Nobody ever really ventures into the sedate neighbourhood of Aranyhegy (Golden Hill) if they don’t live there, which means most of us are missing out on one of Budapest’s strangest buildings. The Pogány-torony (Pagan tower) was built in 1934, on the corner of what are now the Jutas and Pogánytorony streets, close to the hill’s summit. It was the brainchild of the Turanian Society, founded in 1910, with the aim of reconnecting with the ancient, pre-Christian roots of the Hungarians. Legend has it that upon converting his kingdom to Christianity, Saint Stephen unleashed a curse of the ancient Hungarian shamans, whereby Hungarians would always remain divided until the return to their true, pagan faith.
Given the trauma of Hungary’s territorial loss after WWI, the Turanian Society felt the time had arrived, and planned the tower to be the first of many places of worship for the resurrected faith. The statue of a turul bird, the mythical totemic animal of Hungary, was placed on top, but it has sadly been lost. None of the other monuments were ever built, and today the tower is quite derelict and overrun with vegetation, surrounded by an eerie, Gothic folk-tale-meets-Tolkien charm.
The easiest transportation option is the regional train connection from Nyugati station to the Aranyvölgy stop, or alternatively bus 160 from Óbuda to the Kubik utca stop, from the first stop the tower can be reached by a 10-15 minutes’ walk, from the second, the walk lasts about 20-25 minutes.