I visited the small town of Szentendre on a daytrip from Budapest. Often described as a small town with lovely architecture I have even seen those that say one day is not enough and two or three are necessary. I digress. Yes the town is small and beautiful and if you visit in winter as this blogger did and she noticed intricate details of the town including the design of the doors. However going in summer I got the impression of a tourist town devoid of signs of life. Yes there may be life in the town that depends on tourism just I couldn’t detect a heartbeat when every other building appeared to be a souvenir shop or food shop. I think its antithesis is my favourite city in Ukraine Chernihiv
However it’s not all negative, it has an interesting history
The town itself has up to 7 Orthodox Churches, a majority in this town despite the Orthodox population being miniscule in population statistics this town once had a very Serbian character and in fact a Serbian majority. In the 17th century Szentendre’s population and importance grew due to the influx of Serbs fleeing the Ottomans especially after the fall of Belgrade. With the amount of Turkish flags from souvenir shops and occasional kebab store you would not think that. However the town itself did eventually fall from the Ottomans but the Serb population has dwindled to around a 100 today. And it is not because of the Ottomans but restrictions replaces during the rule of the Habsburgs that they submit to the Hungarian king. After that the towns fortunes dwindled and it became a small town as today.
The architecture is beautiful whether of the churches or houses. There s a memorial cross built by the inhabitants for deliverance from the plague, cobblestones streets and alleys. In fact it is very easy to escape the tour groups and have streets to yourself literally by just walking a minute or two from the main street.
“The town is an extremely popular destination, with buses pouring tourists into the streets for a few hours of exploring. This is sometimes a turn-off for other visitors, …. Dare to wander off the main streets to find hidden shops, beautiful old homes, and quiet green spaces. Almost all the streets are cobblestones, so choose comfortable footwear.” Good advice.
There is also a well known open air museum where I did not go. I tried a Hungarian pizza at a very reasonable cost and left the town before late evening.
The Churches, Blagovestenska aside, disappointed me. I only entered three Orthodox Churches but only Blagovestenska seemed to be in active use and not a full-scale museum (the only that allowed veneration of the icons).
One of the Serb Orthodox churches just had a leaflet detailing the ‘works of art’ inside and a not free and not spectacular museum. Not because of the content but because you can find similar for free elsewhere and rather than a church it seemed to be content as an open air art museum with none of the usual required customs or proper attire required or encouraged. With such a small Orthodox population, the many remaining churches from the heydays seem to rely on such.