Eger in Hungary is, yet again, inimitable in itself. Well-known as a wine growing center, its thermal baths and Turkish Minaret reflect the 91 years of Ottoman rule (1596-1687). In around 1000 AD, St. Stephen, first king of Hungary, founded a bishopric in Eger. The town’s religious importance led to the construction of a castle for its protection in 1248, built around a Romanesque cathedral. The castle, famous for repelling the Turks’ attack during the Siege of Eger (1552), is in ruins today. The Romanesque church no longer exists. Instead, the classical 19th Century Eger Basilica in the town center stands grand and towering, surrounded by numerous later churches.
Eastern Europe’s medieval squares continue on to Sopron in Hungary, with its walls and foundations going back to the Roman empire. There is often something particular about a place that lingers on within us, long after we leave it. With Sopron, it was the Benedictine Church for me. Set up by the Franciscan friars in 1280, it has absorbed Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences over the centuries, and moved from its original Franciscan order to the current Benedictine one in 1802. It is neither grand nor artistically profound. Yet a sense of continuity hovers over it with serenity …