Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Googie Gomez says "It's Osterreich but I can do it!"

Views over Visegrad

It's only a few hours to get between the former capitals of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and as it was a nice day, I took the lazy scenic route along the Danube, to see three towns on the Danube Bend: Szentendre (Saint Andrew), Visegrad and Esztergom.

Szentendre is virtually a satellite suburb of Budapest, but this village-cum-artist-colony completely eluded me on the way up Route 11. At no point could I find any directions to take me to the old center, just a load of signs for car dealerships. Regardless of language there is almost always a brown sign with a recognisable graphic to show where the local castle/cathedral/clock and associated shawl-merchant might be located. Today, nothing. So I have nothing to report about Szentendre's historical centre.

Further along the road*, I came to Visegrad with a citadel high on a hill over the Danube, affording great views over this crook in the river. It was only 9am and we had the place to ourselves. It reminded me a bit of getting to Tiberius' Villa Jovis on the island of Capri, ahead of the crowds. There's another parallel in that King Mátyás Corvinus made the riverside palace below his party centre as Tiberius did on Capri.

Esztergom's southern approach

It wasn't much further to Esztergom, a former capital of Hungary, and with the cupola of the country's largest basilica looming over the countryside. Liszt wrote his Mass of Gran for the consecration - Gran being the town's German name, and the mass not being for Liszt's grandmother.

The 100m+ height of the dome is quite a shock when you see it suddenly over the top of trees on the very average country road that leads you into town, and suddenly you're in front of this:

Around the back, you look over the lower town, and that's Slovakia across the Danube.

* The route along the Danube Bend was only sketchily available on my satnav device. On Saturday I'd finally received the update disk which included maps for Eastern Europe. After working through the skimpy-yet-confusing upgrade instructions, I found that I had some street coverage of central Budapest. However as soon as we got to the periphery, the details fell away: none of the towns I visited on today's route were listed, and most of the major route along the Danube was just not listed at all.

Between Esztergom and the Austrian border, little happened except seeing this large floating head, whose weight created a gravitational disturbance over the fields of north western Hungary. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but my sense of balance and composition indicated that it was a decent photo opportunity.

Up close and personal with the Austrian border

Another stamp in the passport, and I'm back in the €-zone. For the record, on this trip, it has been uniformly off/on all the way

France Yes
Switzerland No
Italy Yes
Croatia No
Slovenia Yes
Hungary No
Austria Yes

One hour from the border, and we were outside the apartment where I was to be renting a room for 3 nights. It's 20 minutes' walk from there to the Museumsplatz and central Vienna.

Another dirty old cathedral: St Stephen's.

Labours of Hercules: stopping Cerberus from chasing pigeons.

Bondi takes over the classical floor of the EMI store.

Yes, these cupolas can be used as aerosol dispensers.

Desperate Housekeepers: then and now

There are posters all over town for the new hit musical based on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. I'm surprised they didn't call it 'West Wing Story'. Nonetheless I'm sure Rita Morena could do it.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photo's of the river!

    I especially love the photo's with Bondi in them!!

    I vote for more Bondi photos!!

    (I think I am smitten)