Hungary & Slovakia - June 2004
Known as the Queen of the Danube, Budapest is one of the
loveliest cities in Eastern Europe. It has an amazing variety of
architectural styles – Roman fortresses lie next to still functioning
Turkish baths, and Gothic and Baroque structures stand side by
side with stunning Art Nouveau buildings. And through it all flows
the beautiful Danube River, which is the heart of the city and
which separates the old city of ‘Buda’ from the newer
commercial area ‘Pest’.
One thing that you should definitely not miss in Budapest is the
stunning Dohany Street Synagogue. This is the largest
synagogue in Europe and is a stunning Byzantine Moorish style
building faced with white and red brick, covered in ceramic tiles
and topped with two onion dome towers. There are also
hundreds of churches including the fabulous St Stephens
Basilica and a wide number of museums covering different areas
of Budapest’s historical and cultural heritage.
From the magnificent Castle Hill and stunning neo-Gothic
Matthius Church which crowns Buda to the unmistakable claret
spires and dome of the Pest parliament building across the river
and the fabulous selection of restaurants and cafés serving up
delicious Hungarian food, it is difficult to decide how to spend
your time in Budapest!
This is a lovely small town, packed full of stunning Renaissance
buildings and with an old city almost entirely surrounded by
original fortified walls. The most impressive building to visit is the
old Gothic cathedral that dates back to 1400 and is the second
largest in Slovakia. Inside you can see the largest wooden alter
in the world, standing an impressive 19m high.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed ruins of Spissky Hrad date
back to the early 13th century. The imposing fortification stands
atop a rocky promontory and was once one of the most
important Gothic castles in Europe. It was destroyed by fire in
1780 and thus abandoned until the 1960’s when it was declared
a national monument and opened to the public. There is a small
museum inside the castle and lovely views of the surrounding
countryside from the hill.
STARY SMOKOVEC (1,017m)
Not far from Poprad, Stary Smokovec is a beautifully situated
alpine town. In winter, the town is a popular ski resort, nestled
beneath the slopes with incredible views of the surrounding
mountains. Out of season, the snow melts revealing lush pine
forested scenery all around. The main street offers
supermarkets, shops, restaurants and many wonderful cafés
serving delicious cakes.
HIGH TATRAS TREKKING
The High Tatra Mountains are some of the most impressive (and
the highest) in Eastern Europe, with a dazzling array of jagged
peaks, snow covered summits, glacial lakes and dense pine
forest. The entire area is a National Park and is criss-crossed
with walking trails some of which offer truly spectacular views.
Bratislava is Slovakia’s capital and largest city. Here the
Carpathian Mountains, which stretch 1200km from the Iron Gate
of Romania, finally slope down to the Danube. The Austrian
border is almost is almost within sight of the city and Hungary is
just 16km away. Many beautiful monuments survive in the old
town to tell of its past under Hungarian rule, and Bratislava’s
numerous museums are surprisingly rich. The opera productions
of the Slovak National Theatre rival anything in Europe.
Bratislava isn't as swamped by Western tourism as are
Budapest and Prague – yet!