Thursday, July 14, 2016

Riding Day 5: to Esztergom

On the way out of Komarno, Chad was amused to notice the Zlaty Bazant factory (this was one of the common beers of the area).

This day was another fine day of following the bike trails, but in contrast to the previous day, the highlight was the sightseeing once we got into our destination for the night.

Here, you can see the Basilica of Esztergom as we saw it on our approach from the other side of the river.  It is the largest church in Hungary, and contains an impressive collection of highly decorated church objects in its treasure room (no photographs allowed).  Seven different churches, dating back to the 11th century have stood on the site -- the first one was where our old buddy King Stephen I was crowned; the consecration of the current incarnation was celebrated with a newly composed mass by Franz Liszt.  Bits and pieces of the older structures still remain, including one entire side chapel.

The basilica has a fine pipe organ with pipes ranging in size from 10 m all the way down to 7mm.  Somewhere I read that it is the loudest organ in all of Hungary.

The painting over the altar , at 13.5 x 6.6 meters, is supposedly the world's largest painting on a single piece of canvas.  It is hard to appreciate the scale of the place from the photo.

We liked the decorative floor.

One of the things included in our ticket was entrance to the dome on the top.  To get there one has go up the spiral staircase,

enjoy the views at the midlevel,

go up and up and up the next smaller spiral staircase, getting dizzy in the process,

go through the space between the inner and outer domes,

enjoy the crazy echoes in said space,

and pop out at the top.

As you might imagine, the views were truly spectacular.

On our way back down, while on the the narrow looong spiral staircase, guess who we met going up?  You guessed it -- the noisy French group!  Argh.  It became apparent that they were somewhat large and unsteady in addition to being numerous and noisy, but they were also quite cheerful and laughed their way through the stairwell at the ridiculousness of trying to maneuver people in both directions on the narrow stairway.  I did note at this point that, while we had taken the time to check into the hotel and clean up before visiting the basilica, they had not, and were still in full cycling regalia.

Nim was so done with stairs at this point.  So we found more stairs for her :)

This set headed up to the bell tower.

Chad admired the large bell.  It weighs about the same as a large elephant.

After we went down all the stairs, Chad and I kept going down to explore the crypt.  Nim though that was too creepy, and stayed in the main church area.

One thing that Nimue surprisingly thought was cool rather than creepy was a wall display upstairs showing the steps of the recent project of exhuming the skull of Saint Ladislaus from its skull reliquary so that it could be scanned and an image of that former king of Hungary reconstructed from the scan.  In case you were wondering, Saint Ladislaus was the grandson of one of Saint Istvan's cousins.

After thoroughly exploring the interior of the basilica, we circumnavigated it, finding interesting nooks and crannies along the way, followed by dinner in a restaurant in the former archbishop's wine cellar.

Daily total: 55 km

Daily total for following day (Day 6) to Budapest: 61 km  Most of that last day back into Budapest has been covered in other posts, but I should mention that it started out with us showing up at breakfast at 7:05, only to find that the French horde of locusts was staying at the same hotel and had beat us to the buffet and cleaned it out.  We were glad that hadn't happened on the other days -- we must have avoided it because we were mostly staying in smaller places.  Fortunately, more food appeared by the time we drank our first cappucinos and ate the last remaining pastry.

No comments: