Europe Travel News

Go beyond Budapest: Abbeys and old towns

The gothic wonder that is Budapest is a trip in and of itself. However, Hungary as a whole offers cultural riches that go well beyond the borders of its booming capital. A fuller tour of Hungary reveals beautiful and sobering sojourns into the historic and rural. 

Ancient abbeys
The Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma sits astride a sacred mountain in a former Roman province, and has housed a monastic community for over 1,000 years. The abbey there has been home to some impressive alumna - The Benedictine monks, traveling from Bohemian and German regions, settled in the region in 996, and went on to found the country's first school. By 1055, they had written the first document in Hungarian, according to the UNSECO.

That monastic community witnessed the era of the Christian Crusades and Hungarian invasions, but the monastery that stands there today - a gorgeous, well-proportioned building comprised of turquoise domes, rust brown roofs and white walls - is only an iteration of its older self. The original abbey was burned down in the 12th century, and rebuilt slowly over hundreds of years. It was damaged again in 1575, occupied by the Turks in 1594 and became home to a new library by the 19th century. It is now one of Hungary's many world heritage sites, as declared by UNESCO.

Apart from the monastic complex, travelers can explore the nearby oak forest, which provides a beautiful natural balance to the regal monastery. There is also a botanical garden, made up of native and exotic plants and hedgerows.

The old country
Holloko is an old village that has rigorously adhered to conservation and tradition. So ardent in its ways is Holloko that it earned its world heritage status from UNESCO simply by being a well-preserved settlement from before the agricultural revolution in the 20th century.

With its old ways comes a classic folk legend. According to Frommer's, a maiden was kidnapped by a lord, and her witch nurse made a pact with the devil to return the girl home safely. The devil's agents took the form of ravens and stole all the stones of the lord's castle. The current castle of Holloko was supposedly built on that spot.

One of the more amazing aspects of its preservation is its relatively small population, with only 400 residents calling the village home. Easter is a great time to visit, when villagers don colorful dress.

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