A Travellerspoint blog

Bucharest to Budapest

Pecs, Hungary

rain 69 °F

Our final excursion of this trip was to a hidden gem called Pecs, Hungary - a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its episcopate was founded in 1009 by Stephen I, and the first university in Hungary was founded in Pécs in 1367 by Louis I the Great. (The largest university still resides in Pécs with about 34,000 students). Pécs was formed into one of the cultural and arts center of the country by bishop Janus Pannonius, great humanist poet. Pécs has a rich heritage from the age of a 150-year-long Ottoman occupation, like the mosque of Pasha Qasim the Victorious on Széchenyi square. Pécs always was a multicultural city where many cultural layers are encrusted melting different values of the history of two thousand years. Hungarians, Croatians and Swabians still live in peace together in economic and cultural polarity. In 1998 Pécs was given the UNESCO prize Cities for peace for maintaining the cultures of the minorities, and also for its tolerant and helping attitude toward refugees of the Yugoslav Wars.

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The Sts. Peter and Paul's Cathedral Basilica foundations of are from the Roman period, around the fourth century. It is believed that at the site of the cathedral today an early Christian basilica, which spread westwards between the eighth and ninth centuries. Under the reign of Stephen I, the decision to modify the construction and, presumably, the two western towers date from this period was taken. After a great fire of 1064 was carried out construction of the Romanesque basilica, with the participation of Italian architects. In the Middle Ages the church was enlarged with two lateral towers and Gothic chapels.

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Posted by rpickett 06:23 Archived in Hungary Tagged pecs Comments (0)

Bucharest to Budapest

Ilok, Croatia

sunny 90 °F

After a leisurely morning, we arrived in Ilok, Croatia - one of Croatia's main wine regions and headed out in town for a wine tasting at the Ilocki Podrumi. The area of present-day Ilok was populated since the neolithic and Bronze Ages. The Romans settled there in the 1st or 2nd century and built Cuccium, the first border fortification on the Danube. The Slavs settled here in the 6th century, and the Serbs arrived here probably after the collapse of the second Avar Khanate. The area was later ruled by the Bulgarian Empire, until it was included into the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Iločki Podrumi, located in the Srijem wine growing region of northeastern Croatia, administers one of the oldest wine cellars in Croatia, dating back to the 15th Century. Iločki Podrumi produces wines made from graševina, traminac (gewürztraminer), chardonnay, frankovka (blaufränkisch), and cabernet sauvignon, as well as specializes in award-winning late harvest and ice wines.

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Posted by rpickett 06:07 Archived in Croatia Tagged ilok Comments (0)

Bucharest to Budapest

Belgrade

sunny 90 °F

Today was a busy day, as we had tours both in the morning and afternoon. We started with a city tour of Belgrade, a city that has truly embraced the West in every way. Our first stop was the Kalemegdan Fortress, which is now a wonderful park in the heart of the city. Belgrade Fortress is the core and the oldest section of the urban area of Belgrade. For centuries the city population was concentrated only within the walls of the fortress, and thus the history of the fortress, until most recent times, equals the history of Belgrade itself. The first mention of the city is when it was founded in the 3rd century BC as "Singidunum" by the Celtic tribe of Scordisci, who had defeated Thracian and Dacian tribes that previously lived in and around the fort. The city-fortress was later conquered by the Romans, was known as Singidunum and became a part of "the military frontier", where the Roman Empire bordered "barbarian Central Europe". Singidunum was defended by the Roman legion IV Flaviae, which built a fortified camp on a hill at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava rivers. In the period between AD 378 and 441 the Roman camp was repeatedly destroyed in the invasions by the Goths and the Huns. Legend says that Attila's grave lies at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube (under the fortress). In 476 Belgrade again became the borderline between the empires: the Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), and the Slav-Avar State in the north.

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We then continued our tour of the city and stopped at St. Sava Cathedral, started some 80 years ago, and planned to be completed in the next 25 years. "The Temple of Saint Sava") is a Serbian Orthodox church located on the Vračar plateau in Belgrade. It is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and ranks among the largest church buildings in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. It is built on the Vračar plateau, on the location where his remains were burned in 1595 by Ottoman Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha. From its location, it dominates Belgrade's cityscape, and is perhaps the most monumental building in the city.

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We then went back into the city center and had a few minutes to walk around the lengthy pedestrian walkway with it numerous shops and department stores.

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After lunch our first stop was the observation tower on Mount Avala. The views of the city and countryside were wonderful.

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We then headed to a small family run distillery to taste Serbia's best 10 year old Plum Brandy. Brandy is a passion in Serbia and most families have a still (legal) where the brew a variety of different fruit brandies. Needless to say, it was a peaceful ride back to the ship!

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Posted by rpickett 23:38 Archived in Serbia Tagged belgrade Comments (0)

Bucharest to Budapest

Iron Gate Gorge

sunny 87 °F

This morning we traversed the Iron Gate 2 double lock and entered the Iron Gate Gorge. Iron Gate, Romanian Porţile de Fier, Serbo-Croatian Gvozdena Vrata, the last gorge of the Ðerdap gorge system on the Danube River, dividing the Carpathian and Balkan mountains and forming part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. It is about 2 miles (3 km) long and 530 feet (162 metres) wide, with towering rock cliffs that make it one of the most dramatic natural wonders of Europe. Near the town of Sip a large rock reef (called Perigrada) obstructed nearly the whole width of the river until the construction of the Sip Canal in 1896. A joint development project of Romania and Yugoslavia on the Danube River (including a dam and hydroelectric power plant) was completed in 1972, providing equal amounts of energy to each country and quadrupling the annual tonnage of shipping. The name Iron Gate is commonly applied to the whole 90-mile- (145-kilometre-) long gorge system. The rest of the day had a variety of special events including a Balkan BBQ sampling and an Ice Cream party squeezed in between lunch, tea and dinner. Plenty of food for all!
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Our final sight in the Iron Gate area was the Golubac Castle and the Babaqai Rock. The fortress, which was most likely built during the 14th century, is split into three compounds which were built in stages. It has ten towers, most of which started square, and several of which received many-sided reinforcements with the advent of firearms. Golubac Fortress has had a tumultuous history. Prior to its construction it was the site of a Roman settlement. During the Middle Ages, it became the object of many battles, especially between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. It changed hands repeatedly, passing between Turks, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Serbs, and Austrians, until 1867, when it was turned over to the Serbian Knez, Mihailo Obrenović III. Now, it is a popular tourist attraction in the region and a sightseeing point on Danube boat tours.

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Posted by rpickett 09:44 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged gate iron Comments (0)

Bucharest to Budapest

Ruse and Vidin

sunny 89 °F

This morning we moved across the river from Romania to Ruse, Bulgaria. As we were not inclined for another 8 hour tour, we rested on the ship and walked around the town. Scholars suggest that the city on the river bank derived its present name from the root *ru- ("river", "stream") or from the Cherven fortress, meaning red, through the root rous, which is present in many Slavic languages. A popular legend claims that the name Ruse comes from the name of a female founder of the city, whose name was Rusa, meaning "blond hair". In the 13th and 14th centuries, during the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire, a fortified settlement called Rusi, first mentioned in 1380, emerged near the ruins of the earlier Roman town. Other theories include: settlement by people from Rus'; a connection to the village of Rusokastro in Burgas Province; an unattested tribe of Getae with a name such as Riusi, or; the pagan festival of Rosalia.
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We then cruised overnight and arrived at Vadin, Bulgaria at about 1400. We hopped on the bus, and made the one hour drive to the Belogradshik fortress. The Belogradchik Fortress, also known as Kaleto (Калето, "the fortress" from Turkish kale), is an ancient fortress located on the north slopes of the Balkan Mountains, close to the northwestern Bulgarian town of Belogradchik and is the town's primary cultural and historical tourist attraction, drawing, together with the Belogradchik Rocks, the main flow of tourists into the region. It is one of the best-preserved strongholds in Bulgaria and a cultural monument of national importance. The fortress's walls are over 2 metres (6.6 ft) thick in the foundation and reaching up to 12 m (39 ft) in height. Three separate fortified yards exist that are connected with each other through gates. The fortress has a total area of 10,210 square metres (109,900 sq ft). The Belogradchik Fortress was reconstructed to later become a proclaimed cultural monument. It is managed by the local historical museum authority.

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We then traveled back to Vadin and took a quick tour of the Baba Vida Fortress before walking back to the ship. The construction of the fortress began in the 10th century at the place of the Ancient Roman castell Bononia. The building of Baba Vida is tied to a legend, according to which a Danubian Bulgarian king who ruled at Vidin had three daughters: Vida, Kula and Gamza. Prior to his death, he divided his realm among the three. Vida, the eldest, was given Vidin and the lands north to the Carpathians, Kula was awarded Zaječar and the Timok Valley, and Gamza was to rule the lands west up to the Morava. Although Gamza and Kula married to drunkard and warlike nobles, Vida remained unmarried and built the fortress in her city. The name of the castle means "Granny Vida".

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This evening after dinner, a local youth group boarded the ship and treated us to some local Bulgarian fold dancing.

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Posted by rpickett 01:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged and ruse vadin Comments (0)

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