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Hungary

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Its capital, Budapest, is bisected by the Danube River. Its cityscape is studded with architectural landmarks from Buda’s medieval Castle Hill and grand neoclassical buildings along Pest’s Andrássy Avenue to the 19th-century Chain Bridge. Turkish and Roman influence on Hungarian culture includes the popularity of mineral spas, including at thermal Lake Hévíz. Hungary is a country at the heart of Europe, but it is certainly different too in so many ways! It has a wealth of culture and history, complemented by a language so completely different from its neighbours that almost no shared words exist! It can be said that ours is a land of great contrasts.

BUDAPEST - THE CAPITAL OF RECORDS

Budapest is now the home of about one-fifth of the country’s population (in 2011 – 1,729,040 residents).

Once called the “Queen of the Danube,” Budapest has long been the focal point of the nation and a lively cultural center. The city straddles the Danube (Hungarian: Duna) River in the magnificent natural setting where the hills of western Hungary meet the plains stretching to the east and south. It consists of two parts, Buda and Pest, which are situated on opposite sides of the river and connected by a serie of bridges.

Budapest stood apart from the relatively drab capitals of the other Soviet-bloc countries; it maintained an impression of plenty, with smart shops, good restaurants, and other amenities. The dissolution of the Soviet bloc and Hungary’s transition away from socialism brought Budapest new opportunities for prosperity and an influx of Western tourists—along with the stresses of transition to a more Western-style economy. The city, including the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

Castle Hill and the Castle District; there are three churches here, including the Saint Stephen’s Basilica, where the Holy Right Hand of the founder of Hungary, King Saint Stephen is on display, six museums, and a host of interesting buildings, streets and squares. The former Royal Palace is one of the symbols of Hungary – and has been the scene of battles and wars ever since the 13th century. Nowadays, there are two impressive museums and the National Széchenyi Library in it. The nearby Sándor Palace contains the offices and official residence of the President of Hungary. The seven-hundred-year-old Matthias Church is one of the jewels of Budapest, it is in neo-Gothic style, decorated with colored shingles and elegant pinnacles. Next to it is an equestrian statue of the first king of Hungary, King Saint Stephen, and behind that is the Fisherman’s Bastion, built in 1905 by the architect Frigyes Schulek.

In Pest, arguably the most important sights are the neo-Gothic Parliament, the biggest building in Hungary with its 268 meters length, containing amongst other things the Hungarian Crown Jewels and Andrássy út. This Avenue is an elegant 2.5 kilometers (2 miles) long tree-lined street that covers the distance from the Deák Ferenc tér to the Heroes Square. On this Avenue there are many important sites. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Under the whole city runs continental Europe’s oldest Underground railway, most of whose stations retain their original appearance. Heroes’ Square is dominated by the Millenary Monument, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front. To the sides are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle Budapest, and behind City Park opens out with Vajdahunyad Castle. One of the jewels of Andrássy út is the Hungarian State Opera House.

The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe, and the second largest active synagogue in the world. The synagogue is in the Jewish district taking up several blocks in central Budapest bordered by Király utca, Wesselényi utca, Grand Boulevard and Bajcsy Zsilinszky road. It was built in Moorish revival style in 1859 and has a seating capacity of 3,000. Adjacent to it is a sculpture reproducing a weeping willow tree in steel to commemorate the Hungarian victims of the Holocaust.

The city is also home to the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath). Other attractions are the bridges of the capital.

Seven bridges provide crossings over the River Danube, and from north to south there are: the Árpád Bridge (built in 1950 it the north of Margaret Island); the Margaret Bridge (built in 1901, destroyed during the war by an explosion and then rebuilt in 1948); the Chain Bridge (built in 1849, destroyed during World War II and then rebuilt in 1949); the Elisabeth Bridge (completed in 1903 and dedicated to the murdered Queen Elisabeth, it was destroyed by the Germans during the war and rebuilt in 1964); the Liberty Bridge (opened in 1896 and rebuilt in 1989 in Art Nouveau style); the Petőfi Bridge (completed in 1937, destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1952); the Rákóczi Bridge (completed in 1995). Most remarkable for their beauty are the Margaret bridge, the Chain bridge and the Liberty bridge. The world’s largest panorama photograph was created in (and of) Budapest in 2010.

Budapest holds the title “City of Spas” since 1934, as it has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any other capital city in the world. There are 118 springs in Budapest, providing over 70 million liters of thermal water a day. The temperature of the springs is between 21 and 78 Celsius.

Budapest’s thermal waters were enjoyed by the Romans in the 2nd century, but it was only during the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th century that the bath culture really started flourishing.

Today, there are 15 public thermal baths in Budapest, not counting the private thermal spas established in some luxury hotels, such as the Ramada Plaza, Thermal Hotel Margitsziget and the Corinthia Royal, which have their own spas.

The spa at the Hotel Gellért is a public bath. Some of the baths arrange special programs. The Rudas Bath, built in the 1500s, gives home to regular night parties on Friday and Saturday nights, with great music and special light effects.

These are very popular with young people from all over the world. Others, such as the Palatinus Bath on Margaret Island, have special pools for children with special effects (whirlpool, wave-pool, water-chutes).

Some baths are built in parks, with green areas where you may relax and sunbathe and do sports, or just read a book (such as the Csillaghegyi Bath).

Miskolc and its surroundings

If you are interested in history, music, fine arts and architectural monuments, if you like hiking, cycling or extreme sports or if you love the forest, bathing or just relaxing, Miskolc is Your city.

The Szinva Creek runs across downtown, creating a cozy atmosphere on the squares and terraces of the city. The Avas Mountain dominates the city view, with hundreds of wine houses and cellars on its slopes while the view of Miskolc and its surroundings may be observed from the lookout tower atop it. There are numerous historical and cultural values hiding in the city.

Castle of Diósgyőr

At the foot of the Bükk hill, 8 km far from the center of Miskolc, in a beautiful natural area, we can find the Castle of Diósgyőr. It was mentioned the first time in about 1200. Since 1340 it was the kings’ castle, but mainly the property of queens. That’s why we refer to it as the “Castle of Queens”. Nowadays it works as a museum and the exhibitions present the life of the court in the royal castle. Walking along the dungeons you can get an insight into the everyday life of people who lived there. In the round tower of the upper castle you can monitor the construction of the castle, its decay and its history arching over centuries. If you are interested in swords and armors, knock on the door of the metal workshop, where you can try out medieval weapons with the help of a master craftsman.

Lillafüred

Lillafüred, a holiday resort surrounded by one of the most beautiful natural environments in Hungary, in the Eastern part of Bükk Mountains, next to Hámori Lake, deserves the name “Pearl of Bükk”. Discover the Terrace gardens next to the lake. The protected St. Steven Cave is also located in Lillafüred. The largest stalactite is about 20 m high and 15 m wide in the cave.

Wine cellars

In the heart of Miskolc, at the northern slope of the Avas mountain, which towers over the city, also today, more than 900 wine cellars are situated, which is unique in Europe. Most of them are at least 300 years old, however, we would have difficulties finding cellars younger than 200 years. The quality of local grapes and wine used to compete with the best ones.

Cave Bath in Miskolctapolca

You should also take a dip in the “healing water” of friars! The karst water cave system – which is peculiar in Europe – known as the favorite bath of Benedictine monks in the 14th century. The cave climate is like tropical weather and the refreshing karst water of 30-35 °C is rich in minerals. Its outdoor swimming pools and internal chambers are extraordinary sights and remarkable recreation locations at the same time. Wellness fans can participate in different sauna séances held by professional sauna experts. People favoring mobility can try water aerobics, and those who seek extra comfort and care can choose from different refreshing massages and treatments at the renovated Cave Aquatherapy section all year round.

Szeged

Looking for an excursion that offers gastronomic delights, cultural treats and recreation opportunities? Discover the third largest city of Hungary, the picturesque town of Szeged, just 170 km south of Budapest.

Honored with the Europe nostra Award for its renovated downtown area, the town lies on the banks of the River Tisza and boasting the highest number of sunny days throughout the year, is also referred to as the “city of sunshine”.

Szeged offers a multitude of sights, tasty traditional dishes for all those paprika lovers out there. Architectural heritage, great gastronomy, street side cafes, widely famous confectioneries and leisurely strolls with a breath of Mediterranean atmosphere ensure your visit is going to be a memorable one.

The twin towered votive church (Dom) is the fourth largest church in Hungary situated on a square the same size as the St. Mark’s square in Venice. The red brick structure is a truly monumental catholic sanctuary: the dome is 54m outside (33m above the inside floor) and the towers are both 91m high. The “Heroes’ bell” in the tower on the Tisza side weighs 8600 kg and the cathedral houses Europe’s third largest church organ with over 9000 pipes. In order to exploit its superb acoustics, Cathedral square houses the Szeged Open Air Festival, the largest open-air theatre in the country every summer.

For a quick review of the highlights of Hungarian eminence of history, literature, arts and natural sciences, visit the National Pantheon, located under the arcades of the northern European style, red clinker brick buildings around the square.

The monumental art nouveau style Synagogue is famous for its painted glass windows, the harmonizing ornaments of Ivory white, blue and gold, the closing stone of the altar, which was carved of marble from Jerusalem and the 18 Torah scrolls treasured here. Every year, Szeged hosts an Autumn Jewish Cultural Festival with concerts, exhibitions and other performances from all around the world.

Do not miss sampling the two most relished gastronomic delights while getting acquainted with the methods of salami production and the cultivating, processing and packaging of this world-famous Hungarian spice.

Embrace the city’s intriguing atmosphere by taking a leisure walk on the shady, gardenlike Széchenyi square and continue along Kárász utca offering abundant street side cafes and plenty of shopping opportunities.

Fun-lovers and families should not miss Europe’s longest water slide and the 4400m2 of water surface offered in this humongous complex. The Aquapolis welcomes families with plenty of baby- and child-friendly facilities and services.

National historic park – Ópusztaszer

In Ópusztaszer, just a half-hour north of Szeged, lies the National Historical Memorial Park, a 136-acre theme park and open-air museum offering visitors an insight into Hungarian history as well as the culture and lifestyle of people living on the Southern Great Plain. The park was established in 1982 and is most famous for the Feszty Panorama, a cyclorama depicting the arrival of the Hungarians to the Carpathian Basin in 895.

Tihany

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe. It has a huge peninsula on the north coast with a tiny little town, called Tihany. Some say this is the most romantic place in the region.

The town of Tihany (pron. tee-hahn) is 140 km from Budapest, situated on the eastern coast of the Tihany Peninsula. The town stands on the peak of a small hill, which provides beautiful views to Lake Balaton and the Inner Lake (Belső-tó), a popular fishing spot.

The best-known symbol of the town is the twin-towered Tihany Benedictine Abbey, built by King Andrew I., who was buried in the crypt in 1055. The church itself was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1754 and still functions today. There are frequent organ concerts in the abbey church during the summer. The viewpoint next to this lovely white church is one of the best in the area.

On the eastern side of the hill, you will find many charming restaurants offering tables with panoramic view, and wineries with tasty white wines from the Balaton region.

Tihany is famous for its large fields of lavender, which are alive with bloom in the spring. There’s also a Lavender House Visitor Centre, where visitors can learn more about the history of the Peninsula, and the region’s lavender-growing culture.

Another very interesting spot to see in Tihany is the Hermitage north of the town. These living spaces, complete with cells, dining room and a chapel were carved out of the living rock of the hill in the 11-14th century by Greek Orthodox hermits. These historic sites are unmatched in Europe.

And Tihany is not yet out of unique things to show you! Look for the echo-stone in the town, a single point where unique regional acoustics return the echo of your voice perfectly from the open hillside of Tihany. This very rare phenomenon, still exists to this day, despite continuous local construction.

Strolling back down the hill, Tihany’s harbor is also worth visiting. From here you can reach other towns around Lake Balaton or take a boat cruise on the lake. The ferry-boat takes you to Szántód on the south coast. It carries passengers, bikes and cars as well.

The area around the Abbey is made up of small streets and squares filled with traditional restaurants, handicraft courtyards, confectionaries and souvenir shops. Walking around Tihany is one thing you must definitely put on your vacation-to-do list!

Kecskemet

This attractive town lies just 85 km south-east of Budapest amidst the sandy dunes of the Great Plain, but offers some of the finest architecture, art collections and cultural events of small cities in Hungary.

Its location between the food-producing heart of the great plains, and Budapest made it an important hub. Kecskemét also houses the main visitor’s centre of the neighboring Kiskunság National Park. Find out all about the flora and fauna of the area declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO.

Begin your sightseeing tour anywhere around the main square and you’re in for a surprise: the buildings spread out around this impressive city centre practically offer a crash-course in Art Nouveau architecture and churches of almost every religion present in the country.

Every hour all ears turn to the city hall to hear the carillon above the entrance chime familiar tunes by Zoltán Kodály, (born in Kecskemét) and classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart. The sandy-pink building of Városháza (City Hall) is a unique combination of Art Nouveau and Romantic style architecture with a touch of oriental ornamentation, decorated with Zsolnay ceramic tiles much like Matthias Church in Budapest. A magnificent building with beautiful interiors and a market offering local products and delicacies every Thursday.

Experience the compelling effect of the monumental Nagytemplom (Catholic Church) – the largest in the region – right next door to the City Hall, but built a hundred years earlier in late Baroque style. Large tablets on the front wall honor the many citizens of Kecskemét, who died in battle to defend their beloved city.

The oldest building on the square, the Szent Miklós Templom (Franciscan church) was named after St. Nicholas and part of it dates back to the 14th century. Having been reconstructed throughout the centuries, it features Roman, Gothic and Baroque style architecture. Having a mutual enemy on their backs, Catholics and Protestants shared the church during the Turkish occupation of the town in the 16th century. Behind the church, the monastery building is today the Zoltán Kodály Institute of Music Pedagogy with a small exhibition depicting the life of the famous composer and music educator.

Walk across Szabadság tér to catch a glimpse of probably the most famous construction: Cifra Palota (Ornamental Palace), the building that looks like a huge gingerbread house dates from 1902 and houses the Kecskemét Gallery. The „wavy” walls and colourful rooftop tiles are all very characteristic of Secession style architecture.

Cross the street for another remarkable structure: the mid-19th century synagogue built in a Moorish-Romantic style. Nowadays, it offers a limited exhibition of 15 plaster replicas of Michelangelo statues, but there’s a cafe open all day if you need to catch your breath.

For some serious wine & dine local style try Kecskeméti Csárda in the city centre for a traditional spread, huge portions and an authentic „csárda” atmosphere.

Eger

Eger is beloved because it is very rich in historic sites. And not just the number of sights is impressive, but the diversity of them. Castle, minaret, underground town, basilica and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In Eger, you can reach most of its attractions by walk. But you can’t reach them all on one single day. So you have to select by your interest. Don’t miss the Castle of Eger with the historic museum in it and a beautiful panorama to the town. The Castle of Eger is more than 700 years old.

 

In the lower part of the main square, called Dobó Square, the Turkish minaret and the Basilica are the must-see sights. Also worth visiting is the episcopal cellar system under the town, called Town under the town.

 

You can find nice traditional restaurants and confectionaries all over the downtown as well as hotels and guest-houses. Don’t forget to taste the red wine of Eger, called Bull’s Blood (Bikavér), but look for the higher or award winner quality ones.

 

At the western edge of Eger there’s a wine-heaven known as the Valley of the Beautiful Woman (Szépasszony-völgy), where you can visit wine cellars and take a look at the grape plantations.

 

Eger is 138 km from Budapest, on the M3 motorway.

Debrecen

Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary, close to the eastern border, 230 km from Budapest.

The cultural riches of Debrecen and National Park Hortobágy around it are unique and iconic in their own right. The streets of the civic town and its buildings representing a medley of architectural styles set up a pleasant atmosphere. Leisure walks in museums and galleries will lead to close encounters with artistic treasure troves of past and present. Get to know the centuries-old artistic and folklore traditions of Debrecen and Hortobágy that live on today.

Kossuth Square and the Big Reformed Church have always been the scene, oftentimes the very center, of important events through Hungary history. The church was the hub of the Reformation movement in Hungary. Not only is it sizing that is testament to its greatness. The sound of the 56-ton Rákóczi Bell, housed in its massive twin towers, can even be heard in Hortobágy in clear weather.

 

Reformed College, the “school of the country” has been an establishment of order and rigor for over 450 years. The fate of the nation has been settled within its walls several times. It has been the alma mater of scores of the greatest figures of Hungarian letters, which has greatly contributed to the development of civic culture. Their memorabilia are displayed at the Oratorium, the Big Library, and the Exhibition of School History and Religious Art.

Debrecen is a livable city which provides easy access to the solitude and healing power of nature. Big Forest and Aquaticum Mediterranean Spa & Water Park is the spot where 65˚C medicinal water gushes to the surface from a geothermal spring providing the lifeblood of the sparkling atmosphere of the water park. You can relax and have good fun here, no matter what generation you belong to.

 

Proudly cherishing a tradition of 100 years, the University of Debrecen is a city within the city. The interior of the imposing edifice is always busy with the hustle a bustle of nearly 60,000 students. You may very easily be part of the action if you take one of the various Hungarian language courses offered by Debrecen Summer School. Oh, and don’t miss out the Botanical Garden of the University.

 

Other places to see in Debrecen are St. Anna’s Cathedral, the Garden of Ruins and the Memorial Garden, the Hal [fish] Lane (called small piazza), the Kálvin Square, the Piac [market] Street – Kossuth Square and Csapó Street Promenade – a fascinating blend of the sweet smells of 19th-century cafes and the noises of a busy mall.

Visegrad

In the picturesque landscape of the Danube, there lies the Visegrad – a town and the fortress of the same name, where Hungarian kings lived and where the history of modern times became famous, when in February 1991, the Hungarian, Polish and Czechoslovak Prime Ministers discussed on a common trade strategy and about the accession to the European Union.

The contract was signed in the same place, where a legendary meeting took place before, in 1335. At that time, the meeting was convened to discuss the growing Habsburg dangers, and although the rulers didn’t agree on any concrete steps, they were able to drink 10,000 liters of wine during the meeting. That might happened because the meeting took place in the wine cellar.

The fortress looks almost as if it was in the clouds, while its lower bastions fall to the Danube. Looking at the strength of the building, it is hard to believe that it was once almost destroyed to the last stone. It happened under the Turkish domination, and what the Turks didn’t destroy, was later destroyed by the Habsburgs. The fortress was thrown out in 1702 and traces of it and of the royal palace were again discovered by archaeologists in the early 20th century.

Since then, the castle has been growing and revitalizing, especially during the summer months, when the ruins of the Royal Palace are becoming the scene of medieval celebrations that try to bring visitors closer to the atmosphere of the local “golden age,” which was experienced in the 15th century, when it was the seat of King Matthias. In addition to the mighty fortifications, the castle had about 350 rooms and it was said that no other castle in Europe was equal. The Visegrad was also the capital and diplomatic center of the whole Hungary.

At first glance, the Castle with Fortress and palace and hexagonal Solomon tower catch the eye. From there was once controlled the river transport, now it serves as a museum and it pays off to climb it for a good view of the surrounding area as well as the fortification of the castle. The tower, along with the opposite citadel, formed part of the city’s defense system.

The citadel also served as a place where crown jewels were kept. These were deposited here until 1440, when Elizabeth of Luxembourg, the daughter of Zikmund of Luxembourg, took them away to give them for coronation of their minor son Ladislav Pohrobek. Today, there is an exhibition of medieval torture and execution tools.

The royal palace itself is from the Solomon’s tower, approximately 500 meters away. The connecting trail is known as Fellegvár, the Calvary. Its reconstructed appearance is decorated with terraces, Renaissance loggia, Hercules fountain and Lion Fountain, decorated with a dozen sleepy-looking lions and coat of arms of King Matthias.

History lovers will appreciate Visegrad expositions of hunting, falconry and traditional crafts of the area.

Esztergom

Esztergom’s massive basilica, sitting high above the town and Danube River, is an incredible sight, rising out of what seems like nowhere in a rural stretch of country. But Esztergom’s attraction goes deeper than the domed structure: the country’s first king, St Stephen, was born here in 975. It was a royal seat from the late 10th to the mid-13th centuries, as well as the seat of Roman Catholicism in Hungary for more than a thousand years. A picturesque town, packed with historic attractions, Esztergom makes a great day trip from Budapest and rewards those who linger longer.

Esztergom, the seat of the Hungarian Catholic Church, is one of the oldest towns in Hungary. The Basilica of Esztergom, a masterpiece of Classicism, is the third largest church in Europe. Established around 972, Esztergom has always played an important role in Hungary’s history. It was the birth and coronation place of the first Hungarian king, St. Stephen, as well as the capital of Hungary until the 13th century. After the Mongolian invasion, King Bela IV moved the Royal Seat to Visegrád and later to Buda, giving his palace to the archbishop and making Esztergom a religious center.

The majority of the historic sites and the city’s architectural heritage are of a religious nature, like the Primate’s Palace, the Franciscan monastery, and several chapels and churches. Remains of the former royal palace, Turkish, Classicist and Baroque buildings, as well as the Basilica, attract many visitors. One of the newest additions to Esztergom is the Mária Valéria Bridge, which connects the city with Slovakia. Esztergom is often nicknamed as the ‘City of St. Stephen’ and the ‘Hungarian Rome’.

Esztergom Basilica

The seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary was built on the site of the first cathedral in the country, where the first Hungarian King St. Stephen was crowned in 1000 AD. Rebuilt during the 1800s in Neo-Classicist style, this is the largest church in Hungary. Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica during his trip to Hungary in 1991.The Basilica of Esztergom is depicted on the 10,000 HUF banknote.

 

The reconstructed remains of the former royal palace founded by Prince Géza, father of King St. Stephen, are in the neighborhood of the Basilica. Today, the building is home to a museum.

 

Víziváros, or Watertown, built on the banks of the Danube, is home to several baroque churches; however, ruins of medieval fortresses, city walls and Turkish bastions can also be seen when strolling around this part of the city. Surrounded by Baroque churches and Classicist buildings, the Primate’s Palace also stands here.

In the north wing of the Neo-Renaissance-style Primate’s Palace is located the Christian Museum (Keresztény Múzeum). This museum houses the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary. It features Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, German and Austrian art works from the 13th century up to the 19th century.

HERITAGES

VILLAGE OF HOLLÓKŐ

Hollókő hides among the undulations of the Cserhát hills about 100 km from Budapest in a picturesque setting. The history of the village goes back to the 13th century, when after the Mongol invasion the castle was built on Szár Hill.

The name (holló=raven, kő=stone) comes, perhaps, from the legend in which the lord of a castle stole a pretty maiden, whose nurse was a witch. The nurse made a pact with the devil to rescue the girl. The devil’s minions, disguised as ravens, took the stones of the castle away and the castle of Hollókő was built on top of the rock here. It is well worth walking up to the ruins; there is an exhibition of the remains of weapons found here, cannonballs and rock carvings. And there is a beautiful view over the surrounding protected area, which is a part of the Bükk National Park.

The settlement burnt down several times, because the buildings were covered with flammable thatched roofs until the beginning of the 20th century. Following the last fire in 1909, the houses were restored to their original form, but now with clay-brick walls and tiled roofs. The traditional medieval village structure can easily be seen; the single long street has thin lots running off it at right angles. In the middle of the settlement, as if on an island, stands the village church. The wooden towered, tile-covered Roman Catholic church was built in 1889.

The village’s 67 protected buildings are characteristic peasant houses with stepped gable roofs and porches with wooden breast walls decorated with open-work carvings. The interior layout faithfully retains the 17th century Palóc style; it consists of 3 distinct rooms. From the porch you step into a cooking-dining room, but in winter it was also the best place to sleep – on the bench around the stove. The kitchen was joined to the larder, where the cereals and the agricultural equipment were stored, and also served as the bedroom for the old folk. The so-called clean room on the street front was the jewel and decoration of the house, which in Hollókő was not only kept for guests, as in other regions, but was occupied by the man of the house and his family. As the family got larger, the houses were extended lengthways; the buildings that we see today (one of which is in the Village Museum) were formed in this way. Here you can also have a look at the interior of the house, its furniture, decorations and tools. Of the traditional folk crafts, textile production is shown in the Loom House, where, in addition to the ancient techniques, craftspeople work on a weaver’s loom that has a flying shuttle.

In other buildings there is a village house, a post office and a nursery school; in other words, this is not an open-air museum, but a real, living village. There are also accommodation and restaurant facilities.

The residents of this village of 400 are the Palóc people. Besides their special dialect, they retain their traditions and their colorful, richly decorated folk costumes. At the more important festivals they still wear these traditional folk costumes (which they usually make themselves). The most beautiful is the dress for special occasions worn by young girls and brides; under the red or blue silk skirt you can see 6, 8 or even 10 snow white, starched underskirts. Perhaps the most spectacular festival at Hollókő is Easter, when they display not only the clothes, but also the Easter customs and folk crafts. The Raspberry Festival in July attracts many visitors, as does the Nógrád Folklore Festival and the August Castle Tournament. In September a grape harvest procession is held and there are concerts in the castle and church.

 

 

Pecs Christian cemetery

Pécs, situated in the southern part of Hungary at the foot of the Mecsek mountains, radiates a real Mediterranean atmosphere due to its climate, flora and narrow, rambling streets. With its rich cultural life, including theatre, museums and festivals, the town is a significant cultural centre for the region and the whole country.

The town was founded by the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. By the 4th century, Sopianae was a flourishing provincial capital and a significant centre of early Christianity. Saint Stephen, the first Hungarian king, founded an episcopate here in 1009, and Hungary’s first university was founded here in 1367. The architectural monuments of the 150 years of Turkish occupation, the mosques, the Turkish bath and Pasha Idris’s tomb, can still be seen.

In the cemetery of ancient Sopianae, our 4th century Roman forebears built simple churches, chapels and mausoleums with tombs beneath them. In the course of the archaeological excavations that have been going on for more than 200 years, hundreds of graves rich in artefacts have been found around the tombs. On the basis of the Christian symbols decorating artefacts and the buildings Biblical frescoes, the cemetery of Sopianae is assumed to be an early Christian cemetery. The site has the largest number of frescoed cemetery buildings, not just in Hungary but in the whole of Europe, and for this reason is considered an unrivaled monument of ancient history and the early history of the Church.

The Early Christian Mausoleum

There is a tomb under the large chapel. There was no direct architectural link between the level of the tomb with the painted walls and the chapel, both of which had (and still have) a separate entrance. The northern and eastern walls of the tomb are decorated with Biblical frescoes: Adam and Eve in Paradise with the tree and the snake, and the Prophet Daniel thrown into the den of lions. On the eastern wall there is a fragment of the Christ monogram and a sitting figure wearing white clothes. A carved white marble sarcophagus from the 3rd century stands in front of the southern side wall. The areas of the walls between the figurative representations are decorated with painting imitating marble and with plant motifs.

Tomb No. 1 (The Peter & Paul Tomb)

In the two-storey building, the whole internal wall area of the barrel-vaulted tomb that remains undamaged is covered with frescoes. On the wall opposite the entrance, Apostles Peter and Paul are pointing at the Christ monogram symbolizing the presence of Jesus. On the side walls the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, the Three Kings, Jonah, the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus are pictured. On the vault, decorated with rich plant and animal (doves, peacocks) ornamentation, four portraits in circular frames can be seen, perhaps the portraits of those who were buried here.

Tomb No. 2 (The Jug Tomb)

There is a chapel above the underground tomb. The latter was originally barrel-vaulted and has painted walls. There were two graves in the tomb, one of which had a special, double-bottom cover. The rich geometrical and plant decorations on the wall show the Garden of Eden. The picture of a jug and a cup in the small closet cut in the northern wall of the tomb, after which the tomb was named, symbolizes the Holy Sacrament.

Early Christian Cemetery Chapel in Apáca Utca

The building with a north-south axis ends with an apse at the north end. At around 390 AD a bench and an altar were placed in the apse. In its internal area, under the floor level, four graves were found. The cemetery chapel is different from other cemetery buildings in Sopianae, because the town’s Christian inhabitants were buried in graves cut under the floor of the building and not in tombs.

PART OF THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE Sopianae, predecessor of Pécs in the Roman times had its late Roman Paleochristian cemetery included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in the year 2000. In their architecture and wall-paintings the excavated finds present the Early Christian burial architecture and art of the Northern and Western provinces of the Roman Empire. From among the Hungarian world heritage sites the Early Christian cemetery is the only one that has won itself a place on the UNESCO world heritage list in the category of culture-historical architecture.

 

 

Pannonhalma monastery

The monastery of the Benedictine Order at Pannonhalma, founded in 996 and gently dominating the Pannonian landscape in western Hungary, had a major role in the diffusion of Christianity in medieval Central Europe. The Archabbey of Pannonhalma and its environment (the monastic complex, the Basilica, educational buildings, the Chapel of Our Lady, the Millennium Chapel, the botanical and herbal gardens) outstandingly exemplifies the characteristic location, landscape connections, original structure, design and a thousand-year history of a Benedictine monastery. The community of monks still functions today on the basis of the Rule of St. Benedict, and sustains with a unique continuity one of the living centers of European culture.

The present church, the building of which began in 1224, is the third on the site; it contains remains of its predecessors. The elevated three-aisled choir, the oldest part of the building, overlies a similarly three-aisled crypt, probably an element of the earlier church on the site.

The main south door, known as the Porta Speciosa, is faced with red marble and flanked by five pairs of columns. It has undergone several transformations and reconstructions since it was originally built in the 13th century. This door gives an access to the Cloister, a typical square Late Gothic ensemble built in 1486. The vaulting springs form consoles that are elaborately decorated with symbolic motifs. The doors and windows were given their present form in the 1880s. Sculptured stones from the Romanesque cloister were found during studies carried out in the 1960s, when the door leading into the medieval refectory, with small red marble columns, also came to light.

The large Refectory, the work of the Carmelite Martin Witwer in 1724-27, is an oblong two-storeyed hall. The facade is surmounted by a triangular pediment. The building contains a series of mural paintings by Antonio Fossati. The main Monastery consists of a group of buildings dating from the 13th-15th centuries that were originally single-storey but raised to two storeys in 1912, erected in part over the medieval cloister. They were considerably modified in the earlier 18th century: the vaulted corridor and the row of monastic cells on the east-west wing are exceptional examples of 18th century Hungarian monastic architecture. The Library, on four levels, was built in two stages between 1824 and 1835.

The Chapel of our Lady, the building of which began in 1714, is situated at the top of the southern hill. It is single-aisled, 26 m by 10.9 m, rising to 5.58 m in the sanctuary. The nave is barrel-vaulted, and is joined to the sanctuary by a large triumphal arch. Its original Baroque interior was restored in Romantic style in 1865.

The Millenary Monument is one of seven erected to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the conquest of Hungary in 896. It is located at the crest of the central hill, where it replaced the Calvary that is now located in front of the Chapel of our Lady. It consists of a single block, constructed in brick and limestone. The stone portico is formed of a tympanum bearing a symbolic relief, supported on two pairs of Ionic columns. It was originally surmounted by a dome 26 m high on a high drum, but this had to be removed in 1937-38 because of its severe deterioration.

The principal elements of the area around the monastic complex are the forest and the botanical garden. The forest, on the eastern slopes of the Pannonhalma landscape, is largely the traditional oak forest of this region. It contains a number of rare and protected floral species and is home to many songbirds. The flora of the botanical garden is composed of two groups: one half forest trees and plants of mixed age, and one-half hedgerow and park species, both native and exotic. Both the forest and the botanic garden are seen as illustrating the landscape value of the region as a whole and also to set off the aesthetic values of the man-made element represented by the buildings of the monastery.

NATURE

Caves of Aggtelek Karst

Caves of Aggtelek Karst – The central Europe’s largest underground water-eroded cave.

The Aggtelek National Park in north-eastern Hungary was established in 1985 primarily to protect inorganic natural treasures, surface formations and caves. Seventy-five percent of it is covered with deciduous forest. The clearings scattered about like a mosaic, the areas of rock and the hillsides dotted with rocky outcrops provide a habitat for rare plants, a rich insect world and more than 220 species of local birds.

In the relatively small area of the National Park (approx. 20,000 ha), there are more than 200 caves of various sizes to be found.

Here in the Aggtelek and Slovakian Karst, together forming a geological and geographical unit, Central Europe’s largest cave system was formed. The longest cave in the Karst area and also in Hungary is the Baradla Cave, the total length of which, with its side branches, is 25 km. A 5.6 km section lies in Slovakian territory and is known as the Domica. The cave was formed from 230 million-year-old Middle Triassic limestone. The start of its formation can, on the basis of geological data, be put at around 2 million years ago. The waters of the streams got into the system of cracks and, by dissolving and eroding the limestone, slowly widened the crevices and formed the present passages. The dripping water deposited its lime content, forming the stalactites and stalagmites of various size, colour and shape decorating the passages. These formations inspired the imaginations of discoverers and visitors, who gave some of the formations special names like Dragon’s Head, Tiger, Mother in Law’s Tongue, the Hall of Columns and the Hall of Giants.

During archaeological excavations innumerable finds have shown that ancient man knew of the cave, and even used Baradla as a place to live.

Also open to visitors are the hydrologically significant Vass Imre Cave and Béke Cave, the waters of which are suitable for curing people suffering from respiratory disorders.

The caves may be visited on guided tours lasting 1, 2, 5 or 7 hours. These start from Aggtelek and Jósvafő. Classical and other concerts are held in the Baradla Cave’s beautiful Concert Hall because of its wonderful acoustics, which provide a very special experience for visitors.

On the surface there are marked study trails. Along the botanical, zoological and ecology trails visitors can become acquainted with the treasures of the surface of the karst with its plant life, habitats, traditional landscapes, village life and industrial and cultural history. Visitors can also observe the surviving folk customs, traditions and crafts. The seven-km trail between Aggtelek and Jósvafő (the Baradla study trail) is marked with yellow markings and takes about three hours. The Tohonya-Kuriszlán nine km study trail around Jósvafő takes about six hours. The Alsó-hegy Zsomboly study trail is marked by a red “T” in a white circle.

 

 

Hortobágy National Park

Hortobágy National Park – the Puszta – In the west of the Eurasian continental grasslands lake is the most representative.

Hortobágy is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe, which means that it was not formed as a result of deforestation or river control. The first Hungarian national park (established in 1973), it is the country’s largest protected area (82 thousand hectares). A significant part of it is Biosphere Reserve and a quarter of its area enjoys international protection under the Ramsar Convention on the conservation of wetlands.

Hortobágy has outstanding natural features, maintaining great biological diversity in respect of species and habitats. It is a unique example of the harmonious coexistence of people and nature based on the considerate use of the land. In order to discover the treasures of this region, however, it isn’t enough just to travel through it; at first sight there is nothing to see. If you look around, what is most conspicuous is that your eyes are not arrested by any buildings, hills or mountains. But there are times when you may think you see such things: A mirage can be a spectacular sight on hot summer days!

A major part of the area of the National Park is formed by natural habitats, alkaline grasslands, meadows and the marshes lying between them. From the point of view of nature conservation, the artificial wetlands, which cover a much smaller area, are of considerable importance: these are the fishponds, situated on 6 thousand hectares, created during the last century on the worst quality grazing-lands and marshes. Lake Tisza, a reservoir established in the 70s, shows what the water-world looked like before the river was controlled. In its three bays there is enough room for the waterfowl, anglers and even those holidaymakers who like noisy water sports.

The marshes and fishponds are bird nesting habitats and migration sites of European significance. The appearance of 342 bird species has been registered in Hortobágy so far, of which 152 species nest in the National Park. The symbol of the Park is the crane; undoubtedly, one of the most spectacular sights here is the cranes’ autumn migration. Tens of thousands of cranes can be seen every October as they fly above the grasslands to their overnight roosting places.

Hortobágy was never densely populated, and its few villages were destroyed during the Tartar and Turkish invasions. The monotony of grasslands is punctuated by the burial mounds and guard mounds of the Nomad people that lived here thousands of years ago.

For thousands of years the wild animals grazing on the grasslands of Hortobágy, the aurochs and wild horses, were gradually replaced by domesticated animals. A large number of tough, undemanding long-haired sheep and gray cattle can be found here. Less ancient species are the curly-bristled mangalica pig, a source of good bacon, and the Nonius horse. The predecessor of the latter was brought to Hortobágy from Normandy at the beginning of the 19th century. Visitors are amazed with skills of the horsemen and at the sight of the galloping herds of horses.

The herdsmen living on the grasslands do not have permanent buildings for themselves or their animals. Most of the ancient herdsmen’s buildings are very simple but also practical, made chiefly of reeds. The sweep-pole wells for watering the animals have become symbols of the Hungarian grasslands.

Inns were built 10-12 km apart along the commercial roads crossing the plains, where travelers could rest and the herdsmen turn in for the night. Tourists still like to visit these inns where they can taste the excellent herdsmen’s dishes and other specialties of cuisine of the Great Plain. In the Hortobágy village tourist centre, in the former cart stall of the Nagycsárda (Great Inn), there is today a Herdsmen’s Museum where the history and memorabilia of the herding life are shown. A stone bridge was built across the river Hortobágy on the road connecting Budapest with Debrecen in 1827, and from the number of its arches it is known colloquially as Kilenclyukú híd, which means “bridge with nine holes”.

Help in getting to know the protected flora and fauna of the National Park is given by four exhibit areas and study trails. It is worth getting information on the areas open to visitors at the tourism information offices or the headquarters of the Park before setting out on your journey.

Of the regular programs, the best known are the International Horse Days and the Hídi Fair in August.

 

 

Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape

Fertö/Neusiedler see Cultural Landscape – Europe’s biggest alkaline lake.

Mysterious Salt Lake, marsh, moorland and forests of reeds, romantic landscape with thousand faces – these are the images conjured up by the mention of Fertő. Although cut in two by state borders since the 1920, geologically and historically the site is still unified, and it has unique natural, landscape, architectural and settlement qualities.

Due to Continental, Mediterranean and Atlantic climate influences, plant and animal geographic borders meet on the flat lake region at the foot of the Alps, turning it into an unique habitat for wildlife. The cultural landscape resulting from the harmonic interaction between man and nature – shaped by variety of cultures since eight millennia – contains outstanding values of cultural history and ethnology.

Its Hungarian part has been a national park since 1991, and the Austrian part since 1993 (Fertő-Hanság National Park and Neusiedlersee Seewinkel Nationalpark, respectively). Salt water habitats can be found throughout Europe in the vicinity of seas, but salt lakes occur only in the eastern part of Europe and in the Carpathian Basin. The average depth of the water in Fertő lake is one meter, and it has a history of drying out from time to time (most recently between the years 1865 and 1871), but occasionally, its shores had extended up to the fringes of modern settlements. Another peculiarity is the surface of the lake bed thickly covered in reeds and bulrushes, serving as a habitat for roosting, feeding and hiding for a large number of birds of various species, especially during the migrating seasons.

Archaeological findings demonstrate that man inhabited the region since 6000 BC. There are outstanding monuments of the Ancient Roman period, including the remnants of a medical bath on the southern lake shore, dating from the time of Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD), moreover, a spring source used by the Romans, as well as the Mithras Temple of outstanding beauty in Fertőrákos. The Romans also introduced viticulture and wine-making, still important and of high quality. The architecture of settlements around the lake demonstrates the heritage of building constructions in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Rust (Ruszt in Hungarian) famous for its excellent wines in the Middle Ages, Purbach (Feketeváros), Mörbisch am See (Fertőmeggyes) and Breitenbrunn (Fertőszéleskút) on the Austrian side, and Fertőrákos, Balf, Hidegség, Fertőboz and Hegykő on the Hungarian side. In addition to the simplicity of village architecture, there are some splendid castles of outstanding cultural value. With its surface of 310 square kilometers, Fertő Lake is one of the largest saltwater (saline) lakes of Europe, a wetland habitat of international significance, and at the same time, the westernmost representative of Eurasian steppe lakes, proclaimed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1979.

With its grand Baroque French park, the Esterházy Castle was built in the style of Versailles between 1720 and 1760. The building complex used to house a place of merriment, a marionette theatre, and an opera house and concert hall lead by Joseph Haydn who brought Europe-wide fame for the musical life of Eszterháza. The Széchenyi Castle in Nagycenk had acquired its current shape in the first half of the 19th century, and its library and famous collections formed the basis of the collections of the National Library and the Hungarian National Museum, respectively. The limestone of Lajta, famous since the Roman era, mined from the quarry of Fertőrákos, provided building material, among others, for the medieval fortification walls of the town of Sopron, and for Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. The “stone halls” of the quarry, shaped through mining into an interesting form reminiscent of colonnade halls are occasionally used as a venue for cultural events. The current landscape of Fertő Lake/Neusiedlersee is the result of an ongoing dynamic evolution: illustration of the ability of cultures of various periods to adapt to this special and varied natural environment.
 

 

Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape

The cultural landscape of Tokaj graphically demonstrates the long tradition of wine production in this region of low hills and river valleys. The intricate pattern of vineyards, farms, villages and small towns, with their historic networks of deep wine cellars, illustrates every facet of the production of the famous Tokaj wines, the quality and management of which have been strictly regulated for nearly three centuries.

Located at the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains (in North-East Hungary), along the Bodrog River and at the confluence of the Bodrog and the Tisza Rivers, the Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2002. The World Heritage property and its buffer zone together cover the administrative area of 27 settlements (13,245 ha and 74,879 ha, so 88,124 ha in total). The entire landscape, its organization and its character are specially shaped in interaction with the millennial and still living tradition of wine production. Documented history of the wine region since 1561 attests that grape cultivation as well as the making of the ‘aszú’ wine has been permanent for centuries in the area surrounded by the three Sátor-hegy (the Tokaj-hill, the Sátor – hill of Abaújszántó, and the Sátor-hill of Sátoraljaújhely). The legal base of delimitation of the wine region is among the first in the world and dates back to 1737 when the decree of Emperor Charles VI (Charles III, King of Hungary) established the area as a closed wine region.

The unique combination of topographic, environmental and climatic conditions of the Tokaj Wine Region, with its volcanic slopes, wetlands creating a special microclimate that favors the apparition of the “noble rote” (Botrytis cinereal), as well as the surrounding oak-woods have long been recognized as outstandingly favorable for grape cultivation and specialized wine production. All these features have enabled the development of vineyards, farms, villages, small towns and historic networks of wine cellars carved by hand into mostly volcanic rocks, which are the most characteristic structures in Tokaj: that of King Kalman in Tarcal is known to have been in existence as early as 1110. There are two basic types of cellar in Tokaj: the vaulted and the excavated. The socio-cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of the inhabitants, together with the special fame of the Tokaji Aszú Wine has contributed to the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the region.

The name of Tokaj is identified with wine all over the world. In this wine region situated in the north-east part of Hungary they found the fossil of the leaf of an ancient vine type, which is regarded as the common ancestor of the present vine varieties. So, it can be said that the vine is truly indigenous and natural to Tokaj. This is due to the exceptional microclimate, the soil conditions created as a result of volcanic and post-volcanic activities, the favorably situated slopes and the autumn mist caused by the rivers Bodrog and Tisza. The oak trees from which the barrels are made also grow here, and the fermentation of the wine is facilitated by the special mold settling on the cellar walls. The resulting product was considered to have medicinal properties up to the most recent times. The French King Louis 14th called it “the king of wines and the wine of kings”.

Over the centuries different ethnic groups – Saxon, Swabian, Polish, Romanian, Armenian and Jewish people – settled here, and they all added to the economic and social life as well as to the culture of wine production. This variety is reflected by the church and secular architecture of the settlements. In addition to the monuments of folk architecture, the building styles of the aristocracy and of the wealthier aspiring peasantry with civic aspirations of the 16-17th century also represent a unique value. The area has been protected since 1737, when it was declared an exclusive wine area by a royal decree, the first example of such a provision in the world. The interplay of landscape, ecosystem and human culture and tradition in Tokaj-Hegyalja has created such a unique integration and mutual dependence that its preservation and introduction to visitors is a matter of universal interest.

SPAS

Hévíz

The curative effects of Lake Hévíz were presumably already known by the Romans, at least the ancient coins found in the lake and the remains of an altar indicate so.

Objects excavated around the lake and originating from the Migration Period prove the presence of Germanic and Slavic tribes. The first written record of the lake dates from 1328. The area inhabited in the Middle Ages was destroyed by the Turks.

The Festetic family played a key role in the setting up and the propagation of the baths when, in the mid-18th century the spring and its surroundings became part of their domain. The prospering of the spa-life of the resort is mainly owing to count György Festetics I who was determined to develop the spa resort.

The Hévíz cure in its present sense has a history of more than 200 years. The first study written about the lake was published in 1769 by Ferenc Szláby, health officer of Zala county and physicist. The predecessor of today’s St. Andrew’s Hospital was founded in 1952 and inpatients, as well as outpatients have been received since then. The effectiveness of the therapy is ensured by the full diagnostic services and the 200-year-old medical competence. The hospital offers medical examinations and a complete treatment on the basis of individual therapy plans.

The settlement of Hévíz was established in 1946 by the unification of two villages: Hévízszentandrás és Egregy. It was granted the designation of a town on 1 May 1992.

Today, the development of the town is based on tourism. It owes its popularity to health tourism and has several thousand visitors a year.

The history of the lake – such as that of our Earth – looks back to several million years. At the beginning of the Mesozoic era, during the Triassic period (about 200 million years ago) sea water covered this region as well as the site of the present day Transdanubian Mountains (Pannonian Sea). Out of this sea white dolomite and limestone formed a deposit around Hévíz.

During the other two Mesozoic periods, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous (about 180-170 million years ago) the sea gradually withdrew from this area. In the territory of today’s Bakony Hills, at the end of the Cretaceous period and the during the first epoch of the Tertiary period, the Palaeocene bauxite deposits formed in a tropical environment, then re-deposited due to surface impacts. These natural forces caused erosion in the softer layers of the ground surface, at some spots totally destroying them. This was followed by the karstification of limestone and dolomite.

During the Tertiary period, neither the Eocene, the Oligocene, nor the Miocene epochs did leave layers behind; the region of Hévíz remained a ‘mainland’. The last epoch of the period, the Pliocene, however, was very eventful.

At the end of the Pliocene and at the beginning of the Pleistocene (about 2 to 4 million years ago) the wind and water streams carried most of the material of the Pannonian layers southwards. The welling up of hot springs, and thus the Primordial Spring were the first sign of post-volcanic activities. Due to earth movements and the crustal collapse two trench systems were formed in the middle of the Pleistocene epoch. Moisture accumulated in them: Lake Balaton was formed about 22 thousand years ago. This was also the time when the history of the Lake of Hévíz started.

There are several pieces of evidence proving that the thermal water of Lake Hévíz did not well up at the level in the geological past as it does today, but much higher. The water of the Hévíz Lake welled up at its present site about 20-22 thousand years ago, simultaneously with the formation of Lake Balaton. The warm water rushing up first flowed into Lake Balaton. Due to the changes in the climate, the water level of Lake Balaton dropped. A peat-moor formed from the once lush flora in the former basin of the lake.

The boggy, peaty, flat surface of the Hévíz valley extends 1-1.5 km eastwards of the lake as far as Dobogó hill at the eastern part of the valley and the mountain range of Cserszegtomaj surrounding the valley from the east. The peaty area extends southwards as far as river Zala and northwards as well as the country tavern of Gyöngyös.

The water of Hévíz Lake is ‘heated’ by geothermal energy. The deep-seated waters enclosed in underground storage systems formed during the Triassic and the Pannonian periods are heated by heat conducted and radiated from deep-lying layers of the crust of the earth.

Based on the amount of carbon isotope in the water, scientists have found out that the cold rill of the spring is 5-7 thousand years old, while the warm-water spring is 10-12 thousand years of age. Waters infiltrating into the depth from the surface come from a quite extensive area: from the Bakony Hills, the Keszthely Mountains and the Zala Hills. A part of the water does not permeate too deep into the ground (as far as the Pannonian layer) – this is the so-called karst water zone – and from here it gets into the ‘mixing cave’ of the Lake of Hévíz through the cold rill. Most of the water gets much deeper, into the Triassic dolomite layers where it gets warmed up. During its journey it dissolves various metals and minerals and then it flows towards the surface again to arrive finally at the spring cave.

 

 

 

FOOD

Hungarian cuisine has influenced the history of the Magyar people, and vice versa.

The importance of livestock and the nomadic lifestyle of the Magyar people, as well as a hearkening to their steppe past, is apparent in the prominence of meat in Hungarian food and may be reflected in traditional meat dishes cooked over the fire like goulash (in Hungarian “gulyás”, lit. “cattleman’s (meal)”), pörkölt stew and the spicy fisherman’s soup called halászlé are all traditionally cooked over the open fire in a bogrács (or cauldron). Chicken, pork and beef are very common, while turkey, duck, lamb, fish and game meats are also eaten but not so frequently (mostly on occasions and/or special events). Hungary is also famous for the high quality and relatively inexpensive salamis and sausages it produces primarily from pork, but also poultry, beef, etc. Paprika, a quintessential spice and pepper is often associated with Hungary and is used prominently in a handful of dishes.

In the 15th century, King Matthias Corvinus and his Neapolitan wife Beatrice, influenced by Renaissance culture, introduced new ingredients such as sweet chestnut and spices such as garlic, ginger, mace, saffron and nutmeg, onion and the use of fruits in stuffings or cooked with meat.

At that time and later, considerable numbers of Saxons (a German ethnic group), Armenians, Italians, Jews, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks settled in the Hungarian basin and in Transylvania, also contributing with different new dishes. Hungarian cuisine was influenced by Austrian cuisine under the Austro-Hungarian Empire; dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed from Austrian cuisine, and vice versa.

Some cakes and sweets in Hungary show a strong German-Austrian influence.

All told, modern Hungarian cuisine is a synthesis of ancient Uralic components mixed with West Slavic, Austrian and Germanic. The food of Hungary can be considered a melting pot of the continent, with a culinary base formed from its own, original Magyar cuisine.

Hungarian food uses selected spices judiciously to add flavor, and despite the association of hot paprika with Hungary, there is no Hungarian dish that features hot chili peppers intrinsically, and one may request not to include them in the dishes that use it. Hot chilis are only rarely given as a garnish in traditional Hungarian cuisine, although dried hot chilis or hot chili paste may be given on the side for added, optional spiciness. This is in stark contrast to other nations associated with the chili pepper, like Mexico or Thailand, which use the hot variety much more frequently and typically also serve it as a garnish. In Hungary, the sweet (mild) paprika is much more common and is featured prominently in most dishes. The use of a thick sour cream called tejföl as a topping is another common feature in many dishes.

In addition to various kinds of paprika and onions (raw, sweated, seared, browned or caramelized), other common flavor components include: dill, bay leaf, black peppercorn, caraway, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice and peel, marjoram, mustard (prepared), tarragon, oregano, parsley, vinegar, poppy seeds, and vanilla. Less used spices are anise, basil, chervil, chives, cloves, juniper berries, lovage, nutmeg, rosemary, savory, thyme, creeping thyme, and white peppercorn.

In Hungary, people usually have a large breakfast. Hungarian breakfast generally is an open sandwich with fresh bread or toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts such as ham, liver pâté (called májkrém or kenőmájas), bacon, salami, mortadella, sausages such as kabanos, beerwurst or different Hungarian sausages or kolbász. Modern day Hungarians don’t always eat this typical breakfast. For many, breakfast is a cup of milk, tea or coffee with pastries, a bun, a kifli or a strudel with jam or honey, or cereal, such as muesli and perhaps fruit.

Lunch is the major meal of the day, traditionally with several courses, but often just one course in modern times. Cold or hot appetizers may be served sometimes (for example fish, egg or liver), then soup. Soup is followed by a main dish. The main dish is a dish including meat, side dishes and salad (or pickled vegetables – paprika, cucumber, sauerkraut, etc.), which precedes the dessert. Fruit may follow.

Hungarian cuisine has influenced the history of the Magyar people, and vice versa. The importance of livestock and the nomadic lifestyle of the Magyar people, as well as a hearkening to their steppe past, is apparent in the prominence of meat in Hungarian food and may be reflected in traditional meat dishes cooked over the fire like goulash (in Hungarian “gulyás”, lit. “cattleman’s (meal)”), pörkölt stew and the spicy fisherman’s soup called halászlé are all traditionally cooked over the open fire in a bogrács (or cauldron). In the 15th century, King Matthias Corvinus and his Neapolitan wife Beatrice, influenced by Renaissance culture, introduced new ingredients such as sweet chestnut and spices such as garlic, ginger, mace, saffron and nutmeg, onion and the use of fruits in stuffings or cooked with meat. Some of these spices such as ginger and saffron are no longer used in modern Hungarian cuisine. At that time and later, considerable numbers of Saxons (a German ethnic group), Armenians, Italians, Jews, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks settled in the Hungarian basin and in Transylvania, also contributing with different new dishes. Hungarian cuisine was influenced by Austrian cuisine under the Austro-Hungarian Empire; dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed from Austrian cuisine, and vice versa. Some cakes and sweets in Hungary show a strong German-Austrian influence. All told, modern Hungarian cuisine is a synthesis of ancient Uralic components mixed with West Slavic, Austrian and Germanic. The food of Hungary can be considered a melting pot of the continent, with a culinary base formed from its own, original Magyar cuisine.

Hungarian or Magyar cuisine is the cuisine characteristic of the nation of Hungary and its primary ethnic group, the Magyars. Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, dairy products and cheeses.

Hungarian cuisine is mostly continental Central European, with some elements from Eastern Europe such as the use of poppy, and the popularity of kefir and quark (cottage cheese). Paprika, a quintessential spice and pepper is often associated with Hungary and is used prominently in a handful of dishes. Typical Hungarian food is heavy on dairy, cheese and meats, like that of neighboring West Slavic cuisines (Czech, Polish and Slovak). Chicken, pork and beef are very common, while turkey, duck, lamb, fish and game meats are also eaten but not so frequently (mostly on occasions and/or special events). Hungary is also famous for the high quality and relatively inexpensive salamis and sausages it produces primarily from pork, but also poultry, beef, etc.

Hungarian food uses selected spices judiciously to add flavor, and despite the association of hot paprika with Hungary, there is no Hungarian dish that features hot chili peppers intrinsically, and one may request not to include them in the dishes that use it. Hot chilis are only rarely given as a garnish in traditional Hungarian cuisine, although dried hot chilis or hot chili paste may be given on the side for added, optional spiciness. This is in stark contrast to other nations associated with the chili pepper, like Mexico or Thailand, which use the hot variety much more frequently and typically also serve it as a garnish. In Hungary, the sweet (mild) paprika is much more common and is featured prominently in most dishes. The use of a thick sour cream called tejföl as a topping is another common feature in many dishes.

In addition to various kinds of paprika and onions (raw, sweated, seared, browned or caramelized), other common flavor components include: dill, bay leaf, black peppercorn, caraway, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice and peel, marjoram, mustard (prepared), tarragon, oregano, parsley, vinegar, poppy seeds, and vanilla. Less used spices are anise, basil, chervil, chives, cloves, juniper berries, lovage, nutmeg, rosemary, savory, thyme, creeping thyme, and white peppercorn.

In Hungary, people usually have a large breakfast. Hungarian breakfast generally is an open sandwich with fresh bread or toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts such as ham, liver pâté (called májkrém or kenőmájas), bacon, salami, mortadella, sausages such as kabanos, beerwurst or different Hungarian sausages or kolbász. Modern day Hungarians don’t always eat this typical breakfast. For many, breakfast is a cup of milk, tea or coffee with pastries, a bun, a kifli or a strudel with jam or honey, or cereal, such as muesli and perhaps fruit.

Lunch is the major meal of the day, traditionally with several courses, but often just one course in modern times. Cold or hot appetizers may be served sometimes (for example fish, egg or liver), then soup. Soup is followed by a main dish. The main dish is a dish including meat, side dishes and salad (or pickled vegetables – paprika, cucumber, sauerkraut, etc.), which precedes the dessert. Fruit may follow.

Dinner is typically less important than lunch, and there is no typical Hungarian dinner. It may either be a lunch-type meal, with multiple courses and the same foods one would serve for lunch, or it could be the same as a traditional Hungarian breakfast, with bread, cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes and peppers as described above.

Hungarian meal times are somewhat flexible. Typical times are as follows: Breakfast 6-9 am; Lunch 12 noon-2 pm; Dinner 6-9 pm

Special occasions

For Christmas, Hungarians have a fish soup called halászlé. Other dishes may be served, such as roast goose, roast turkey or roast duck, cabbage rolls (töltött káposzta). Pastry roll filled with walnut or poppy seed called (bejgli) is a usual Christmas food, and candies and sweets used to decorate the Christmas tree, such as szaloncukor are eaten during all Christmas, when everybody picks them and eats them directly from the tree. On New Year’s Eve (Szilveszter), Hungarians traditionally celebrate with virsli (Vienna sausage, and lentil soup. On New Year’s Day, it is common to eat either lentil soup or korhelyleves, a meaty sauerkraut soup said to cure hangovers.

Easter (Húsvét) meals have few specialties, though some Hungarians (especially in Szabolcs County) make a special sweet yellow cheese, Sárga túró, made with quark (túró) and eggs.

SHOPPING

Hungary is great for shopping. Although all parts of the verdant country produce great quality goods and foodstuffs, of course Budapest, as the vibrant cultural capital and by far the largest city, is the place to go. It is easy to find that special item you won’t find elsewhere!

It even has a name: Hungaricum. Many of these, such as Pick Salami from southern Szeged and Bull’s Blood and Tokaji Aszú wines from the northern regions of Eger and Tokaj, make great gifts and souvenirs.

If you fancy some more immediate gratification, you could try authentic Goulash soup or Lángos in the food halls of one of the capital’s numerous covered markets, (many of them beautiful historical buildings) such as the Great Market Hall near the Liberty Bridge, which according to CNN Travel is among Top5 city markets of Europe. Here you will see the food shopping of yesteryear. People young and old wandering the wide alleys of the labyrinthine market hall, mostly buying from a string of familiar vendors as they slowly fill their basket with fresh produce, meat and dried goods. To really jump the Hungarian language barrier and take part yourself, by joining a Market tour, where you can shop together with a knowledgeable guide, often gathering fresh ingredients for a slap-up meal, then taking it “home” to cook it all together.

Recently refurbished Klauzál Square Market Hall can be found in the middle of the 7th district Budapest. This area was traditionally the home of merchants, so no wonder that a lively trade was going on in this market hall too. The beautifully renovated historic building, receiving a new mezzanine level during the 2015 refurbishment, has two entrances, from the Klauzál Square and from the Akácfa Street. Apart from farmers market we can also find many street food places and artisian shops here.

The 8th district also has it’s own central market hall, the Rákóczi Square Market Hall, towering in the inner end of the Rákóczi Square, just next to the station of Metro Line No. 4. Airy halls of the market are housing traditional vegetable and fruit shops, other food vendors and a supermarket too. Also a big chinese food shop is situated in the building, while in the opposite corner we can find recently opened Oinos WineBar Bistrot.

Downtown Market Hall (Belvárosi Piac) in Hold Street is not far from the Parliament Building, the Basilica and the Szabadság Square. It was also recently renovated, and around 50 vendors are selling fresh fruit, vegetables and other local, traditional and handmade products here. We can also enjoy special street food dishes in the upper floor.

One of the most popular markets of the Buda side is Fény Street Market, where stalls of small farmers offer an innumerable range of fresh products. If you visit this place, don’t forget to try the ever popular Hungarian street food, lángos!

The Fehérvári Street Market Hall is situated in an interesting, terrace-style modern building in the Southern part of Buda, covered with a roof a few years ago during a thorough renovation. This is said to be the most flowery market of Budapest.

The list does not stop here; there are also weekend farmer’s markets, (the famous ruin bar Szimpla kert has one) up-class design markets and even flea markets like the well-known Ecseri Market. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at any of these, it’s probably not worth having!

General information

Non-EU resident travelers may apply for a refund of up to 27% of the general sales tax (VAT) on goods purchased in Hungary, except for works of art, collections and antiques, under the following conditions: the total value of the goods on one original invoice, including VAT, must exceed 50,000 HUF. Not more than 90 days may elapse between the time of purchase and the time of export. The goods must be taken out of the country unused, in their original packaging.

Shopping centres are open seven days a week, other shops from 10 am until 6 pm during the week. On Saturday shops mostly close at 1 pm and remain close on Sundays, but some of them may have different opening hours. Malls are open from 10 am to 8 pm.

Feel free to use your credit or ATM cards. These are accepted by all major stores and ATM-s can be found all over downtown Budapest. Another safe method of payment are Travelers Checks, which are also accepted by most of the hotels.

You are not supposed to take valuable antiques out of the country without a special permit, which must be available at the place of purchase.