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Trip Vibes | Szentendre, Hungary

Colorful single or double-story houses, churches, narrow alleys, cobblestone streets along the Danube – truly lovely, small town vibe and a lot of artistic references in just a 30-minute drive from the capital. No wonder it is one of the favorite weekend spots of the citizens of Budapest in addition to Normafa and Margaret Island. Of course Szentendre – and not only its city center! – is worth visiting also during the weekend and on weekdays: the foggy riverbanks, the empty streets can carry us away even more.

In our “Trip Vibes” series, we also invite a creative expert connected to the spot presented in one way or another to share their thoughts about the given place, allowing our readers to explore the selected locations through their perspectives, too. In relation to Szentendre, we asked visual artist Erika Baglyas, the founder of the DOT for You brand.

We like to approach Szentendre’s center along the stream of the Bükkös – it’s a nice opening act to our walk. Even though we’re still in nature, the town unfolds slowly before our eyes: in addition to the lovely buildings, most of them subject to monument protection, a romantic bridge and a number of church towers also enrich the cityscape. The latter are, by the way, also important in terms of the structure of the town, shaped by the districts of the nationalities living here – Serbians, Croatians, Poles, Romanians, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Greeks– and the churches located in their centers.

Walking towards the main square, we pass many Baroque and Zopf style buildings: Hungarian traders offer their artisan products in these to this day. It’s nice to stop and look at shop windows while sipping a cup of coffee bought in Szamos to go, and just soak the ambience of the place all in. They were just setting up the Christmas tree on Fő tér while we were there, which is the center of the former Serbian quarter and the historical old town at the same time. The cross of the Serbian Traders’ Association stands in the middle of the square, erected in 1763 to commemorate the lucky fact that the Black Plague avoided the town. The square also gives home to the Szentendre Gallery, the Blagoveštenska Greek Orthodox Church and Ferenczy Museum.

It is for good reason that it is called the “town of painters” – in addition to churches, Szentendre is also full of museums and memorial houses. The art settlement of Szentendre founded by the Szentendre Painter’s Association in 1929 continues to be an active cultural center to this day. In addition to Károly Ferenczy who was a citizen of Szentendre, Jenő Barcsay, Lajos Vajda and Margit Kovács also have permanent exhibitions here. These exhibitions are currently closed due to the epidemic, but once things get better, you should visit them all. Not to mention the Skanzen, showcasing the way of life, home culture, folk architecture and economy of Hungarian language regions in an authentic environment from the mid-18th century to the first half of the 20th century. 

In addition to these sights, there are plenty of other things to see in the town and its environment, but it’s also nice to just wander around. Roaming around on narrow stairs and streets, stopping to admire a gorgeous window, eating a piece of lángos, and then closing the program with a walk on the marvelous Danube promenade. The chilly, misty riverbank also has its beauty – scenes from Béla Tarr movies keep popping up in our minds, and we don’t mind it at all.

Erika Baglyas, the founder of the DOT for You brand has been living in Szentendre for years. While initially the town only meant an escape from the buzz of the city and a shelter for her, today – owing to a fateful meeting – she can say it from the bottom of her heart: Szentendre is her home. This time we asked Erika about what this place means to her and how it affects her.

“A few years ago, I longed to escape my life at the time. Living in Budapest, my days went by quickly and hastily: exhibitions, openings, articles, interviews, cultural buzz, launching my own small business, meetings, people, relationships. But in my private life I felt sad and I didn’t feel that my professional life gave the right energy to me either. Moving to Szentendre meant a sort of exodus to me. I found the silence and isolation in the house of my dear friends, for which I have been longing from the buzz of the city. I will be forever grateful to them for this, because they helped me in my deepest moments and they did this for years. I have lived in Szentendre ever since – not within the classic walls of the old part of town, but on the edge, on the waterfront full of trees, near Pap-sziget, in a small cabin. I have been a transient for years, I commuted to Budapest regularly due to my work and commitments. I loved the side of Szentendre particularly when after the tourist season the empty city embraces me with its abandoned streets and hidden treasures into its historical silence. It was a miracle to arrive and to return here every day, but this town was not my home. I am a visual artist, yet I didn’t come to the town of painters for art. Looking back I realize I came here for love. For my other half, my partner, whom I met here. Of course I didn’t know this at the time. Looking back it all feels so fateful: like it was all written before, that I needed to move to this city for this lifelong relationship years ago. Today it is my home, now I come back home to Szentendre.”

Photos: Lili Farkas-Zentai
Portrait: Milán Rácmolnár
Illustration: Róbert Farkas

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