The Turul of Hungary

The path up to Buda Castle winds past flowering chestnut trees to reach the Turul on the Habsburg Gate © Barb Sligl
Learning about legends in Budapest, where mythical birds tell of ancient connections

Budapest. It’s my location right now, and during my first full day here, I crossed the Danube river from Pest to Buda to climb the Castle Hill…up, up, winding along a path amongst blooming chestnut trees and up stairs, up and up, until I found myself under the widespread wings of a giant, imposing bird. The dark, avian figure grasps a sword on the edge of the ornate Habsburg Gate, as if ready to take flight and defend this seat of Hungarian power.

The Turul is a mythical, falcon-like bird of prey, and one of the more powerful symbols of Hungary. Said to have appeared in a dream of Emese, married to a descendant of Atilla the Hun, after which she became impregnated with the forefather of the founder of Hungary, the Turul tells of the Hun-Magyar connection and carries the flaming Sword of God and spirit of the people.

It’s the stuff of legends and standing under this bird, atop Buda and overlooking the Danube, I feel its power. This is what I love about travel, hearing these stories, learning about such links (Hungarians are descended from Atilla the Hun!) and forging new (if old) ideas. And that Turul…what a striking and worthy symbol. Φ

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