Visiting Szeged, Hungary: My Favourite Photos

Szeged is a city in the south of Hungary, close to the border with Serbia. It is Hungary’s third largest city and is home to a well-regarded university. The influx of students gives the small city an international flavour. I often heard English being spoken on the streets and in the shops. English comprehension among locals is high.

A small, attractive city of about 170,000 built along the river Tisza, the city centre is has many interesting cafés, restaurants and some impressive architecture. There are many large squares and wide boulevards. The public transit system is excellent for a city of its size.

I spent five nights in Szeged. These are some of my favourite photos.

 

Szeged Water Tower, Built in 1904
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Another large water tower with a classic tram stopped in front.
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Monument to Hungarians living in Romania
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Grapes at Sándorfalva, just north of Szeged
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Votive Church By Night (Szeged Dom)

Summer 2016 in Budapest: My Favourite Photos

I was able to spend the month of August in Budapest, Hungary.

It’s a city that I know very well, having already spent a year there through 2014-15. It was fun to return and explore some old haunts, catch up with friends and even discover a few new hidden gems.

Here are some of my favourite photos from my visit.

Liberty Bridge Open to Pedestrians Only
Liberty Bridge Open to Pedestrians Only
Rooftops of Pest
Rooftops of Pest
The Danube, Chain Bridge, and Parliament.
Astoria Metro Station
Astoria Metro Station
Örs vezér tere is the eastern terminus of the M2 Metro Line
Örs vezér tere is the eastern terminus of the M2 Metro Line
Liberty Bridge at Night
Liberty Bridge at Night
Budapest Skyline on the Danube River
Budapest Skyline on the Danube River
St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Ferenciek tere traffic
Ferenciek tere traffic
Heroes Square
Heroes Square

You can read more about my visits to Budapest and Hungary by visiting the Travel section of my website.

If you like my photos, follow me on Instagram @jeremymaclaine. I post photos there every day.

Visiting Esztergom and Štúrovo

For many centuries, Esztergom was the most important city in Hungary, acting as the capital from the 10th till the mid-13th century. It was here that the coronation of Saint Stephen of Hungary took place, in the year 1000 or 1001. With his ascension to the throne, Esztergom became the political, cultural and religious centre of the Hungarian nation.

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Today, the city is home to some 30,000 people. It lies on the banks of the Danube river, across the water is Slovakia and the town of Štúrovo. The two towns are connected by the Mária Valéria bridge, which has no border control.

Esztergom lies on the left, Sturovo on the right.
Esztergom lies on the left, Sturovo on the right.

You can easily reach Esztergom by train from Budapest. Trains leave the Nyugati train station every hour and a round trip costs about $10 Canadian or 7 Euros. The journey is slow, with many stops through the Budapest suburbs and small country villages, but the train is modern, making for a pleasant enough trip.

Esztergom’s basilica and castle are built atop a hill with sprawling views of the surrounding countryside and the Danube river.

The view from the Slovakian side of the river.
The view from the Slovakian side of the river.
Castle Hill
Castle Hill
Small Dungeon by the castle
Small Dungeon by the castle
Sunset at a sculpture depicting the coronation of St. Stephen.
Sunset at a sculpture depicting the coronation of St. Stephen.
The winding stairs up to the castle hill.
The winding stairs up to the castle hill.
Sunset views from the lookout spots.
Sunset views from the lookout spots.
A re-creation of the famous Holy Crown of Hungary with its bent cross.
A re-creation of the famous Holy Crown of Hungary with its bent cross.
Saint Stephen's likeness in front of a restaurant that claims to have been in operation since 1659.
Saint Stephen’s likeness in front of a restaurant that claims to have been in operation since 1659.
Saint Stephen Square. There is likely one of these in every Hungarian town.
Saint Stephen Square. There is likely one of these in every Hungarian town.

Across the river is Štúrovo, Slovakia. It’s a small town, with a mostly ethnically Hungarian population. You’ll hear Hungarian spoken on the streets and you can even pay for your food and drinks in Hungarian Forints at the local restaurants and cafés.

Crossing into Slovakia.
Crossing into Slovakia.
On the Slovak side of the bridge.
On the Slovak side of the bridge.
Central Štúrovo.
Central Štúrovo.
Bilingual street signs
Bilingual street signs
Welcome to Štúrovo.
Welcome to Štúrovo.

The convenience of cheap and hourly trains running between Budapest and Esztergom makes for a fun and easy daytrip. Esztergom is a nice enough town, with an impressive history to merit a visit on its own. Being able to cross the border and visit a different country only adds to the novelty. I enjoyed my daytrip to Esztergom and Štúrovo and would recommend it to someone looking for a change of pace during a longer stay in Budapest.

Visiting Székesfehérvár: An Important City in Hungarian History

This week, I took a day-trip to the Hungarian city of Székesfehérvár. While it’s ranked as the 10th most populous city in the country, it was once the most important city in Hungary. A thousand years ago, when Saint Stephen of Hungary united the Hungarian people and founded their nation, he granted Székesfehérvár town rights and proceeded to build a large basilica which would become the most important site in the Kingdom of Hungary during the middle ages.

It was at this Basilica that Hungary’s crown jewels were held and it was here that the King of Hungary kept his throne. The name Székesfehérvár (seat of the white castle) reflects the importance of the city. A total of 13 Kings, including Saint Stephen, were buried in the Basilica. Unfortunately, in the 1600s Székesfehérvár was overrun and occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The invading Turks ransacked the tombs and destroyed the basilica. Today only the foundational ruins remain.

IMG_8458The small city offers visitors a picturesque central district, with a lengthy pedestrian zone featuring many churches, restaurants, terraces and squares. The city is rich in colour with apartment buildings being painted in a variety of pastel colours. Located about 65 kilometers away from Budapest, the city is easily accessible by train with hourly departures startingfromt 3am and ending at around 11pm.

While it was Székesfehérvár’s rich history that originally drew me to the city, I was pleasantly surprised by its charming centre. It would make for an excellent weekend getaway for when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Budapest.

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St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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Musical Clock and Clock Museum

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Christmas Time in Budapest

I am back in Canada for the Christmas break but I wanted to share a few photos of Budapest during the month of December. Christmas markets pop up in squares throughout the city, with little wooden huts selling traditional foods, hot wine and gifts.

This was my first time in Europe during the winter months. In Canada, it is customary to hang Christmas wreaths on our doors and in our windows. In Central Europe, advent wreaths are also prominent but instead of hanging on doors, they are laid down horizontally with a candle at each corner. The wreath and its candles symbolize the passage of the four weeks before Christmas. With each passing week, a new candle is lit.

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The Christmas market at Vörösmarty tér, at the northern end of Váci Utca, gets very crowded. In the most busy areas it can take minutes to move just a few metres.

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For more photos of Budapest at Christmas time and throughout the year, visit my newly launched tumblr blog, http://budapestography.tumblr.com/. I started posting the backlog of images I’ve taken from during my first five and a half months in the city. In under 30 days, I’ve been able to post 86 photos and I still have some more images to share. My goal, starting in January when I return, is to be able to offer up at least one new photo a day. This means going out once a week (likely on the weekend) with my camera in hand and getting at least seven quality shots. It’s doable, especially in Budapest.

The Hungarian National Holiday – October 23rd

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Hungarian Flag with the communist coat of arms cut out – Revolutionary symbol

In‚ Hungary, most public holidays are a mix of religious days and anniversaries of historical events. October 23rd, marks the anniversary of the 1956 Revolution, which saw the Hungarian people rise up against the communist government, backed by Soviet Russia. While at first the revolution seemed to have been a success, with Soviet troops leaving Budapest, Moscow responded swiftly in early November, seizing control of Hungary and suppressing discussion of the event for over 30 years.

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Statue of Imre Nagy

On this day, special attention is paid to the statue of Imre Nagy, Hungary’s leader during the revolution, who appealed to the West for help and hoped to bring democracy to his country. He was eventually arrested by Soviet officials. Two years later, after a show trial, he was found guilty of treason and executed. His body was dumped in a cemetery, face-down, with his hands and feet tied with barbed wire.

Ceremonial Guards Stand Watch at the Parliament
Ceremonial Guards Stand Watch at the Parliament

A short walk from the Parliament is Liberty Square, home to a controversial monument that remembers the Soviet liberation of Hungary in 1945. At all times, there are police nearby, to ensure that the monument isn’t vandalized. Until recently, there had been a security fence around the perimetre. On this day especially, the monument stirs up some strong emotions. Demonstrators voiced their displeasure with a protest banner. The impact of ‚ 20th century Eastern European history is still felt today.

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The Hungarian National Holiday has a very different feel than Canada Day. It’s a solemn event. There’s no free concert at Parliament, people aren’t getting drunk. The ride on the metro today was very quiet.

Candles are lit in remembrance
Candles are lit in remembrance

On my way home, I came across political rally organized by Jobbik, which has been described as a far-right party. They have their own ideas about what this day means to Hungary.

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Jobbik Rally

Hungary is now in the midst of a four day long weekend. It will be a quiet few days here in Budapest.

A Working Saturday for Hungarians Ahead of the National Holiday

IMG_2127 copyToday, Saturday, October 18th, was a work day for many Hungarians.

The reason for this is because next Thursday is a National Holiday, commemorating the events of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. By working today, Hungarians will enjoy a four day long weekend next week. The National Holiday on Thursday, the earned day off from today’s work on Friday, followed by a normal Saturday and Sunday off.

It’s a clever‚ way to handle an awkward, middle of the week holiday. I can’t recall anything like this happening in Canada around July 1st. I wonder how many people would be willing to go along with a working Saturday in June if it mean a four day long weekend the following week?

On the topic of the National Holiday, I’ll be paying close attention next week, when the ceremonies of remembrance take place. The Hungarian Revolution was a tragic event, where a country thought it had gained its freedom, only to be swiftly and brutally crushed by the Soviet Army days later. The event generated headlines around the world.‚ Time Magazine named the Hungarian Freedom Fighter its Person of the Year for 1956. Even Elvis Presley took notice, using his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, to urge Americans to make donations to Hungarian Relief funds.

The turbulent 20th century history of European countries, especially those caught between Germany and Russia, is astounding. Communism and Fascism must never be allowed to return.

A Giant Installation in Budapest

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This week, drivers crossing from Buda to Pest, on the famous Chain Bridge, will be greeted by this unique‚ installation at‚ Széchenyi Square.

The temporary popup, which is called RIPPED UP, was designed by‚ Ervin Loránth Hervé of Gallery Out Of Home. The Gallery Out of Home website has more about the project:

The creation has several meanings, such as the symbolism of freedom, the desire to break free, the curiosity, and the dynamics of development. It can be interpreted as the demonstration of the present situation of the contemporary art scene, or even as it strives to create an urban public communal space.

Today, through the integration of social media, we cannot only create a community space, but also in a broader sense we can take the national contemporary art’s creations and artist to anywhere in the world, with the integration of the audience.

The project also includes a multimedia angle, featuring a‚ live Ustream of the installation, which allows you to view the giant creation in real time, as tourists take pictures and pose for selfies.

I stumbled across the installation last night when I was out for a walk. Today I went back with my camera and took a few more photos.

Facing the Chain Bridge
Facing the Chain Bridge
This girl is enjoying the installation
This girl is enjoying the installation
Up Close
Up Close
This gives you an idea of the installation's size
This gives you an idea of the installation’s size
For comparison: I'm 6 feet 1 / 1.85m
For comparison: I’m 6 feet 1 / 1.85m

 

Dental Tourism in Budapest

dentist-448675_640Before coming to Budapest, I had read that the city is a popular destination for “Dental Tourism. Having two nagging wisdom teeth that I had avoided removing, I made a note of this and kept it in the back of my mind.

I had originally set up an appointment in Canada three years ago to get all four of my wisdom teeth removed at the same time. Unfortunately, the dentist I visited was a poor surgeon, botching the operation, only getting through two of the teeth before stopping and complaining that my mouth didn’t open far enough, hindering his work.

Since then, my remaining wisdom teeth haven’t caused me too much trouble. I’d have a bit of manageable pain or pressure from time to time, but it would usually go away after a while. I had wanted to get the remaining two teeth out, just to be over and done with it, but I was dreading the cost more than the operation itself.

Last summer I had a consultation in Ottawa and was eventually referred to a specialist. I had to book my appointment months in advance. At the consultation, I was told that I would be looking at $1,100 to have the two remaining teeth removed. I agreed to the procedure and set an appointment for January. Early that month, I received a call informing me that my procedure had to be rescheduled. I told the receptionist on the other end of the phone line that I’d get back to them. I never did.

Fast forward to last Monday and another bout of discomfort with my lower wisdom tooth. By Tuesday, I could tell the situation was becoming more serious as the lower tooth was about ready to erupt. I decided it was finally time to get the extraction done and started Googling local clinics.

I came across a listing for Nador Dental, which caters to tourists. I placed a call Tuesday afternoon, explaining my situation. They scheduled an appointment for the next day. When I got to my appointment, I had an x-ray done and then the friendly Doctor explained to me what kind of surgery would be necessary.

“How soon do you want to do this? he asked me. I said as soon as possible. He called his surgeon and scheduled an appointment for the following morning. Then he asked me if I had some extra time to get a cleaning. I took him up on his offer and the hygenist came in and gave me a great cleaning. I went home afterwards and made preparations for the coming surgery the following morning.

When I got to the office the next morning, the surgeon was there to greet me. He showed me my x-rays and explained to me every detail and risk involved (potential nerve damage) in the surgery. He told me that my type of tooth presented one of the more challenging extractions.

“It’s going to take an hour. I’ve done a few like these before, some more difficult, but this one’s going to be tough. Sitting in the chair, I figured I might as go through with it. A large needle injected some local anesthetic and then after waiting for about 10 minutes, the scalpel came out and surgery got underway.

The surgeon, who was fairly young, I’d estimate late 20s or early 30s, did a fantastic job. He calmly explained to me what he was doing and the tools he was using. For the most part, the operation was painless. There were a few instances where he had to apply some pressure, which lead to some sharp pain, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

My appointment was scheduled for 11:00am, and surgery began around 15 minutes later. What I’ll remember most is hearing a nearby church bell ring 12 times at noon, as I laid there, looking out the window while being worked on. I tried not to look down too much or into the reflection of the dentist’s goggles, although at one point, I saw him pull out a chunk of tooth.

A few minutes after the church bell had fallen silent, the surgeon told me he was finished. I was surprised at how fast an hour had gone by, considering the circumstances. The doctor handed me some painkillers, anti-inflammatory pills and an ice pack.

“Come back on Wednesday for a follow up and to get your stitches removed, I was told.

I paid my bill and left the dental office. I took the bus home, pressing an ice pack against my swollen face.

In under 48 hours, I was able to book a consultation, get a cleaning and have a‚ wisdom tooth extracted. I didn’t have to spend weeks watching the calendar, counting down the days. It was over and done with quickly.

But how much did this speedy service cost?

Cost Breakdown

Cleaning cost: 15,000 HUF / $68 (Canadian) / $61 USD
Wisdom Tooth Extraction (One tooth, local anesthetic): 30,000HUF/ $136 (Canadian) / $123 USD

This includes an initial consultation with an x-ray. I was also provided with antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine. No trips to the pharmacy necessary.

Total cost: 45,000 HUF / $204 (Canadian) / $185 USD

By having this procedure completed in Hungary, I saved just under $1,000. I also enjoyed prompt service. without waiting lists or having to book months in advance. Everything was done in English, the staff’s second language.

If you’re living in the West and have a dental procedure that you’ve been putting off, consider doing some “dental tourism of your own and planning a trip to Eastern Europe. From what I understand, Hungary, Poland and Romania all offer reasonably priced dentistry. You’re going to have to spend a good chunk of money either way, so you might was well put some of that money towards some traveling. Going forward, I plan to book a cleaning whenever I’m in Eastern Europe.

Nador Dental

The clinic I ended up at, Nador Dental, is located in the centre of Budapest. It’s a clean, modern practice, comparable to anything you would see in Canada. They’ve produced YouTube videos in multiple languages, showcasing their space. I’m very happy with my experience at Nador and would recommend them to anyone.

Going to the dentist isn’t something we tend to get very excited about. Having said that, I’m elated at the money I saved and the quality of service I received during my first foray into dental tourism.