Autumn Wanderings in the Medieval Spirit: 3 Castle Tours You Shouldn’t Miss in Hungary
Hungary's countryside is enriched with jaw-dropping medieval castles, among which, several have been renovated recently. I would like to introduce you to three of my favourites. Even though we just had to say goodbye to the long indian summer, the weather is still in our favour for a trip. There’s no better thing to do, than to explore Hungary's 3 best medieval castles.
1. Where literature and history collide: Eger
History of the Castle of Eger and its siege of 1552 has been familiar to every Hungarian middle schooler for generations, making arriving to the Castle a little nostalgic. Wandering among the stone walls and strongholds of this enormous, irregularly shaped fortress we are exploring more and more from the panorama overviewing Dobó Square, the old town, and the vineyards stretching on the hills in the distance.
Numerous exhibitions await tourists in daytime, like the one about the cold cells of the prison, the one on the Heroes Hall in the gothic Bishop Palace, or the wax museum showing the heroes of Eclipse of the Crescent Moon (highly appreciated Hungarian novel about the siege of Eger in 1552 taught in elementary school).
The Castle Movie Theatre provides a view on how the castle might have looked like 500 years ago. If you’re visiting in the evening, you should definitely get a walk ticket, as there is no activity more majestic, than watching the sunset from the Castle’s highest point, the Szép-Bastion.
The most significant period of the Castle’s history is bound to the 1552 siege by the Turkish, when István Dobó and his soldiers defeated the Turkish army. Although the walls got seriously damaged -the reparation of which Gergely Bornemissza was responsible - the Gergely-Bastion stands for his work . In 1596 after II. Mehmed successfully occupied the castle, maintenance and extension works had been done by the Turkish for 91 years.
The glory of the Castle was fading through the following centuries and sometimes the stones of the Castle’s walls were re-used in construction works in the town. In the past few years huge reconstruction works have been executed, the Turkish Garden, the castle walkway, and the Szép-Bastion got renovated. 200 metres extra way has been opened to the public in the underground dungeon.
2. Castle of Balaton: Szigliget
Anyone who has been to Szigliget and managed to climb the stiff but short path, already knows the magnificent view from the top of the upper castle tower. The location of the Szigliget Castle allows us to look at the western part of Balaton: opposite are the two mountains of the southern shores - the mountains of Balatonboglár and Fonyód - as well as the witness mountains of Badacsony next to the szigliget mountain.
Long and short of it, it is worth to visit the Castle (you can intensify the experience with the use of the coin-operated telescopes), and if you are already there, you will certainly dig deeper into the Castle’s history.
The history of the Szigliget Castle can be explored in the Teaching House (or Gallery) under the Castle. The movie was also made by Pazirik, here is a trailer.
Not only Szigliget, but several other castles have been built on mountaintops in this era (like Rezi, Tátika, Csobánc, Tihany and Sümeg), but this castle was built record time: two years. Although it has not reached its final form, its location and strategic advantages appealed for the king so much, that he occupied it from the Order of Saint Benedict, and gave them another land.
As every castle, Szigliget was owned by many families. In the Turkish times its importance in defence was emphasised, and therefore Bálint Magyar, a border fort knight respected greatly both by the Turkish and Hungarian sides, became the captain of Szigliget and Fonyód. Stories about his heroic acts and strength would fill a feature film on their own: he managed to solve the most hopeless situations and protected the Castle until his death. We know from his letters, that he was simultaneously fighting at Szigliget, Tihany and Fonyód.
3. Symbol of heroism: Szigetvár
The story of Szigetvár is not only well-known in Hungary, but also got implemented into European culture as a symbol of heroism and altruism. In the Turkish siege of 1566 the captain, Miklós Zrínyi held the fort for 34 days with 2300 Hungarian and Croatian soldiers against the 80-thousand Turkish army, which was extremely important in order to intervene with the occupation of Vienna. As the hopelessness of the battle became obvious, Zrínyi broke out of the flaming castle with his remaining army to die in a heroic fight.
The sultan couldn’t celebrate the victory, as he was dead days before the fight, but the Turkish army had no clue about it, as they kept the news in secret. After the siege the Castle was occupied by the Turkish for 123 years, for which stands in remembrance the mosque of Sulejman and the minaret with Persian-Arabic letters on the side of the prayer chamber.
Zrínyi Days are organized every year in the castle. Joining the celebration, visitors can be drawn back to the Castle’s middle age life and get to know the history of the siege and the Castle. Of course, you are allowed to do it any other day, as the castle is awaiting visitors with open museum exhibitions. Walking in the Castle park and around the walls can also mean an unforgettable experience.
Szigetvár has became famous worldwide in the past few years, thanks for the highly plausible discovery of the grave of I. Sulejman Turkish sultan, where his intestines were burried, a location that had been unknown for centuries.