Esztergom – where two countries meet.
Neither a big name nor famous: it is not a tourism "hot spot". But yes, it has things − many things − interesting to offer and, especially, curiosities and facts that few people in other countries know about. We are talking about the Hungarian city of Esztergom. Small, located in the north of Hungary and about 50 kilometres from Budapest.
Travelling through Europe there are many places certainly interesting enough to become unforgettable memories. But who would realise that from a few metres high, on the hill above Esztergom, you can see more than a simple and typical view of the Danube below? Up there, you can open your eyes and enjoy. Because what you see will, without doubt, surprise you and will encourage you to travel around Europe even more.
From the hills that surround the city of Esztergom you can enjoy a view of two different European countries. Yes, at once! Hungary and Slovakia are spread before you, divided by the Danube and connected by the Mária Valéria Bridge. Crossing the river by this bridge (on foot or by car) leads you directly to Slovakia, to the city of Štúrovo, where people speak and understand Slovak as well as Hungarian. If you fancy, you can go from one country to another by walking across and get to know the different cultures of two European countries. But, back to Esztergom; it offers, of course, much to see.
If you like history you will be in your element here. Esztergom’s history is rich, though this happens not only here but throughout the whole of Hungary. Esztergom was the birthplace and the coronation site of the first king of Hungary, King Stephen. It was he who founded the archbishopric and the first church (which was the first cathedral in Hungary), built on the site of the current Basilica − a very famous one, of Esztergom. There is a large statue too, depicting Stephen’s coronation, near the Basilica. If you would like to see inside this stunning church, you can find it easily on Castle Hill.
The Basilica is considered as a symbol of the city and also is the largest church in Hungary. For your information and interest it was built in the nineteenth century, over the ruins of the older church. Inside, you will be awed by its massive size and huge arches, and an oil painting that watches out from above the altar, the work of artist Michelangelo Grigoletti. The Chapel of San Esteban holds hidden relics of saints. But, you must not forget to visit the dome that offers a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings (via 400 steps). And, directly below the Basilica are the old city walls, leading from the ruins of the castle of Esztergom.
The library, overseen by the archbishopric, has around 250,000 books and ancient manuscripts and is considered one of the richest libraries of Hungary.
Walking through the city centre, your attention will be drawn to the many buildings of Baroque, Rococo and Classical styles. The peaceful atmosphere that governs the city is completed by the stores of the small main square, with its refreshing fountains.
Translation: Catherine Parker