Esztergom is Hungary’s most sacred city being the place of King Istvan’s coronation on Christmas Day in the year 1000. A contemporary of Poland’s Boleslaw, Istvan was Hungary’s first King and later its patron saint.
Almost completely destroyed by the Mongols invasion in 1250, Esztergom was very gradually rebuilt during the 18th and 19th centuries.
It’s hugely impressive Basilica towers across its skyline and is best admired from a midpoint across the Danube towards the Slovakian border on its northern bank.
The Basilica was built in the 19th century on the site of a smaller 12th century cathedral which was destroyed by the Turks in their retreat from Hungary.
Elegant and simple on the outside its interior is a complex decoration of gold gilt frescoes, Florentine Renaissance marble sculpture, Titian-inspired paintings and endless statues of saints and primates. It is quite dizzying.
Along the river banks the ‘watertown’ of Vizivaros – really a couple of streets of low single-storey houses and tiny gardens – includes a renovated Turkish residence and a Baroque church.
From here we cycled across the Duna for a cheap and delicious ice cream and views back to Hungary. A new border was presenting itself and with it the promise of new discoveries along the road.
Back at the campsite we were surrounded by several caravans and cars with British plates. Having not seen a fellow Brit since Italy we surmised the ‘caravan club’ had arrived but quickly realised that the group were Irish travellers. Unfortunately over the next 24 hours they did nothing to dispel the commonly help prejudices against their kind.
Operating some kind of power tool sales business off the back of a lorry the men yelled, swore at each other and on two occasions fought, whilst the women yelled, swore at each other and berated their kids. It was depressing and we were asked by other campers to explain the ‘British’ behaviour.
Perhaps inevitably we decided to move on and against a return to Budapest on this occasion and instead excitedly began researching a route to take us into Slovakia.