Hungarians are different, they call themselves Magyar, their country Magyarorzág, they speak a language that is faintly related to Finnish and some other obscure linguistic pockets in Siberia and is heaped together as Finno-Ugrian. They love goulash and Tokaj, they are proud and slightly, dare I say it, nationalistic and chauvinistic.
Hungary is flat, which might be the reason it was so attractive to the successive waves of horse riding warriors tribes that settled it, from the Huns down to the Magyars. Now flat sounds boring, but it isn’t. Apart from its natural wonders, which include Lake Balaton, the largest natural grassland in Europe, and the Danube river winding its slow way down to Serbia, it also has some of the best architecture sites in the world, from Budapest’s Castle Hill, Chain Bridge, and parliament building, to the palaces in Szeged, to Baroque-a-delic Székesfehérvár (now try to pronounce that name!). And then there are the bathhouses, thermal springs, good wine and food, culture, and for the young and happening crowd, there is the Sziget Festival.
It is no wonder tourist swarm all over the place. So for some fine wining and dining, a bit of horse-riding, a beautiful building or two, a rock-festival and as pièce-de-résistance, a relaxing thermal bath to soak those weary bones, go to Hungary!
Highlights from Hungary
- You can’t go to Hungary without visiting Budapest, this UNESCO World Heritage City, has so much to offer you could spend a year and just scratch the surface of it. Apart from the obvious sites (Castle district, Chain Bridge, Parliament building), you have beautiful parks, a sophisticated classical music scene, a vibrant nightlife, an international rock festival (Sziget), and obviously the thermal baths, of which Gellért and Szécheni are the most famous
- Go swimming in Lake Balaton at fashionable Balatonfüred, or lively Keszthely with lavish Festetics Palace
- Walk around Veszprém with its walled castle district
- Another one of the many World Heritage Towns is Pécs, a university town with loads of wonderful sites
- Ride horses, watch birds or simply admire the scenery in Hortobágy National Park
- Learn about Hungary’s past in Mohács, if possible try to time your visit for the spring festival of Busójárás
- Cycle or take a boat down the Danube past Catholic Esztergom with its massive Basilica, historic Visegrád, and beautiful Vác
- Stroll around Esterházy Palace in Fertőd, or the Benedictine Abbey Church in Tihany
- Try wines in Eger, while perusing its many beautiful buildings
- Go to Baroque filled Székesfehérvár, or Győr
Hints and Tips for Hungary
- Eat and drink! Hungarian food is delicious and renowned, its wine ain’t that bad either
- Hungarian is a tough language to crack, luckily the younger generation can speak English, and the older German. Otherwise use that handy phrasebook.
- Bath houses are a feature of Hungary, you will find them everywhere, not just in Budapest