We Cannot Escape History
Arriving on the outer edge of Székesfehérvár you are greeted by high rise apartment complexes. They are as much a monument to what happened here during World War II as any memorial.
The concrete blocks are the architectural response to destruction wrought upon the city by a ferocious battle that raged in and around the Székesfehérvár in 1944.
Over 10,000 Hungarians were killed in the fighting not to mention the countless German and Russian soldiers who lost their lives. The Russians were trying to finish an encirclement of the Budapest sector.
Székesfehérvár was at ground zero in the fight to close that circle.
On a street leading from the railway station to the Belváros (Inner City) the only other sight of note besides the mind numbing high rise flats is the Soviet War Memorial.
This memorial is pristinely kept, but it does not escape one’s attention that its gates are kept locked. This was most probably done to ward off those who might take umbrage at the Red Army’s role as “liberators.”
The ravages of World War II follow along the same lines as an alarming pattern in Székesfehérvár’s history.
Once the coronation and burial site for Hungarian royalty (39 kings and 37 queens were crowned here and 15 buried) up until the mid-16th century, the city has not only been conquered, but has suffered destruction much worse than what happened in World War II. The Ottomán Turks took the town in 1543.
The castle which had repelled even the Mongols three hundred years before fell to the Sultan’s troops. The conquerors then proceeded to totally destroy the town’s medieval buildings while also desecrating the graves of Hungary’s greatest monarchs.
Székesfehérvár’s past can best be summed up in the phrase “We cannot escape history.” And with all that weighing heavily on the mind, it is a pleasant surprise to see that there is still plenty of history here.
The visitor is pleasantly surprised to discover the city’s beautifully preserved Baroque Belvaros (Inner City). Narrow alleyways and glorious churches tower above the serpentine inner streets
A host of monuments celebrate both a royal and warring past. Two stunning World War I monuments remind the curious of the “War to end all wars” terrifyingly high fatality rate. The citizens of Székesfehérvár found worse to come a mere twenty-five years later.
Even the Franciscan Church is not immune to the memories of war. On one side a contorted cross is displayed. Its twisted arms symbolically evoke the lost revolution of 1956.
Amid all this tragedy we still find ourselves marveling at the city’s ability to recreate itself: proud and heroic. It just goes to prove that even though Székesfehérvár did not escape history it does know how to confront it.
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