The out-of-the-city center trip to the castle town of Visegrad about 40 kms north of Budapest was probably the highlight of my short trip to the capital of spas and thermal baths – Hungary. My UP schoolmate and I took the 50-minute train ride from Nyugati station in Budapest to Nagymaros, and then the 5-minute ferry (raft) across the Danube. From there, we headed straight to the Tourist Information office to get a map, and began the 2.5 km ascend to the castle hill. Visegrad is known for the Fellegvar Citadel, the Royal Palace ruins, and the Solomon Tower built in the 1200s.
The climb up to the citadel is pretty exhausting, so one should be physically ready. I think, it can also be reached by car.. but the hike is more adventuresome! Before the climb, we took some time to see what’s at the foot of the mountain. Bela IV and his Queen, Maria, built a castle complex in the 1250s. The complex consists of a Royal Palace, the Citadel on top of the 328 m hill, and the water bastion by the bank of the Danube River. It became an important town in the 15th century, as the Hungarian king Charles Robert, personally chose the town as the royal headquarters and favorite residence.
The Royal Palace at the foot of the mountain was venue to the signing of the cooperation among the Visegrad Four, or V4, an alliance among the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in 1991.
It took us about 2.5 hours of trekking and hiking on a hilly, stony, and steep terrain before we reached the top of the hill. To be honest, we literally felt like doing a pilgrimage or a long penitence for our sins. Just imaging hiking under the scorching heat of the sun! But we actually DID the Way of the Cross. The trail turned out to be a popular pilgrims’ road, with stops featuring each mystery of the holy rosary.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, or the entrance to the fortress, we were super exhausted that we decided to find a place to eat or get refreshments first! Apparently, not far from the citadel is a really nice restaurant called the Nagyvillam Etterem. For 6950 forint, or 200 NOK, (that’s 100 NOK each) we enjoyed a huge meal of chicken, potatoes, rice, etc. 😛 The restaurant also offers a great view of the river and mountains.
Feeling energized, we headed back to the citadel, ready to explore the high fortress and eventually, the Solomon tower where Count Dracula of Romania was imprisoned in the 1400s! 😀
The castle town of Visegrad is a good escape from the usual city tours. I definitely recommend it! More about the main attractions in the town, particularly the Fellegvar Citadel and the SOlomon Tower in the next entries! Cheers! 😉