St. Cyril & Methodius: The Fathers Of Slavic Languages

Most of us are aware that the majority of Slavic countries have their own alphabet and are followers of the Orthodox faith. But few know the history behind their connection, let alone their troubled past.

The pioneers of the work that led to these events had a troubled journey, one that would elevate them to the title of Saints right after their death. Those are the brothers St. Cyril and Methodius.

The Mission To The Slavs

The brothers Cyril and Methodius were born in the ancient city of Thessalonica, located in modern-day Greece. Cyril was born in about 827–828 and Methodius in about 815–820.

There is much debate about whether the brothers were ethnically Slavs, Byzantine Greeks, or a mix of the two. But in reality, that has little importance in relation to the work the two would dedicate their lives to.

At the request of Prince Rastislav, in the year 862, Cyril and Methodius were sent to Great Moravia. The goal of the Prince was to evangelize his kingdom. At the time, the brothers were living in Constantinople, where Cyril was a professor of philosophy and Methodius, a successful politician and public administrator.

In 863, the brothers started the translations of the Gospels and other liturgic texts from the Bible into what is today known as Old Church Slavonic, a language still used today in liturgy by several Orthodox Churches. There was a problem with this language, though: it was a bit complicated for common people to read. It simply did not match their native speech completely.

The Glagolitic and Cyrillic Alphabets

To fix the language issue, Cyril and Methodius created a new alphabet inspired by Greek and Roman ones, the Glagolitic. This irritated the Germanic priests who were currently operating in Moravia, as they saw this as a threat to their Latin-based liturgy and faith.

In order to avoid conflict, the brothers decided to travel to Rome and personally discuss the situation with the Pope. They arrived in 868, where they were warmly welcomed, partly because they brought with them the holy relics of St. Clement. Yes, they knew their politics.

Pope Adrian II gave Methodius the title of Archbishop of Sirmium (modern-day Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia), with jurisdiction over the whole Moravia and Pannonia, and proper authorization to use the Slavonic liturgy.

To help him with his task, five of his Slavic disciples were ordained as priests (Saint Gorazd, Saint Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum) and as deacons (Saint Angelar and Saint Sava). To this day, Cyril and Methodius together with the five disciples are worshiped as saints by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

After the death of the brothers, their disciples were kicked out of Moravia by the German clergy and sought refuge in the First Bulgarian Empire. After arriving in Pliska, the capital of the Empire, Tsar Boris I warmly welcomed and commissioned them to teach the Bulgarian clergy in the Slavonic languages.

In a span of seven years, Clement (the leader of the disciples) taught over 3.500 students in the Slavonic language and the Glagolitic alphabet. Some of these students would later become teachers and found the Preslav Literary School, commissioned by Tsar Simeon I, Tsar Boris’ son, who sought to follow his father’s footsteps. In this school, the Cyrillic alphabet was later created by followers of the brothers, and it’s expansion saw the Slavic world turn into a Cyrillic world.

Cyril & Methodius Today

The brothers Cyril and Methodius were already worshiped by some while they were still alive. After their passing, their names became even holier among Slavs. Many Slavic countries today have special days to remember and celebrate their work and effort:

  • Bulgaria (May 24th):
    Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Script Day.
  • North Macedonia (May 24th):
    Saints Cyril and Methodius, Slavonic Enlighteners’ Day.
  • Czech Republic & Slovakia (July 5th):
    Slavic Missionaries Cyril and Methodius Day & St. Cyril and Metod Day.
  • Russia (May 24th):
    Slavonic Literature and Culture Day.

Apart from the commemoration dates, many buildings and monuments were erected to the honor of the missionary brothers. The picture above shows the Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Budapest’s Thermal Baths: Perfect Places To Relax In Hungary’s Capital

Budapest rests on top of a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by over a hundred hot springs. Some of the thermal baths built over these springs date back to the 16th century.

If you are going to Budapest, visiting a Thermal Spring is a must if you wish to fully experience the vibe of the city. Apart from having the most relaxing time of your life, of course.

A Look Inside the Thermal Baths

The layout of most of Budapest’s baths is similar: a series of indoor thermal pools where temperatures range from warm to hot, steam rooms, saunas, ice-cold plunge pools and rooms for massage. Some have outdoor pools with fountains, sprays and whirlpools, and pools for swimming laps. However, each spa has its own atrractions, such as the Saturday night “sparties” at Széchenyi, the wine tub at Gellért, the drinking hall at Lukács and the rooftop hot tub at Rudas.

The Thermal Bath’s General Rules

A couple of things are necessary to have when visiting any of the thermal baths in Budapest, and those are:

  1. Swimwear (no one wants to see you swimming in your underwear)
  2. Towel (for obvious reasons)
  3. Flip-Flops (the floor can get really slippery inside)

Although most thermal baths rent or sell these accessories, it is best to bring your own if you can. Swimming caps must be worn by those swimming in the lap pools.

Upon entering, you get a watch-shaped electronic bracelet that serves as a key to a locker or cabin where you can leave your belongings. Staff will be around to assist you if needed. Most baths offer a full range of treatments including massages, so always specify at the entrance what services you need. Admission charges will vary accordingly.

Before plunging into the warm waters, always take a shower, and if you have long hair, you should tie it back. Be sure to keep the noise down inside the pools, as these are usually places where people go to relax and escape from the rest of the world. Signs specify the temperature of each pool, and sometimes advise on how much time to spend inside.

Yeah, these pools are not your common backyard ones! Remaining inside the pool for long periods of time can mess with the functioning of the internal organs and cause a bad case of dizziness and nausea, something that I myself experienced for being so stubborn.

Choosing a Thermal Bath

Széchenyi Baths – Széchenyi is the largest spa complex in Europe, and probably Budapest’s most popular baths. The outdoor section is stunning, but it gets quite busy. Iconic “sparties” take place here on some Saturday nights.

Gellért Baths – With stained-glass windows and colourful porcelain tiles adorning the walls, Gellért Baths is a masterpiece of art nouveau architecture. It’s certainly one of the most stunning historic spas in the Hungarian capital, making bathing feel like a royal ritual.

Rudas Baths – Rudas has been in operation since the Turkish conquest of Hungary in the 16th century. Its biggest attraction is a rooftop hot tub providing a pretty view of the Pest skyline. Rudas is the only bath that still holds same-sex days on weekdays.

Lukács Baths – Lukács is a real medical mecca proven by the marble memorial plaques installed in the bath’s park, giving thanks in various languages to the institution and its medical staff for healing. It’s also enormous, and houses a drinking hall offering the same water that supplies the baths – coming from a newer well – rich in calcium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulphate, chloride as well as sodium and fluoride ions.

Vienna’s Coffee Houses: The History Behind The Tradition

When Coffee Became A Thing

No one trully knows how the first coffee houses appeared in Vienna, but legend has it that it took place right after the second Turkish siege on the city, in 1683.

Soldiers from the Polish-Habsburg army found a sack with weird beans that they thought to be camel food. Jan III Sobieski, the Polish king, gave these sacks as a gift to one of his officers, called Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who supposably started the first coffee house.

The Rise Of Coffee Houses

The Blue Bottle‘ is the name Kulczycki gave his coffee shop, the supposed first of Vienna. However, although this legend is much alive today, Vienna’s first coffee house was actually opened by an Armenian businessman named Johannes Diodato in 1685, one year prior to the Blue Bottle one. Many of the stories about Kulczycki were actually invented by Gottfriend Uhlich, a german playwriter, in 1783.

The Top Cafes in Vienna

With plently of stories to tell, Vienna’s Coffee Houses are a must-see when visiting the city. Here are my top picks for Coffee Houses to visit in Vienna.

Café Frauenhuber

Location: Himmelpfortgasse 6 | Near the Franciscan Church
Opening: Mon-Sat 08:00 – 22:00, Sun 10:00 – 22:00

Frauenhuber is one of the coziest and most welcoming cafes in the whole of Vienna. Despite not existing officially in the 18th century, the restaurant which operated in the building frequently held concerts from famous musicians, including those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

If you are looking for a place to sit and enjoy a good moment of peace, Frauenhuber is definitely the place for you. It has a very calm atmosphere and the staff simply couldn’t be more polite and helpful, apart from also being extremely well-dressed.

A definite go for the place, in case you have company, is the Frühstück für Zwei (breakfast for two), which contains either melange coffee or a pot of tee, two slices of bread, two portions of butter, two yoghurts, two boiled eggs, croissant, ham, cheese, salami, as well as a glass of prosecco or freshly pressed orange juice. That should be enough energy to help you explore the city for hours.

Café Landtmann

Location: Universitätsring 4 | Near the City Hall
Opening: Mon-Sun 07:30 – 20:00

Landtmann is a juggernaut of elegance. You will not find the usual hipsters here, but rather the economic and intellectual elite of Vienna. No wonder it was a preferred meeting place for Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung.

Here you can either reserve a booth inside of the building, where you can enjoy the decoration and a cozier atmosphere; or sit on a regular table at the external area, which is brighter and fresher. Either way is good, since the food is the important thing here. Apart from the regular dishes, here is where you can try the original Wiener Apfelstrudel, which recipe comes from the Schönbrunn imperial bakery.

As this is one of my favorite places in town for a snack, I often order the Landtmannwürstel (Landtmann sausages), which comes accompanied by Goulash gravy, pickled cucumber, regular and sweet mustard, horseradish and a bread roll. Not the heaviest of meals, but enough to keep you going and definitely delicious, especially the bread together with the gravy.

Café Central

Location: Herrengasse 14 | Near the Volksgarten
Opening: Mon-Sat 08:30 – 17:30, Sun 10:00 – 20:00

Right after opening its doors in 1876, Café Central quickly became an important intellectual meeting spot in Vienna, guesting various famous (or rather infamous) personalities from history, such as Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky and Josip Tito.

Due to its iconic status, the Café Central is filled with tourists almost all day long, with queues going as far as 20 people waiting for a table to be freed. To avoid this, the best idea is the visit the place right after its opening hours, then the chances of getting a free spot and enjoying some quiet time are higher.

You can stop here for a quick Klassiches Wiener Frühstück (classic Viennesse Breakfast), which contains a hot drink of your choice, homemade roll and croissant, soft boiled egg, and organic butter, jam or honey.