Today I have been exploring an area known as the Danube bend, where the majestic river Danube cuts an arc through the forested hills of northern Hungary, splitting in two before recombining and flowing southward to Budapest. Unsurprisingly, the lands are laced with rich history: this part of the river once formed the north border of the Roman empire, and at various times served as the capital of the medieval kingdom of Hungary, until the rise of the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian empire.
I started my trip in Szentendre, a cute artists colony situated a few kilometres upriver from Buda. The town is accessible on the HEV suburban train line from Batthyány Tér. Being so close to Budapest makes this a popular destination for day trippers, as evidenced by the souvenir stands, but in spring it seems the hordes of tourists have yet to descend. The attractive main square, Fö Tér, is lined with cafés and ice cream shops. A short walk up the hill leads to a church with enticing panoramic views of the town.
I didn’t plan on spending too long here, as the town is easy to cover in a few hours. However, due to my patented Wing It method of planning, I had no idea where the bus station was and had to find a free wifi café to figure out the next stage of the trip. So as not to be rude, I bought a beer at the café and relaxed while I caught up with the online world. Now slightly tipsy, I headed for where I assumed the bus station was, and luckily managed to arrive just in time to catch a bus to my next destination.
The bus was packed and I had to stand most of the way, but eventually I was deposited at the gateway to the small town of Visegrád. The scenery here is striking: hills loom on both sides of the river as far as the eye can see. A castle, once home to the monarchs of Hungary, stands on the hill above the town, with the ruins of a palace at the foot. A hiking trail leads to the castle, which I happily trekked up.
The castle itself is nothing spectacular, but the views from the top certainly are. I can see why the Danube is so evocative for so many people; the landscape is breathtaking. I toured the castle exhibits, complete with audio guides in English, and apparently on a clear day you can see all the way to the Tatra mountains. Yes, the same mountains whose bad weather defeated me in Poland. I couldn’t quite make out the mountains, but nonetheless the view was well worth the climb. I’m afraid photos don’t do it justice at all.
After leaving the castle just as it was closing, I trekked back to the town and caught a ferry across the river. The sun disappeared over the hills on the far side as we approached the bank. Once across I boarded a train back to Budapest, arriving at the main station just ten minutes walk from my hostel, ending a perfect day trip. It couldn’t have been perfecter, in fact.