Hungary

Hungary

Area: 93,030 sq. km (35,919 sq. Miles)
Location: in the centre of Europe. Landlocked, but has Central Europe's largest fresh water lake Balaton and the largest thermal lakeHeviz; border with 7 countries. Hungary is member of the European Union since 2004 and part of the Schengen area.
Population: 9.908.000 (2013) – 15 million including the diaspora
Flag: red represents strength; white represents faithfulness, green stands for hope
Language: Hungarian (often cited as the most difficult)
Capital city: Budapest, the „Pearl of Danube”; ~2 million inhabitants
Major tourist spots: next to Budapest: Szentendre, Visegrad, Esztergom, Gödöllő; other historic and main cities: Eger, Pécs, Debrecen, Szeged, Győr; wineregion: Tokaj, Eger, Balaton, Villány
Climate: four seasons, 1.988 hours sunshine a year, hot summer (27-35 c), cold winter

 

Hungary may be a small country, but it packs an awful lot within its borders. There is diversity in its landscape, which ranges from flat and grassy plains to lush peaks and valleys, and in its culture, which makes room for both traditional wooden churches and vibrant modern nightclubs, or alternative ,,cool” bars. Budapest is a hive of top-class music and art, with one of the world’s best opera houses and a host of museums and galleries, while bustling festivals take place all over the country at all times of the year.

Lake Balaton is the largest in Central Europe, and ideal for sailing or sunbathing. Near by is the famous spa town of Hévíz, where you can wallow in a natural thermal lake even in the depths of winter.

If you like to keep active and get back to nature, there are countless marked routes for hiking, cycling or horse-riding, often through stunning scenery, or turn off to the Danube Bend, one of our picturesque scenery and enjoy the sight of the tremendous Danube!

The cultural influences of east and west can be seen in the monuments, traditions and every day life of today’s Hungary. Remains of the Roman Empire, buildings from the 150-year Turkish occupation. Few monuments survive from their period of occupation, although you can still take a dip in a couple of original Turkish baths in Budapest. Small medieval churches and splendid basilicas hilltop fortresses and magnificent palaces, all bear witness to an eventful history. If you are the pilgrim of culture you can admire the glamour of the country’s biggest and best-preserved Baroque palace much loved by Erzsébet (or Sissi), the wife of the Habsburg Emperor Ferenc József, or you can experience the backstage of the show business, Korda Studios, Europe’s newest and most advanced film studio. The studio, located amongst vineyards just outside of Budapest, serves major international blockbusters and TV productions.

You can also listen to the symphony of the engines on the Formula 1 car race in summer, because one of the rounds is held here every year.

Among its treasures of culture and nature, Hungary is proud to boast 8 World Heritage sites and several items on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and on the List of Best safeguarding practices.

Ten national parks include wild river areas, forest-covered mountain ridges, inactive volcanic areas, endless plains and fairy-tale stalactite caves.

There must be an entire sea of hot water under the country, for the abundance of thermal and medicinal springs is amazing. Wherever a hole is drilled in a quest for oil, healing waters are found in the deep. The habit of bathing and relaxing in the warm waters is a part of everyday life. Just like good food and wine. 

One thing we must warn you about is that Hungarian cuisine is highly addictive. The popularity of Hungarian cuisine is due to the rich flavors. A goose liver dish or some great goulash washed down by a glass of super-tasty Tokaji Aszú wine or a soul-burningly strong pálinka shot.

The path of getting to know Hungarian cuisine is full of pleasant surprises, rich flavors and lip-smacking bites of culture. A truly Hungarian meal is often accompanied by Gypsy music or other folklore performances, the likes of some traditional dance-your-socks-off Hungarian routines.

Hungarian cuisine likes the classic Goulash, which is actually not eaten by fitness gurus, but is exceptionally delightfully spiced, but one can also go to a trendy restaurant and enjoy the masterpieces of fusion cuisine, or you can get ready for the night with having a delicious pancake at a small canteen.

 

Budapest – the „Pearl of the Danube”

Hungary’s Capital is truly a city of a thousand faces, offering a unique atmosphere. In case you are on a lookout for authentic Central Eastern European culture of architecture, cafés and world famous cuisine, the fascinating memoirs of different eras of Hungary are all well preserved and offer a truly genuine experience. The majestic castle of Buda, the unique design of the Parliament, world famous baths, or the first metro line of the continent are just a few highlights this city has to offer for the admirers of rich heritage.

After dawn, a pulsing fresh artistic underground night life begins. The centre is buzzing from the sounds of life on the streets, when the ship board at the bridge-head, you are dropped into parties. Ruin-pubs, open air places offering the exceptional Hungarian wine, palinkas, live music and much more await those who wish to invest more energy into the night, while the city has all the modern urban offerings you would expect. A colorful city for the seekers of rich culture, a relaxing time or pulsing night life, Budapest is truly a treasure box of unexpected pleasant surprises.

Budapest’s up there among the world’s most romantic, entertaining capitals. Not nicknamed the ‘Paris of the East’ for nothing, it boasts broad boulevards and green parks, grand Art-Nouveau mansions and vibrantly painted churches, cafés with their amazing chandeliers, and mighty Baroque mirrors give you the atmosphere of belle epoque.

Budapest is the number-one tourist destination. The mighty DanubeRiver splits the Hungarian capital in two, separating the hills of Buda from the flatland of Pest.For the panorama derived from the unique geographical position of the city, the bridges spanning the river, the buildings along the banks with their various styles are registered on the World Heritage list. Budapest boasts the Europe’s longest built embankment. Being cradled by the delicate waves of the Danube, and seeing the city from the deck of a boat. You see beautiful classic buildings by the riverside, and the sight of a huge building the Parliament. White lace of stone and monumental design, the biggest classical building of Europe.

The first castle in Buda was built in the 13th century. The historic old town on Castle hill is a living museum. Acave system lies hidden under the hills of Buda and 70 million litres of thermal water gush forth daily from deep under the city. Budapest is the only city in the world where there are about 50 baths and spas fed by natural mineral and medicinal waters. Turkish baths that are hundreds of years old, splendid Art Nouveau pools from the belle époque (like the Gellért) and even crazy Spa-Parties like Cinetrip in historic atmosphere.

The city took its present form in the 1890s when – celebrating the 1000-year anniversary of the foundation of the state – many magnificent buildings were built.

The most impressive ones are in the richly ornamented Hungarian Art-Nouveau style, or known as the Hungarian Art-Nouveau. It is a special local variation of the international Secession style.  In fact, Budapest is among the richest European cities in Art-Nouveau.

Some architects used traditional Hungarian folk motives mixed with other Secessionist and oriental decorative elements in city buildings, thus creating an architectural style that uniquely Hungarian at the same time.

Wanna see assiduous bees on a wall of a house, fabulous tulip motives and bunches of flowers on the he facade of a museum, mystic ethereal female figures on an Art Nouveau mansion’s wall, an earnest owl made of Zsolnay china, which is looking at you from 4 stories height at the busiest walking street of Budapest? Then do not hesitate to visit the most wonderful Hungarian Art Nouveu buildings! This is going to be a unique experience!

Andrássy Avenue on the Pest side was built on the basis of a unified architectural concept.

It leads to Heroes’ Square, where a colonnade of statutes perpetuates the memory of eminent rulers and leaders from Hungarian history. This area is also part of the World Heritage site. About 200 museums and galleries present the history and art of the country, from Roman times to the present, like the National Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts. Exhibitions of museums present the masterpieces of Hungarian painters, who could shake hands with Monet as being called the predecessors and creative followers of impressionism. Colors, atmospheres, artistic periods are present in the museums, and also are in the streets of Budapest.

The StatuePark offers a glance behind the Iron Curtain: gigantic memorials of the communist regime, statues of Lenin, Stalin and others, that were removed from the streets and parks of Budapest now form an exciting outdoor museum in Southern Buda.

Put on your evening gown, and enjoy the atmosphere of the Opera Ball in in State Opera House, or let just listen to an opera or watch a ballet performance! If you do so, you are gonna be sitting in one of the world’s most beautiful Opera Houses, which has been a shooting spot of several films.  

A classic masterpiece of contemporary architecture, the Palace of Arts muster the variety of classical, light and jazz music. If you are looking for loud music, a lot of youngsters and party then visit the Sziget Festival or the alternative concerts of the A38 boat!

You can attend classical and jazz concerts in the concert hall of the Music Academy which boasts exceptionally good acoustics or admire the richly decorated building itself, one of the major achievements of Hungarian Secession with its glass mosaics, frescoes and Zsolnay ceramics. Or even better, do the two things simultaneously!

Coffee is a sacred thing, and we worship it every day, cause we discuss the preparation for a wedding ceremony or the weekend shopping in company, be it the Gerbeaud coffeehouse, or the Coffee Heaven chain. You have the chance to choose from hundreds of coffeehouses, you can have an espresso at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. Where the phantom of the Opera has his coffee on the elegant Andrássy avenue, almost in front of the Opera, you can find this café, which is a confectionery too: the Művész Café is one of the very few cafés left from the golden age of the cafés of Budapest at the end of the 19th century-beginning of the 20th century. Maybe this is the reason why this place is still very popular among Hungarian artists, writers, poets, actors and humorists, who are very common guests here. 

Esztergom was the very first capital of the country; the building of the palace started in 972. Esztergom is the centre of the Catholic Church in Hungary. The ChristianMuseum is one of the richest art-collections in the country. The picturesque little town of Szentendre, still on the Danube Bend, just outside Budapest, is a favorite place of artists and visitors alike. They built seven churches which can still be seen today. There are almost 40 museums, exhibition rooms and galleries in town. In the Outdoor Village Museum the finest examples of Hungarian folk architecture are represented.

Down in the south, Pécs has a real Mediterranean atmosphere, due to its climate, flora and narrow, rambling streets. The cemetery of ancient Sopianae is an early Christian cemetery and has been listed to the UNESCO World Heritage list for its outstanding cultural value. Biblical frescoes decorate the walls of the tombs, the chapel and the mausoleum. Other special features of the town are the two mosques from the time of the Turkish occupation in the 15th, 16th centuries. Pécs is also considered to be a town of museums. One of the most interesting thing in Pecs is ,,the Zsolnay”. Green and blue oriental patterns, birds and flowes, these are all Zsolnay china and ceramics. Miklós Zsolnay developed the miracle of ’eozin’, the incomprehensible green ceramic in the deep of his laboratory. All for the eyes! You can check it out in Pécs!

 

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES

We have already mentioned Budapest and the early Christian cemetery of Pécs but there are 6 more World Heritage sites in Hungary. The small village of Hollókő sits on the hills about 100 km north-east of Budapest. The traditional village structure was preserved here; the people of Hollókő cherish their traditions. On important occasions like Easter, they still wear their colorful, richly decorated costumes. The more than 1000 caves of the Aggtelek and Slovak Karst form the largest cave system of Central Europe. The longest of the caves is the Baradla at Aggtelek; its total length with the side-branches is 25 km. The history of the Benedictine Monastery of Pannonhalma is as old as that of Hungary. You can also visit the Benedictine monks in Pannonhalma, their first monastery, and you can taste their handmade wine, or their brandy made of their special herbs, or buy a fragrant lavender soap manufactured by them. 

Hortobágy is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe. It is also a National Park. The major part of the Park is formed by natural habitats, alkaline grassland, meadows interspersed with smaller and larger areas of marsh. So far, the appearance of 342 bird species has been reported here. LakeFertő is situated on the territory of Austria and Hungary. It is the westernmost example of the Eurasian steppe lakes and at the same time is Europe’s largest salt-water lake. The settlements around the lake date back to the Middle Ages.

The name of Tokaj is identified with wine all over the world. The exceptional micro-climate, the soil conditions created as a result of volcanic and post-volcanic activities, the favorably situated slopes, the autumn mist caused by the rivers Tisza and Bodrog, the fermentation in oak barrels and the special mould on the cellar walls – these all contribute to producing “the king of wines and the wine of kings”.

 

UNESCO REPRESENTATIVE LIST OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HUMANITY AND LIST OF BEST SAFEGUARDING PRACTICES

Hungary has 3 cultural practices on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity(Busó festivities at Mohács: masked end-of-winter carnival customFolk art of the Matyó, embroidery of a traditional communityFalconry, a living human heritage and one item on the List of Best safeguarding practices(„Táncház” method: a Hungarian model for the transmission of intangible cultural heritage).

(Busó festivities at Mohács)

 

JEWISH HERITAGE

Central Europe’s largest Jewish community lives in Hungary, mainly in Budapest. Their traditions, architecture and art form a valuable part of Hungarian culture.  Today there are 48 synagogues in Hungary, almost half of them in Budapest, including Europe’s largest active synagogue on Dohány Street.

 

Recover and relax

The trendiest places to have your beer in Budapest nowadays tend to be found in side streets of rundown districts, in the courtyards of abandoned buildings or even on the roof of crumbling communist-era shopping centres. It is not easy to find the battered doors of Szimpla Kert, the undoubtedly number one retro pub in the Jewish Quarter, but once inside, you'll face a lively scene: hundreds of youth enjoy their drinks and the multi-language chat sitting around random junk tables, watch films on the huge screen or just gaze at the nicely-lit industrial chimney nearby. A truly unmissable place!

Floating like water lilies! The healing qualities of the thermal water at Hévíz has been known since Roman times. Its water as well as the unique Hévíz mud are suitable for treating rheumatic and locomotory diseases. Enjoy the outdoor and indoor pools, or visit the wide varieties of services. Besides the thermal lake, in Hévíz and all around, you can find plenty of hotels serving your recreation.  Stress dissolves in water!

(Visegrad)

 

Tips for souvenirs:,, Hungarian Takeaways”

So what should you be sure to look out for when browsing the markets and stores?

Typical Hungarian foodstuffs are salami (including the ubiquitous Pick brand from Szeged), paprika (used in all Hungary’s classic dishes – such as goulash – and available in a range of strengths from mild to spicy) and goose liver. The country has 22 wine regions, and long-necked bottles of the golden-colored Tokaji make particularly good gifts. Those with a taste for something stronger will appreciate pálinka (fruit brandy made from plums, apricots or pears) or the infamous Unicum, a bitter-tasting herbal liqueur.

You might take home some pieces of traditional crafts work, such as embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys or vases decorated with floral motifs. Different regions have different specialties; the people of Hollókő, Kalocsa and Mezőkövesd, for example, are noted for their embroidery skills, while a place like Nádudvar, Sárospatak or Tüskevár are centres for pottery production. Perhaps the most refined of gifts, however, is a piece of hand-crafted Herend, Hollóháza or Zsolnay porcelain. If you’re on the hunt for antiques, you should take a stroll along Budapest’s Falk Miksa utca, a street crowded with shops selling furniture, jewellery, clocks and paintings. You might find a bargain at one of several flea markets in the capital too. An exciting newcomer to the scene is the monthly WAMP design market, which is hosted in Erzsébet tér and promotes contemporary Hungarian design (offering jewellery, textiles, glassware and more).