For nearly fifty years the two towns of Esztergom and Sturuvo have been separated on either side of the Danube, one Hungarian the other Slovakian. The split happened at the end of World War 2, when retreating German troops blew up the bridge connecting the two communities. It was rebuilt in 2001 with the help of EU funding, as part of the two countries preparations for joining the club. The bridge is now busy again with people and cars, as the two communities can now easily mingle and work together.
The bridge is a sight in itself, sitting grandly over the Danube, but its best value to tourists is that it allows you to cross easily to Slovakia. For those wanting to get the perfect view of Esztergom and its Basilica, the best views are from the Slovakian side of the bridge. For those shallow people, like me, who just want to tick another country off their list, then you can add Slovakia with a ten minute walk from Estzergom. Remember that you can cross into Slovakia without a passport, but if you want to exit the bridge and enter Sturovo, you will need one.
I don't know if this is a year long problem, but when I crossed the bridge I found myself being assailed by sticky threads of spider webs dangling from the iron girders above. Thankfully I didn't find any spiders attached to the webs.
Watertown (or Vizivaros) is the beautifully quaint ramshackle old part of the town that sits underneath the Basilica along the Danube waterfront. Its two most prominent buildings are the twin spired Parish Church and the Primate's Palace next to it, but the collection of little houses that fill the narrow streets below the Basilica are also very pleasant.
When I was in the town, there was major renovation work being conducted on the streets of Watertown, so everything was dug up. With all the pavement and tarmac removed, it looked like how I imagined it would have done when this part of the town was originally constructed. If it wasn't for the workers, their vehicles, and the drainage tubes lying about, the scene would have been perfect.
One of the more fun and interesting things to do in Esztergom is walk across the border. You can walk across the Kossuth Bridge into Sturovo, Slovakia and back. You don’t need a passport or anything like that anymore, but you can see where they were checked a couple decades ago. Sturovo, or Parkany in Hungarian, doesn’t really have a lot of attractions, but it’s a nice, small town to walk around. Even if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in Sturovo, you should still walk across the bridge so you can say that you crossed the border by foot.
The Vizivaros, or Watertown, is a small neighborhood beneath the Esztergom Basilica. This area dates from 1239. The Turks once controlled this place and added many new buildings, including mosques. Much destruction occurred here in the early 18th century and many Germans came here to help rebuild the neighborhood. More and more Hungarians began to move here in the 1800s.
The Vizivaros contains small one-storey houses and lanes, a Jesuit church, a plague statue, and the Christian Museum. You can see nice views of the Basilica from the small streets below and plenty of old, picturesque, and colorful houses. It’s a nice place to wander around and take pictures.
The Esztergom Basilica is the biggest church in Hungary and was finished in 1869. The current basilica is one of many churches that were built on this spot. Saint Stephen received his crown in the original basilica about a thousand years ago. It endured a lot of war and destruction during the Middle Ages and was once even completely demolished. After many renovations and improvements were made in the 1400s, the Ottomans destroyed the building. The Hungarians began building the current church in 1822.
Esztergom Basilica is famous for its Bakocz Chapel, which is built out of red marble. The church also contains a small treasury museum, where you can see the actual skull of Saint Stephen himself. Near the front of the church you can see the tomb of Cardinal Mindszenty, who stood up to the Nazis and later the Soviets and was eventually killed for his beliefs. There is a painting in the front of the church called Assumption of the Virgin. Although it’s just a copy, it’s famous for being the world’s biggest single-canvas painting. Visitors can also climb up the dome and see great views of Esztergom, the Danube River, and Slovakia.
Overall, it's a really beautiful church and I enjoyed my visit.
This pretty, bright yellow little church is an island of Orthodoxy in a sea of the Hungarian Catholic heartland. You can find its gated front on the Kossuth Lajos utca on the way out of town towards the railway station. The church was built by Serbian settlers around 1770.
Esztergom's Basilica is the biggest church in Hungary, and one of the biggest churches in the world. In fact, at over 100m, it's the tallest building in Hungary too. It's wider than it is tall, however, and it's just plain enormous. Sitting as it does on a rocky outcrop above the Danube, with the tiny houses of Esztergom scattered at its feet, the Basilica looks even bigger than it is. It would be a major attraction in any city in the world, but here it is possibly more important than the town itself.
Its vast size can be appreciated from all over the town, but you only really understand the perspective when you get close up. The doors and arches which appear like they may be human sized from a distance, turn out to be many storeys tall when you get near them. The huge cupola on top also allows in a great deal of light, which shows off the lavish detail of the interior in a fantastic heavenly light.
The interior of the Basilica is divided up into various parts. The central nave underneath the dome is free to enter. To enter the Egyptian style vault where the Archbishops rest costs about two euros to enter, the belltower another euro, and to walk up to the cupola itself is another two euros. There's also the museum by the main entrance which shows off the treasure the church has collected over the years.
On our Viking Cruise, we did not have a stop here, but it was such an amazing sight---the sun was trying to come out with a little blue sky and we sailed past....What a view!
check out Micahel Palin's dvd from this area to see the inside views of this Hungarian Religious Mecca---!
Danube is among my favourite rivers because of its beauty and glorious past. The best way of enjoying its views is hiking a hill. Esztergom castle is perfect with its location and sights of two countries.
Esztergom is situated at the part of the Danube they call the Danube bend where the river turns suddenly to the south in the direction of Budapest. It is much cleaner here than it is in Budapest and the countryside is scenic.
There are also cycle paths here which I myself haven't seen but it seems like a great place to go on a bike trip. You can even go from one town on the Danube bend to another. There is info in English, Hungarian and German on a board at the Train station about the bike routes which sound like they are well taken care of.
It takes an hour and a half by train or bus from Budapest although I'm sure it would take a lot less by car. It makes a perfect day trip but it is not worth staying longer as there isn't that much to do.
If you come by train you arrive a little way out from the centre, but you can easily walk (there is a map by the bus stop outside) or you can catch a bus. It is an easy and quick walk: about 15-20 minutes. The walk takes you through quiet residential streets for the most part.
when you see the church in the photo you know you are near. The yellow dome shaped church is called Szt. Anna (St. Anna's).
Apart from being on the banks of the famous Danube (Duna in Hungarian) it is also on the banks of the Kis-Duna (little Danube too). It certainly isn't as impressive as the Duna itself but It makes for a really pleasant walk under the leafy trees, especially in autumn, as you can see from the photo.
On the Kis-Duna you will see a few boats and even some houseboats, although it is very shallow looking.
One of the best things about Esztergom is that fact that it is situated at the edge of the Danube on the right bank of the river. Directly across from it, on the left bank, you change countries and find yourself in Slovakia.
You can take a ferry across the river in the summer months, but even better, you can simply take a short walk across the Mária Valéria bridge, past the now disused border control.
At the other side you end up in Sturovo which is a small and not very interesting Slovakian town. But for me it was good enough just to be in a different country in the space of 10 minutes. We decided to eat lunch there as there wasn't much to look at. The best view in the town is looking back across the water at Esztergom and the imposing buildings perched on a small hilltop.
The Maria Valeria bridge was originally built in 1895 but was destroyed by the retreating Germans in the WWII and rebuilt only very recently in 2001 with the help of the European Union.
Another great but not very time consuming thing to do is walk around the old streets. They are really nice, however it is a small town. The part directly below the basilica is really nice, by the old church.
I believe this part of the town is called the Watertown, possibly because it is by the Danube and the mini Danube rivers.
This is the largest church in Hungary and the 3rd largest in Europe. It is also the seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary dedicated to Saint Mary the Assumption and Saint Adalbert. The basilica is also known for Bakócz Chapel (named after Tamás Bakócz).
For people interested in acrostics it has a reverberation time of more than 9 seconds.
The architectural style is neoclassical and was completed in 1869 although it existed for a lot longer than that, in fact it was built on the site of other churches.
There is a museum inside although I did not enter.
The view of the Danube and the town of Esztergom below is stunning and it is well worth climbing up to the Basilica just to see it.