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Along the Amber Route: Szombathely

Some 20 kilometres beyond the border, I came to Szombathely. Bigger than Sopron, it was the oldest city in Hungary, founded during the reign of the Emperor Claudius around ad 50 as Colonia Claudia Savariensum, or Savaria. Its Magyar name meant ‘Saturday Place’, referring to its role as a market town.

The main square, Fő tér, was triangular, pedestrianised and flanked by 19th-century buildings. At the narrow southern end, a couple of brutalist concrete edifices recalled the Soviet era. Halfway along one side, I was surprised by a life-sized statue of James Joyce stepping cheekily on to the pavement from the wall of a house. In Ulysses, Szombathely is named as the birthplace of Leopold Bloom’s father, Rudolf Virág, and the city has celebrated Bloomsday each year since 1994. The civic authorities discovered that, in the 19th century, this house belonged to a Jewish family called Blum – a connection as fic-titious as the character himself.

Back to the map.

C.J. Schüler

C.J. Schüler