pin to our map but on Saturday morning we set off after several days in Budapest to visit Štúrovo, Slovakia.
Štúrovo is a town in Slovakia, situated on the River Danube. The town sits opposite the Hungarian city of Esztergom. The Mária Valéria bridge across the Danube was reconstructed and opened in 2001 joining the two towns once 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 train station with a round trip ticket costing 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 line. We walked from the station thru Esztergom to the Mária Valéria bridge but if you’re not up for a hike there is a tourist “train” that goes out to the Slovic side of the bridge.
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 so it must be better value on the Slovakian side. When we got into Štúrovo there was a huge open air market with lots of crafts and food. There were also a number of locations for music and we learned that the Slovakians have a tradition 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.
We spent some time shopping in the market and grabbing something in a cafe with the preferred money being the Euro. 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 from this 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 moved to Buda in 1354 and in 1873 the two cities of Buda and Pest were combined and Budapest became the capital.