I’m a sucker for Roman history and will take any and every opportunity to see Roman ruins when I’m travelling. Today, we visit Aquincum. The area of Aquincum was originally settled, sometime between the third and forth centuries BC, by the ancient Celtic tribe called the Eravisci. Little is known about the tribe, but it is known, based on archaeological artifacts they worked with pottery, created jewelry, had coins made out of silver, and worked with iron. The fact the Eravasci used coins sets them apart from other Celtic tribes and societies.
The Romans conquered them around 12BC and the Romans turned the settlement into a military and civilian settlement. There is evidence that the Eravasci culture continued during this early part of Roman occupation based on tombstone reliefs that include Celtic jewelry and Celtic clothing.
The Roman settlement of Aquincum was given full Roman privileges which, in the ruins today, you can see parts of the underground heating system as well as the sewer systems that were more than just gutters running down the streets. While today we can only see about 1/3 of the ruins, it is a wonderful time to wander through the ancient streets and see where once stood temples, houses, baths, and shops.
The museum is not very large but has some really interesting artifacts, the most beautiful being the mosaics. But the most fascinating thing to me was the Aquincum water organ. Discovered in 1931, the inscription on the organ states that it was presented in 228AD by Gaius Julius Viatorinus to the collegium of textile dealers. Viatorinus was an important official in the Aquincum Civil Town council. Craftsmen created and joined associations based on their various occupations. The organ had 52 pipes and was built using wood, leather, bronze and copper. In the museum the docent started the short video that includes being able to hear what the organ sounded like. It was beautiful and amazing that something this technical not only was built so long ago, but many of the parts have survived.
The Romans lost the area when in 896 seven Magyars tribes joined forces and the tribes then settled in the Aquincum.
Roman ruins have been found throughout the Budapest area. We stopped at one location where there was an amphitheater and another place that is under a highway overpass where there once were baths. We couldn’t access the baths as the highway overpass is old and not maintained and considered a hazard.
Returning from the ruins, we were dropped off near the city market, which was also within walking distance of our hotel. We were told that you could buy quality leather and souvenirs inside as well as see the food market where the locals in Budapest shop. Other then the lovely food kiosks, it was a huge disappointment. There was nothing of high quality in the building as far as local items you would want to bring home. What was there was mostly imported, cheap, and repetitive. We stopped and purchased fresh paprika from one food kiosk because well… we all love paprika at my house and I wanted fresh spices. The outside of the building is beautiful – but it was a waste otherwise.
We walked from the market through small streets towards our hotel hoping to find some good chocolate. We stumbled into a chocolate café where marzipan is made locally and I confess, we loaded up our arms to bring it home!
After dropping off the marzipan in our room and getting a cold drink of …… water …… we decided to take a taxi up to Gellert Hill as we didn’t get to stop there the day before.
Gellert hill is like one giant park with walking trails, a playground for children and lots of quiet places to sit quietly and contemplate or have a picnic. It’s a short hike up Gellert Hill to see the Citadel and the Statue of Liberty. The hill, named after Bishop Gellert who was killed when pagans chose not to convert to Christianity, also was a pilgrimage destination in the 17th century during the Turkish times. Afterward it was covered in vineyards and then finally the Habsburgs built the Citadel beginning in 1848.
While there is a lot of construction on the hill and you can’t get all the way to the statue, nor is the Citadel open, there were beautiful views overlooking Budapest.
In 1947, the lady Liberty was built to commemorate the lives sacrificed during World War II for the independence and freedom of Hungary from the Nazi Germans. What happened next though wasn’t altogether planned by the people as Hungary became part of the Russian empire and fell under their rule for another 50 years before they once again were an independent country.
As we wandered down the hill on the other side towards the Rock Church of our Lady of Hungary, we were able to get a few nice glimpses of The Liberty Statue also called the Freedom Statue.
Once on the other side of the hill, sits The Cave Church which was inspired by Our Lady of Lourdes church in France. The cave church was started in the caves in the 1920’s and the church was finished about 1931 by the Pauline Monks. The Monks still own the church to this day and it holds regular services. Between the 1950’s to the 1990’s, The Cave Church was sealed shut by the communists. It was very peaceful and I have so enjoyed each of the rock cave churches/monasteries we visited on this trip. We found the inside of the church to be very peaceful.
The following day was our last one in the city of Budapest. It was a relaxation day and a chance to enjoy the streets and shops. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the National Museum as I had read there were some Impressionist paintings and I love that era of art. Plus, the Pope had finally moved towards the Parliament building so it only took a short wait while security gates were dismantled. We thoroughly enjoyed the museum and indeed we experienced some of my favorite painters. It’s not a large museum but it was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the afternoon.
Claude Monet “Breakwater at Trouville, Low Tide”
Left: Paul Gauguin, Garden under Snow, Center: Renoir Right: Paul Cezanne, “The Buffet”
Claude Monet “Plum Trees”
We found several Hungarian artists whose art we also enjoyed very much. Many artists studied under the masters of Impressionism, but others had their own distinct ideas. We loved the work of Karoly Ferenczy who is csonsidered the father of Hungarian Impressionism. He help found the Nagybánya artists’ colony in 1896.
Hungarian artist Artur Halmi, “After the Exam”.
Another of our favorite Hungarian artists is Artur Halmi. The detail and expressions on faces are incredible. Halmi moved to Germany in 1886 and later to New York City where he died in 1939.
Below Left: Karoly Ferenczy “Sunny Morning” Center: Karoly Ferenczy “Picnic in May” Right: Bela Ivanyi-Grunwald (Hungarian) “Drying Clothes”
Left: Aurel Bernath (Hungarian) “Morning Window” Center: Jozsef Borsos (Hungarian), “Girls after the Ball” Right: Albert Bierstadt, “Moat Mountain” (German American painter)
Left: Karoly Ferenczy (Hungarian) “Picnic in May” Center: Right: August Renoir “Eternal Spring”
As our time in Budapest comes to a close, we have one last Michelin dinner at Babbel. Then tomorrow we head towards Slovakia and on to Prague. Bob and I have loved our time in Budapest and we have many memories of our 4 days exploring Hungary.