Sunday, November 23, 2014

Picture postcard Szentendre makes for delightful excursion

Walking just a few hundred metres from our hotel, we arrived at the city's Great Market Hall. It was truly a feast for the eyes. Produce of every description was found on the first floor, fruits and veggies, meats, sausages and hams, nuts and dried fruits, fish and flowers. What a selection with very good prices.

Upstairs on balconies all around the hall were various restaurants and food stalls serving sausages, goulash and of course cabbage dishes. There were stalls selling lovely leather purses and belts, traditional tablecloths and linens and my favourite were the stalls selling scarves in lovely colour combinations. In fact I bought three for €5 each and they are beautiful.

We were reluctant to leave the market but it was time for us to take the tram and train to the picturesque town of Szentendre, which sits at the foot of the Pilis Hill, on the Danube bank north of Budapest. It was quite an adventure buying the tickets at a booth in the Metro but the next person in line kindly helped us buy our tickets. You could say that the ticket machine wasn't terribly intuitive.

After an hour we arrived in the small town of Szentendere and followed the winding cobbled streets towards the centre of town, which has a quite diverse history. It was part of the Eastern frontier of the Roman Empire from the 2nd century AD.

The town was destroyed by The Mongols in the 13th century and again by the Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was rebuilt in Baroque style in the 17th century and it is this version of the town that visitors can enjoy today. After the Turks left, the area was settled by Serbian refugees, and then Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Greeks and Romanians. Each ethnic group established its own town part adding a versatility to the townscape. In the Main Square a Baroque cross was erected in 1763 to commemorate the lucky fact that plague had avoided the town.

Winding streets lead off from this square packed with architectural masterpieces, museums, restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. It was very charming. Finally, we found our way to the river, where we had lunch outside. Like many menus, goose figured large. In some cases the local menus reminded me of the Monty Python Spam skit but instead of spam substitute goose. However, I enjoyed my roasted goose leg with lovely roasted potatoes and of course some cabbage.

We walked along the promenade beside the Danube before heading back through the town. Here there were some lovely little shops with traditional tablecloths, locally designed clothes and some confectionary shops. We did stop at one and bought a little piece of chocolate covered marzipan, which was delicious. It helped fortify us for our trip back to Budapest.

Our evening ended up with a trip on the oldest Metro in continental Europe over to Buda to see a Liam Neeson movie in English and as a bonus there were only four other people in the cinema.

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