Heights & Ice Cream: Esztergom, Hungary

View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Danube.

This spring a couple of friends and I traveled to the Hungarian city of Esztergom. Known for its history and beautiful architecture, we had a fun afternoon exploring the old buildings and enjoying delicious food.

From left to right: Casey, Heather, me (and ice cream ha), and Kristin. Casey and Kristin moved back to the states a little after this trip so I’m thankful to have the opportunity to spend the day with them in this beautiful place.

Esztergom is known for its Basilica, which is both the largest church and tallest building in Hungary; this last piece of information was unbeknownst to me when I enthusiastically agreed to a mid-week adventure.

Here’s the thing: my fear of heights has caused me to bail many a staircase in Europe.

Me, realizing that we are in fact climbing this thing.

While there were a couple of tricky, anxiety-inducing moments, I not only climbed the Basilica, but even completed the outdoor walkway around the dome–a huge accomplishment for me! It helps to have supportive friends encouraging you to work through your fears.

That being said, I literally never want to be that high, walking around a huge dome on a narrow, outdoor path, absolutely ever again.

Backpack club!
📷: Casey

Esztergom is a lovely city with beautiful views of the Danube. We only visited for a couple of hours–plenty of time to walk through the Basilica, castle ruins, and grab lunch– but you could definitely spend the whole day exploring this city, one of the oldest in Hungary.

Where are we?

Settlements in the area have been dated back to the end of the Ice Age (!!!), about 20,000 years ago. In 901, the Magyars conquered the Pannonian Basin and the (mostly Slavic) people who lived there. The ruling prince of the Hungarians then named Esztergom his chosen home. Esztergom Castle was built and became the only royal palace in Hungary until the Mongol siege of the city in 1241. During this time, Esztergom was the center for the Hungarian state and religion. Over time the ruling of this area changed hands, although the city remained an important place for commerce and Catholicism.

The Sites:

Basilica of Esztergom:

The Basilica is the largest church in Hungary; its dome reaches the height of 118 meters, making it the tallest building in the country.
Construction on the Basilica started in 1822 and was completed in 1869.
Hungary’s first cathedral was founded at this spot by King Stephen I, who was also crowned here around the year 1000.
View from the Danube. See that little walkway around the tallest dome? I can’t believe I completed that entire route! Believe me, the handrail is not in the most put-your-mind-at-ease-that-you-won’t-fall-off condition.
Me, mentally preparing to climb these open stairs before the dome. YIKES. We climbed a total of 360 steps to reach the top.
📷: Casey

Castle Hill:

Built on the remains of a Roman Castrum, Esztergom Castle was commissioned by Geza I of Hungary and finished in the 1070s.
View from Esztergom Castle.
Whole portions of the Castle were destroyed during the Turkish Wars.

Bakócz Chapel:

The Bakócz Chapel (built in 1507) was only partially destroyed by the Turks. It is one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in Hungary.

Basilica Entrance:

Entrance to the Basilica

Mária Valéria Bridge & Víziváros:

Víziváros (Watertown) was built on the banks of the Kis and Nagy Duna (Small and Great Danube) and includes a number of historical sites including the Christian Museum and Balassa Bálint Museum.
The Mária Valéria Bridge connects the Hungarian city of Esztergom and the Slovakian city of Štúrovo across the River Danube. Named for Archduchess Mária Valéria of Austria, the bridge originally opened in 1895 but was destroyed both in 1919 and 1944.
The bridge was not rebuilt until 2001 due to issues between the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian governments. The European Union covered half of the costs through a 10 million Euro grant as a way to assist countries preparing to join the EU.
📷 : Heather
On the bridge!
📷 : Heather and Kristin
View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Mária Valéria bridge.

Restaurants:

Esztergomi Prímási Pincerendszer:

Prímás Pince is a gorgeous restaurant and wine cellar near the Basilica. We were able to order lunch without a reservation and the menu had options for vegetarians and meat-eaters. We shared the strawberry dessert and it was delicious.

Easy Living:

I completely forgot to take pictures of our ice cream, but Easy Living is a great little shop right on the Danube and next to a beautiful park. Our ice cream server took pity on our sorry Hungarian pronunciations.
📷 : Heather

This was a lovely trip to see more of Hungary and I’m so glad we had a chance to visit before Kristin and Casey moved back the US.

View from Esztergom Castle
Backpack crew ❤
📷 : Heather

Read more about Casey’s amazing travel adventures here. Kristin’s beautiful photography portfolio can be seen on her site.
Stay tuned for the Heather and Ashlyn podcast coming soon 😉

Currently:


Reading: Shut Up You’re Pretty (Tea Mutonji)
Watching: Unbelievable (Netflix)
Listening: Buried Truths Season 2 (WABE Atlanta)

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