Greetings from Budapest!
Midterm exams are behind us and students are enjoying spring in Hungary. Budapest is at its best when all the trees are in full bloom, there are flowers are everywhere, and temperatures are warm. We have also been exploring the country with our group excursions that are integral part of the program.
First excursion: Danube Bend: Esztergom and Visegrád
On our very first group excursion we visited two beautiful and historically significant cities, Esztergom and Visegrád.
First, we travelled to Esztergom, which is the birthplace of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen and a former medieval capital of Hungary, and also the seat of the Hungarian Catholic Church. The basilica of Esztergom is the country’s first, Europe's third largest, and the world’s 18th largest church. The altarpiece is the largest single-canvas painting in the world, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Michelangelo Grigoletti.
The historical town, Visegrád is located in the Danube bend region. The city has always had an important strategic role in Hungarian history. It used to be Hungary’s capital and an important diplomatic center: The first royal summit of the central European countries was held here in the 14th century, and a new Visegrád Treaty was signed here again in 1990. It is just a wonderful coincidence that some of our students have been involved in Visegrad treaty-related educational materials in their internship. We visited the 12th century fort on top of the hill overlooking the Danube. The view from there was simply amazing.
[Katie, Britney and Ashley at Danube Bend]
Second excursion: Visiting Recsk and Eger
We traveled to the northern part of the country in our second excursion. The weather could not have been more beautiful and we all enjoyed being able to spend a lot of time outdoors.
We visited the memorial of a former communist death camp in Recsk, hidden in the mountains close to an old quarry where the prisoners were forced to work. Then we discovered the lovely historic town of Eger. Eger is a gem of medieval monuments, home of one the most famous Hungarian fortresses, whose heroes and heroines successfully defended it during the Turkish invasion in the 16th century. A novel by Géza Gárdonyi, titled Egri Csillagok -Stars of Eger - is probably the best known historical novel in Hungary. Its English title is The Eclipse of the Crescent Moon.
[Spring 2014 Ladies at the Fort of Eger]
Exploring the Fortress of Eger was lot of fun and we even managed to tour the Casemates – underground defense halls and tunnels – with torch-lights.
[Wylie exploring the casemates of the Fort of Eger with a torch in his hand]
Third excursion: Western Hungary
Our third trip took us to western Hungary. It included a guided visit of the 1100-year old Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma, a World Heritage Site. We also learnt a great deal about organic farming in our visit to a small family-run winery dating back to the 18th century. Afterwards we went to visit Lake Balaton, the “Hungarian Sea” the most popular Hungarian resort. We visited Tihany on the northern shore. The weather was warm, but sadly the water was still a bit cold for a swim.
[Tori, Sam, Katie, Brittany and Britney enjoying the view at Lake Balaton]
This weekend we are traveling to Transylvania, Romania. We will bring you news about our adventures there in our next newsletter.
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator