DAY 18, JUNE 11: BUDAPEST AND SZENTENDRE (SENTANDREJA)

From Szentendre (Sentandreja) Hungary flag

CRUISING DOWN THE DANUBE ON FOUR WHEELS. PART 2

OUR NEXT STOPS: BUDAPEST, SZENTENDRE

With about 60 km left before Budapest, Elizabeth got tired of the back roads. So I hopped on the freeway and we got to Budapest before 4 PM.

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I was then able to find my way somehow to the Buda Castle and the Mathias church, again without a city map.

It was a marvelous day and great for walking around and sightseeing. The only blemish were numerous Chinese tour groups which were milling around everywhere like ants. Just as in Vienna. But we were able to find a nice quiet restaurant which we had a light supper before going on to Szentendre (Sentandreja).

OPERATIC CONCERT NEAR BUDA CASTLE

Meanwhile, music once again found us in Budapest. While we were looking for the restaurant, a booming voice of an operatic singer echoed over the square in front of Matyas church. I quickly grapped my camera and taped this excerpt from La Donna E Mobile from the opera Rigoletto.

LA DONNA E MOBILE: OPERATIC CONCERT NEAR BUDA CASTLE, MATYAS CHURCH IN BUDAPEST – June 11, 2017 – a film clip by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic

SZENTENDRE (SENTANDREJA) VISIT, HOTEL

We had some trouble finding Szentendre without a map, but eventually we made it. Our next challenge was finding our hotel here, but it was worth the trouble. It is a **** (four-star) establishment with a spa. Quite surprising, I might add, for a small town like Szentendre.

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View of the Hungarian Parliament across the Danube during our drive from Budapest to Szentendre (June 11, 2017)

After checking in, we walked all around town and visited several Serbian churches. Built in the late 17th century, of them have been shuttered down for a long time. as the Serbian population intermarried and was absorbed by the Hungarians Still, the churches they look beautiful from the outside.

During the Great Turkish War, the Christian Serbs were invited to emigrate to Hungary to defend it against the Ottoman Empire. Because of this invitation, there was a mass emigration of Serbs in 1690 to the Szentendre region. These Serbs left enduring traces on the townscape and its culture. The buildings in the city center have tried to preserve this Serbian influence in their architecture. We enjoyed visiting all these sights this evening before turning in.

We also walked along the Danube before returning to our hotel for a relaxing spa. Overall it was a great day even if Elizabeth was exhausted by the end of it.

 

DAY 19, JUNE 12: SZENTENDRE (SENTANDREJA)

Szentendre – northernmost settlement of the Serbs

HOW DID THE SERBS AND THEIR 600-YEAR+ OLD COLUMN GET HERE?

This morning, we completed our tour of Szentendre (Sentandreja) on foot, taking in the parts we could not fit into our last night’s walk.

The first and foremost was this magnificent 15-ft Prince Lazar column and the cross. The Serbs who survived the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 in which their leader and king lost his life, have been carting this column and the cross from there to Montenegro, and then all the way north to Szentendre in the late 17th century.

As a reward for their bravery and courage in fighting the Ottomans, the Habsburgs (rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) allowed some 6,000 Serbs to resettle in Szentendre. Their leader, Arsenije III Čarnojević, also brought the relics (bones) of Tsar Lazar. The relics had been given the greatest protection for the past three hundred years. Centuries long efforts of monks kept these relics from being defiled by the marauding Turks.

“It’s absolutely astounding how they managed to bring something like this, probably on an ox cart, all the way from Kosovo,” I said to Elizabeth after I said my prayers under the cross. “And what they have done to preserve their culture and Christian faith.”

MYTH ABOUT SERBO-AUSTRIAN ENMITY

This historical marker and the entire town of Szentendre should also dispel the myth about the alleged Serbo-Austrian enmity, which entered the history books after WW I. It is always the victors who write the history. And in this case, the Austrian emperors, losers in WW I, did not have a say in it. But their past actions did.

The relics allowed here for the veneration of Prince Lazar are physical and spiritual evidence of the Austrian emperors’ admiration of and gratitude to the Serbs for the service they have rendered Christian Europe as fierce warriors against Islamic invasions over the centuries. And thus also protectors of the Austrian empire.

This is not the only place where something like this has happened. The Serbs were also allowed to settle in a number of other Austro-Hungarian border territories (for example in today’s Croatia and Bosnia), again for the same reason – as guardians and protectors of the empire from the Turks.  As of the 1910 Census, over 1 million Serbs lived in Hungary and today’s Croatia, then both parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire:

Serbs 461,516 2.5% 644,955 24.6%

This Lazar column and the cross are also evidence of the Serbian nation’s will to exist no matter what the historical circumstances turned against them.

These Lazar relics were brought to Szentendre in 1690 where they were placed in a newly constructed wooden Serbian Orthodox church. They were housed there for seven years before eventually being returned to Serbia. The spot where the church was located is today marked by the memorial at the corner of the square. It seems almost impossible to believe that in this spot, the life force of a nation was once safeguarded.

We also visited the Serbian cathedral in this picturesque Hungarian town as well as the museum. Alas, the latter was closed. We were there too early on a Monday morning.

But we were on time for me to buy Elizabeth a beautiful dress. And she also got a pretty hand-knitted table cloth. And then we hit the road heading south toward Croatia.

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