Bulgarian Cousins to Transylvanian Szeklers

8 June 2019

We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races…What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?…Is it a wonder that we were a conquering race; that we were proud; that when the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk poured his thousands on our frontiers, we drove them back? Is it strange that when Arpad and his legions swept through the Hungarian fatherland he found us here when he reached the frontier…And when the Hungarian flood swept eastward, the Szekelys were claimed as kindred by the victorious Magyars, and to us for centuries was trusted the guarding of the frontier of Turkey-land….” – Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula


Castles and Cities of Danube Bend

7 June 2019

I really have no desire to leave lovely Budapest. A cafe and beer along the Danube beckons. But, for someone who loves fortresses and medieval castles, a trip to Visegrád is a must. Just 25 miles north of Budapest, at the very center of the Danube Bend, lies King Matthias’ Royal Palace. An ambassador of the Pope was visiting the King and wrote “From Visegrad, from an earthly paradise.” Well, I’m not so sure. (more…)

Exploring Pest in 2019

5 June 2019

In the next 2 miles, I will pass six World Heritage Sites as we motor across the Chain Bridge to the banks of Pest and down Andrássy út which links Buda with the Városliget or City Park. Andrássy is a broad and elegant boulevard which dates to 1872 and lined with spectacular Neo-Renaissance architecture and ornate facades. Not only is the Chain Bridge a UNESCO site, but so are the banks of the Danube, and Andrássy út is the only street I am aware of that is recognized as a World Heritage Site. (more…)

Budapest – July 1995

I return to Budapest.

The last I visited Budapest was in the summer of 1995. It was a time of change as the Soviet Army had left the country just four years earlier. I arrived by ferry via the Danube from Vienna. My lodgings were in a friend’s “little communist efficiency apartment” surrounded by brutally ugly Soviet architecture and streets filled with Russian Ladas. But even then, I noted the many fast food places from Burger King to Dunkin’ Donuts to Pizza Hut. I diaried my experiences and, out of curiosity, I am interested to learn how Budapest, and this traveler, have changed. (more…)

Stately Ruins and Castles, Lush Gardens and Shallow Lakes

Magyarország. –  4 June 2019

A day trip in Magyarország (translate as Hungary) takes me east of Budapest to the small town of Zsámbék. Zsámbék has been inhabited since Paleolithic times when stone tools were first used. It has been home to Celtic, Roman and Avar peoples and is an archeologist’s dream. Churches have been built and destroyed in this city since 1180. King Matthias’ son had a fortress here in 1467. Turks and an 1764 earthquake laid the city and buildings to ruins. However, German settlers arrived after the Turks and rebuilt Zsámbék and its churches using the original stones of the ruined settlement. It is less the rebuilt settlement than the strikingly beautiful church ruins that capture my attention. (more…)

From National Parks to Palaces

Hortobágy National Park and Sissi’s Place  –  3 June 2019

There probably couldn’t be a better introduction to Hungary than visiting a national park with a nature-loving biologist. My destination is the Puszta region of northeastern Hungary and its lovely Hortobágy National Park.

Puszta is known for the presence of several endemic breeds of animals. Being a wide-open, relatively flat region known as the Great Plain, I hope to see something moving. The plain, famous for its Asiatic vegetation, is so unique in flora and fauna that it is recognized as a World Heritage Site. Hortobágy National Park is central to this region. (more…)