Just Outside Budapest
Szentendre, town of artists and Skanzen
This neat town with a decidedly Mediterranean feel to it lies barely 20 km from Budapest (suburban trains departing from Battyhyány Square every 20 minutes reach it in 30-40 minutes), and it has gained a solid reputation as a popular tourist excursion spot. Szentendre has preserved its 18-19th century compact and unified layout. Its picturesque setting on the Danube, its architecture and historical monuments all contributed to the formation over the years of colonies of painters, sculptors and artists who lived and still live today in Szentendre. Indeed, the very air seems to stimulate the creative juices! The town warmly welcomes the visitor, indulging them with its multitude of spectacular sights and a fascinating artistic presence.
Longobard cemeteries and Avar memorials are to be found here, and there is a particularly strong Serbian culture all around, brought here by Serb communities fleeing a Turkish onslaught in the late 17th century. Most of the houses which once belonged to wealthy merchants are now museums, but the Greek Orthodox churches still function and visiting hours are fixed for times between masses which dazzle the onlooker in all their Baroque pomp, as dies the Rococo iconostasis. All the listed houses in the centre have found new functions: a restaurant famed throughout Hungary operates from the attic of one, and in another the visitor is served fine cakes and coffee specialities in a cosy café.
There are gourmet delicacies for the body and enchanting exhibitions for the mind. In fact the galleries, workshops, exhibition centres and museums just come one after the other. Seven or eight galleries deal with the marketing of art. If anyone becomes particularly interested in any one of the artists, a studio visit can be arranged. An exhibition of works by Lajos Vajda, Dezső Korniss, Endre Bálint and Piroska Szántó is set up in the Hunyadi Street old merchant's house, No.1 Vastagh György Street preserves ceramics by Margit Kovács whose works have enjoyed international acclaim for many decades, while the art of Jenő Barcsay is displayed in Dumtsa Jenő Street. Not far from here, an unusual museum shows just how far a skilled artisan can extend the boundaries of his trade.
The Marzipan Museum displays how far the plasticity and colouring of this marvellous and delicious sweetmeat can - in the right hands - be moulded into just about any shape one could imagine. These works of art stay locked up in the display cases, but many more can be sampled at the confectionery next door. It would be easy to spend a whole day strolling about the town and along the Danube embankment, taking lunch and perhaps an afternoon coffee and cake, and yet there is still another important place to see.
Szentendre is home to the first (and still the largest) skanzen or open-air museum in Hungary. This park displays the continual development of vernacular architecture from all the regions of original buildings typical of their area carefully dismantled and rebuilt in their new home, the Szentendre skanzen. The rooms come fully furnished with period furniture, linens and beautiful needlework characteristic of the region in question, the kitchens display fireplaces and pots and pans, the pantries have original containers for foods, sacks and wickerwork baskets, while the stables are full of all the essential equipment for animal husbandry. Museum experts revive the everyday life and holidays of the old peasant way of living.
Source: Budapesti Turisztikai Kht, Budapest Guide, 2003