Returning soldiers are welcomed by overwhelming joy and love by those who stayed behind. This was no different during the second half of the 1730s with the veterans returning from the Russo-Austro-Turkish war. However, these soldiers didn’t come alone.
The first cases were registered at the end of December, 1737 in Transylvania. The plague spread quickly, thanks to the panic-stricken crowd trying to flee after hearing the news.
The black death
The disease first appeared in Hungary among the members of the garrison in Temesvár, and spread from here towards county Csongrád, Békés and Bács-Bodrog. The rather harsh winter of 1738 slowed the disease down, but couldn’t stop it.
Until the 11th of March, 1744, the official end of the disease, over 250,000 people passed away in the country (according to some estimates the number of victims is 310,000).
About 5% of the estimated 5 million population died at that time, which means that the completely natural population growth during the pestis became non-existent, pushing back population development 5-6 years.
However, a town has miraculously escaped the great devastation: according to legends only one person died from this deadly epidemic in Szentendre. A young girl, who was apparently buried at what is today the city’s main square, upside down so the black death couldn’t return.
Later, in 1763, the richest citizens of the city, members of the Serb Privy Trading Society of Szentendre, erected a plague cross monument at this spot, grateful that the providence protected the city, and it has since become a symbol of Szentendre.
In gentle nature
The providence has probably cared for the town a lot longer, well at least its location hints at that. Szentendre is between the volcanic Visegrád Mountains and the Danube, carrying the heavy burden of one of Hungary’s most pristine locations.
Interestingly, the prehistoric man somehow couldn’t see the wood from the tree, as back then only a handful of them lived here, only a few, small towns that were independent from each other were here.
In the old times it was already an important Roman station, the beloved army camp of Marcus Aurelius, and many historical sources state that he knew how to enjoy life. Just to mention a few celebrities, Septimius Severus, Caracalla and emperor Valentinianus II. have all visited here.
During the ancient times it was the liked location of the rulers of the Árpád dynasty, however during the Turkish times, it became completely depopulated. By the end of the 19th century, thanks to mainly the Serbian and Dalmatae settlers the town has regained its urban characteristic and its popularity has continued to grow ever since.
Plenty to see near Szentendre
The city can be approached from Budapest many ways: we can arrive by car, bus, HÉV, or even by boat. The more active holidayers can pick the “donkey-felcher” (bicycle), as it isn’t an unbeatable distance.
The advantage of arriving with a bicycle is that it gives the opportunity to explore the area straight away. Considering that we are at the Danube Bend, there are plenty to discover: the well-cared for park forests, wildlife reserves, as well as many tour routes near Szentendre provide a number of opportunities to come face to face with mother nature.
One of the closests opportunities like this is the Lajos source and its area. The source comes from the Bölcső mountain, this is the largest source of water in the area. For the undecided, the not less than 8 hiking trails which meet right next to the source, can be a form of self-development training opportunity.
Not far from here we can find a real hiking gem, the Holdvilág-árok (Moonworld-trench). Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a drain just beside the road, this canyon-like gorge is one of the area’s most novel-like locations.
Mother nature thought of the claustrophobic people as well: the Sikárosi-meadow is a huge, well maintained clear, where during spring we can forget about the world among millions of flowers.
Urban-oriented people can find their trails in the city of Szentendre. A walk down the Danube Promenade isn’t only evident for locals.
From spring to autumn coupled and tourists with teleobjective looks walk along the river at the shore of the Danube. Leaving the shore we can get something more calorie-packed next to the soul-meal at restaurants and cafes along the promenade.
Besides the gifts of nature, the citizens of the city added to Szentendre’s charm over the years as well.
After the expulsion of the Turkish who stationed in Hungary temporarily, the Serbian, Dalmatiae, Slovakian, German and Greek people who settled down here, didn’t come empty handed.
Their houses, cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, churches are all carrying the southern, mediterranian characteristics, which gives the city a very unique atmosphere.
Thanks to the settlers keeping their beliefs, this when one church town became a city with seven towers by the end of the 18th century. Every community built their own churches, only from wood at first, later replacing them by stone churches.
Maybe out of these the most Szentendre-like is the Belgrade Church. This Serbian Orthodox Church in Hungary is the episcopal headquarters and was completed in 1756.
The maroon colour of the Hungarian Baroque style building highlights it from the surrounding buildings. The huge iconostasis and the baldachin throne of the bishop is well worth a mass. A museum also functions at the church, where we can look at icons, religious items and artworks.
The Blagovestenska Church is also worthy of attention. The beautifully carved wooden wall and the ceremonies accompanied by authentic Orthodox church music is a great experience for both religious and non-religious people.
Just like the Saint John the Baptist’s Parish Church, which is also the city’s oldest monument. The original shrine on the Temple-hill was built in the 13th century, then after the Turkish attacks it was restored in Baroque style during the 18th century. An interesting detail is that the frescoes of the building featuring biblical scenes all show Szentendre locations in the background.
Another emblematic building of the city is the neo-baroque style Town Hall. This originally one-floored office built around the 1730s ran many administrations in its past. It got its final form in 1926, and runs in its current function since 1990.
Szentendre, the place of artists’ creations
In such surroundings, the appearance of artists and the high quality maintenance of the culture is unavoidable. Since the 20. century, the city has been the home of many artists.
In 1929, the Szentendre Painters’ Association establishes the artists’ colony of Szentendre, which was also the cradle of the “School of Szentendre”.
Painters like Béla Iványi-Grünwald, Béla Czóbel, Margit Anna or János Kmetty have dirtied their brushes here. Today it’s not only the place of artists’ creations, the gallery located here awaits visitors with constant exhibitions.
Numerous museums in the city commemorate former artists of Szentendre. The Ámos Imre – Anna Margit Museum was opened in 1984. The artworks of the painting couple found their homes at the 18th century, Baroque house, and Imre Ámos was laid to rest in the garden.
The Ferenczy Museum established in 1951 showcases the more important works of the members of the Art Dynasty, along with the work of other excellent local artists.
On the Main square the Szentendre Gallery awaits visitors. Its temporary exhibitions showcasing the work of domestic and international artists bring us closer to many branches of fine art. Across the gallery is the Kmetty Museum showcasing the complete work of the artist, and it’s different eras to the visitors.
Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum
And if we are talking about museums, we can’t forget about one of the country’s largest institutes like this, the Skanzen, also known as the Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum.
The village museum introduces 8 different areas, over 400 buildings and close to 40,000 ethnographic objects. The museum doesn’t only bring the architecture of the country’s unique area to life, but the everyday lives and lifestyles of the people who lived here, from the 18th to the 20th century.
In addition to the irreplaceable collection, events and constant programs await visitors. The functioning steam train puts the icing on the cake, which will make it a real family day.
Besides the above listed, there are plenty of museums and galleries where we can spend time on viewing beauty, but at the same time we can spoil our other senses too, for example at the Marzipan Museum.
In the country’s first museum like this we can view works made from marzipan, and we can calm our over-excitement at the ground-floor confectionery. Being in a wonderful building like this is a real treat.
It’s a party
People of Szentendre aren’t only passive carers of culture, the city runs festivals all year around, easy and classical concerts, theatre performances and other cultural events.
Szentendre Plague Chasing Festival
One of the newest in the lines is the Szentendre Plague Chasing Festival. This cultural event based on the city’s legend regarding the disease became hugely popular immediately, thanks to the fact that during the 2-days long festival, you end up in a cavalcade that’s hard to get out of.
The main attraction is lines of dancers arriving from the Szentendre island by boat, who perform a death dance to accompanying music at the Danube promenade, bringing the disease to life.
It is during this performance that the huge dolls with distinctive motifs from the contemporary artists arrive to chase the disease away.
The boat race at the festival is equally popular, where competitors can challenge themselves in four different categories. In addition to these, concerts, themed city and artist walks, flag tossers, outdoor painting school awaits the anti-plague audience.
Unlike the young festival, the Ister-days, or the day of the Danube, looks back on decades of history.
This event built on the city’s traditions, nationalities and folk music is one of the most visited programs in Szentendre. At the festival organised at the Danube Promenade and the Postman Beach we can spend hours on sport events, skill competitions, concerts and boat trips.
Without doubt, the most spectacular part of the festival is the candle floating on the Danube on a Saturday night, which coates the already beautiful city in an unmatching atmosphere.
Szentendre Day-and-Night festival
The city really never rests, especially not during the well named, almost 20 years old Szentendre Day-and-Night festival.
The specialty of this event which is on the last week of summer every year, is that during these three days the citizens, artists, business and gallery owners leave their houses open for those interested, who can become part of “Szentendre” as directly as possible.
Gastro programmes, concerts, sightseeing walks, street festivals, markets await people who want to peek, to one of the most interesting programs of the year.
Why do I recommend for you to check out Szentendre?
You’re not human if you’re not going green after reading all that.
A place, which lays at one of the country’s prettiest locations, with a really unique atmosphere, rich history and colourful characteristic, where something interesting is always happening and the real issue is how to pick out of all the amazing opportunities.
Talk about hiking in the green or in the city, culture, art, visitors can find everything here. And this insatiability is what the city is constantly working so hard to satisfy. Let’s try it!
(Oh, and something else: don’t leave the city without trying the lángos from the alley!) 🙂