Hungary was once part of the dual-empire of Austria-Hungary, which fell apart after World War I. After decades of Communism, Hungary was among those newly free nations that very quickly integrated with the West, joining NATO and the European Union and growing economically in leaps and bounds. The country’s ties to the US were greatly enhanced from operations in the Balkans, from which Hungary became a ready ally. They provided access to the Taszar Air Base, which became an important staging area for US and NATO aircraft. My conversations with soldiers and airmen over the years were universal in their praise for the great treatment they received from their Hungarian hosts during that period.
I went there three times between 2000 and 2004, but only once as a tourist. The other times were on official visits from the U.S. Government, which included opportunities to visit training and discuss NATO support. But that one time as a tourist — what a great trip! Hungary has plenty to be proud of and showcase. Its capital, Budapest, is one of the largest and best-loved cities on the Danube River. The west bank has Buda Castle and the Old Buda city, a wonderful walled city that’s a major tourist draw. The east bank is more modern with great shopping and all those Parliamentary and government buildings. The environs include the beautiful town of Szentendre, the ancient Roman ruins of Aquincum, and the fabulous spa city of Godolloe. Lake Batalon in the west is among the largest lakes in Europe and is become a favorite summer resort. In the northeast, along the Carpathian Mountains is Eger, a fabulous citadel town with a classic market square and massive basilicas.
Lake Batalon rates number one on my “list” of places yet to visit. I also hope to visit Gyor in the northwest, with its classic Danube downtown, plus visit some other cities on the Danube.
Travelogues and Features
The coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different locations in Hungary, as shown below. This map is not yet clickable — but will be once all the travelogues are posted! Check back soon!
BUDAPEST AND THE CENTRAL DANUBE
The Danube is a plenty might river by the time it takes its southern turn from Slovakia and cuts through Hungary. The capital city of Budapest is the main draw here, and I have four chapters to offer — an introductory page, a page on the West Bank region of Buda with the Chain Bridge and Old Buda Castle with the ancient city, one of the East Bank region of Pest with the National Museum and famous Parliament building, and the northeast corner of the city with the warrior monuments, Budapests’ famous bathhouse, and the Vajdahunyad Castle in the City Park. Further up river is the small town of Szentendre, which picturesquely overlooks the Danube and provides plenty of wonderful souvenir shopping opportunities.
EGER AND EASTERN HUNGARY
The city of Eger is very special, and a popular attraction for local Hungarians. It was the site where the Magyars first pushed the occupying Ottoman Turks out of their land in the late medieval era, but much of the Turkish influence remains amidst the gorgeous Austro-Hungarian market squares. The main square is sandwiched between Eger Castle, a massive ruin looming over the city from where this photograph was taken, and St. Stephen’s Basilica in the distance. A worthy day trip for anyone visiting Hungary.
HEGYESHALOM (and my train misadventure)
Hegyshalom was not a planned destination, but I wound up here after suffering a bit of delay at the early end of a long train trip. The story of how I got to this border town, and how knowledge of it helped me get to my destination and back home on time, is one that inspired me to continue train travel. In hindsight, it was an amazing trip, but I was a bit nerve-wracked at the time!!!