Last weekend we met some friends in Visegrad. These friends are not going to be in our program next year, so we wanted to plan one final weekend together before they go back to the East Coast.
We headed to Visegrad, which is one of the four “Danube Bend” towns roughly an hour north of Budapest. This is a small town (only 1,600 people) but is a popular distination because of the Middle Age buildings.
In particular, a castle overlooking the river was built in the 1240s, went through three renovations and enlargements by future kings, and was occupied by the Otttoman Empire in 1544. They used it until 1685 when it fell into ruin. Remnants of the castle wall trail down the steep hill, now overgrown with plants and a variety of trees. Near the bottom is the Solomon tower, a large hexagonal tower which has been partially renovated and now hold a small museum throughout it.
By the way, we gained free admission to both sights (castle and tower) by showing our teacher identification cards.
The next day, we hiked in Tatabánya with Wendy and one of her graduating students, our local expert. We found our way up a local hill with some special sites, a statue of the Turul bird, and a cave. This is an important symbol for Hungary. To cite WIkipedia:
The Turul is mentioned at least twice to have shaped the fate of the Hungarians: on the first occasion Emese… had a dream in which a Turul appeared, impregnated her symbolically and a stream of crystal-clear water started to flow from her womb. As it moved west, it grew into a great river, which signified that her child was going to be the father of a line of great rulers. The second time, the leader of the Hungarian tribes had a dream in which eagles attacked their horses and a Turul came and saved them. This symbolised that they had to migrate, and when they did so, the Turul helped them to show the way and eventually led them to the land that became Hungary.
This legend is…the base of the theory that Magyars reconquered Hungary as their rightful inheritance from Attila’s great Hun Empire. The Turul is seen as the ancestor of Attila, and is often represented carrying the flaming Sword of God (sword of Attila), and bearing a crown. This crown is not linked directly to the Holy Crown of Hungary, but rather to the crown of Attila, as Attila is traditionally considered the first king of Hungary.