Foreigners living in Hungary often struggle with pronouncing some Hungarian place names in a way locals should grasp what they mean. One of them is SZÉKESFEHÉRVÁR. To Hungarian ears it’s ever so easy since you just take the three words and read them together with the stress on the first syllable: FEHÉR = white VÁR = castle and you get Fehérvár, one of the oldest cities in Hungary founded by St. Stephen’s father, High Prince Géza in 997. Stephen made it his royal seat and it became the coronation town of Hungarian kings for centuries, which explains the first word SZÉKES (literally szék=chair székes= with chair) meaning royal seat.
There is another famous Fehérvár, called NÁNDORFEHÉRVÁR famous for its historic victory of the Christian forces against Turks in 1456 when King Mathias’s father, János Hunyadi delayed the Ottoman expansion for 70 more years. This city is BEOGRAD i.e. Belgrade, meaning the same in Serbian (beo – white, grad – castle). To differentiate the two Beograds, SZÉKESFEHÉRVÁR is called Stolni Beograd in Serbian. The word Nándorfehérvár, however, is used only in historical context, so the capital of today’s Serbia is BELGRÁD in Hungarian.
Székesfehérvár, a mere one-hour train ride in the south-west of Budapest, is well-worth a one-day trip combined with a visit to the nearby scenic Velence Lake.
In the accompanying photo you can see the red marble fountain with the statue of the Orb standing in the middle of the city’s main square.