Taking you back to Hungary once more and continuing on our adventurous day with Péter, Csilla and the boys, our next stop was The Füzéri Var (Füzér castle) which is one of Hungary’s oldest castles.
Located in the northern part of the Zemplén Mountains near the Slovak border, the Füzéri Var, a 13th century fortress, sits atop a steep cliff of volcanic stone. The fortress was originally built as a defense against the Turks and was constructed during the reign of István V, King of Hungary and Croatia. Although ruined by the Hapsburg dynasty in the 18th century in a show of power to quash any attempts at another uprising like the one lead by Rákóczi Ferenc II, a significant part of the castle, including a beautiful Gothic chapel, are still standing.
It is quite a hike to get to the castle itself and Mat, who is an expert on Military history (and history in general for that matter) was impressed by the strategic positioning of the castle. “Do you have any idea what it would have taken to build a fortress of this magnitude all the way up here?” he pronounced, expressing his astonishment.
While the hike is not for the weak, it is certainly doable and the gorgeous unmarred forest canopy almost makes you feel as though you have traveled back through time and into a fairy tale (or Outlander – I know, I’m a nerd).
The castle itself is not nearly as restored as some of the other castles we visited in Hungary and the stairs that you have to climb up (and worse, down) are a bit precarious, so much so that Dédi decided to turn around halfway through the climb – She and Csilla returned to the base camp to wait for us. Big Guy is a bit of a daredevil so I was silently praying that he wouldn’t fall and hurt himself on our ascent. Of course, Little Man was determined to show everyone that he is a big boy and able to do anything that his brother could do, which was also putting me a bit on edge. Thankfully I had help from Péter who, after raising two boys, was well aware of the importance of keeping up with your big brother, so he followed Little Man closely and was ready to grab him at a moment’s notice if the need should arise.
We ran into a couple of friendly young backpackers enjoying the view from the castle summit that caused Big Guy to be concerned that they had been sprayed by a skunk (I’m pretty sure they had just been smoking a bunch of pot but I didn’t really want to explain that to my child). He kept telling us to be on the lookout for skunks. The backpackers, as I’m sure you can imagine, were quite amused.
The least damaged part of the castle was its Gothic style chapel, which could seriously host an insanely romantic wedding. I think it was my favorite part of the castle.
The castle views are breathtaking and when we got to the highest castle tower we were there just in time to see the swallows putting on a show. It was a windy day and there were hundreds and hundreds of swallows windsurfing. They looked like little tiny hang gliders and were clearly having a great time. It was so cool to see. Unfortunately, pictures did not do them justice at all. It was a magical moment though. The boys, as usual, were most fascinated by the cannons. What is it with boys and weapons?
After our castle tour and hike, we were on our way to dinner when we pulled off to the side of the road to fill up our water bottles. All over Hungary there are these roadside water pumps where you can get drinking water (they are a lot like the water fountains in Italy). David had quite an adventure figuring out how to make the pump work, but once he did, he got it working so well that he nearly drenched himself.