Hungary is a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Its capital is Budapest. Hungary is a member of OECD, NATO, EU, V4 and is a Schengen state. The official language is Hungarian, which is part of the Finno-Ugric family, thus one of the four official languages of the European Union that are not of Indo-European origin.
Following a Celtic (after c. 450 BC) and a Roman (9 AD – c. 430) period, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian ruler Árpád, whose great-grandson Stephen I of Hungary was crowned with a crown sent from Rome by the pope in 1000. After being recognized as a kingdom, Hungary remained a monarchy for 946 years, and at various points was regarded as one of the cultural centers of the Western world. A significant power until the end of World War I, Hungary lost over 70% of its territory, along with 3.3 million people of Hungarian ethnicity, under the Treaty of Trianon, the terms of which have been considered humiliating by Hungarians. Hungary lost 8 of its 10 biggest Hungarian cities too. The kingdom was succeeded by a Communist era (1947–1989) during which Hungary gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal move of opening its border with Austria in 1989, thus accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The present form of government is a parliamentary republic (since 1989). Today, Hungary is a high-income economy, and a regional leader regarding certain markers. Its current goal is to become a developed country by IMF standards.
In the past decade, Hungary was listed as one of the 15 most popular tourist destinations in the world. The country is home to the largest thermal water cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe (Hortobágy).
Landscape: Slightly more than one half of Hungary's landscape consists of flat to rolling plains of the Pannonian Basin: the most important plain regions include the Little Hungarian Plain in the west, and the Great Hungarian Plain in the southeast. The highest elevation above sea level on the latter is only 183 metres.
Transdanubia is a primarily hilly region with a terrain varied by low mountains. These include the very eastern stretch of the Alps, Alpokalja, in the west of the country, the Transdanubian Medium Mountains, in the central region of Transdanubia, and the Mecsek Mountains and Villány Mountains in the south. The highest point of the area is the Írott-kő in the Alps, at 882 metres.
The highest mountains of the country are located in the Carpathians: these lie in the northern parts, in a wide band along the Slovakian border (highest point: the Kékes at 1,014 m/3,327 ft).
Hungary is divided in two by its main waterway, the Danube (Duna); other large rivers include the Tisza and Dráva, while Transdanubia contains Lake Balaton, a major body of water. The largest thermal lake in the world, Lake Hévíz (Hévíz Spa), is located in Hungary. The second largest lake in the Pannonian Basin is the artificial Lake Tisza (Tisza-tó).
Phytogeographically, Hungary belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Hungary belongs to the ecoregion of Pannonian mixed forests.
Climate: Hungary has a Continental climate, with hot summers with low overall humidity levels but frequent rainshowers and frigid to cold snowy winters. Average annual temperature is 9.7 °C (49.5 °F). Temperature extremes are about 42 °C (107.6 °F) in the summer and −29 °C (−20.2 °F) in the winter. Average temperature in the summer is 27 °C (80.6 °F) to 35 °C (95 °F) and in the winter it is 0 °C (32 °F) to −15 °C (5.0 °F). The average yearly rainfall is approximately 600 mm (23.6 in). A small, southern region of the country near Pécs enjoys a reputation for a Mediterranean climate, but in reality it is only slightly warmer than the rest of the country and still receives snow during the winter
Architecture: Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe (Great Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), the third largest church in Europe (Esztergom Basilica), the second largest territorial abbey in the world (Pannonhalma Archabbey), the second largest Baroque castle in the world (Gödöllő), and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy (Pécs).
Cuisine: The Hungarian cuisine is a prominent feature of the Hungarian culture, just as much like the art of hospitality. Traditional dishes such as the world famous Goulash (gulyás stew or gulyásleves soup). Dishes are often flavoured with paprika (ground red peppers), a Hungarian innovation. Thick, heavy Hungarian sour cream called tejföl is often used to soften the dishes flavour. The famous Hungarian hot river fish soup called Fisherman's soup or halászlé is usually a rich mixture of several kinds of poached fish. Other dishes are Chicken Paprikash, Foie gras made of goose liver, pörkölt stew, vadas, (game stew with vegetable gravy and dumplings), trout with almonds and salty and sweet dumplings, like túrós csusza, (dumplings with fresh quark cheese and thick sour cream). Desserts include the iconic Dobos Cake, Strudels (rétes), filled with apple, cherry, poppy seed or cheese, Gundel pancake, plum dumplings (szilvás gombóc), somlói dumplings, dessert soups like chilled Sour cherry soup and sweet chestnut puree, gesztenyepüré (cooked chestnuts mashed with sugar and rum and split into crumbs, topped with whipped cream). Perec and kifli are widely popular pastries.
Drinks: Pálinka: is a fruit brandy, distilled from fruit grown in the orchards situated on the Great Hungarian Plain. It is a spirit native to Hungary and comes in a variety of flavours including apricot (barack) and cherry (cseresznye). However, plum (szilva) is the most popular flavour.
Beer: Beer goes well with many traditional Hungarian dishes. The five main Hungarian breweries are: Borsodi, Soproni, Arany Ászok, Kõbányai, and Dreher.
Wine: As Hugh Johnson says in The History of Wine, the territory of Hungary is ideal for wine-making. Since the fall of communism there has been a renaissance of Hungarian wine-making. The choice of good wine is widening from year to year. The country can be divided to six wine regions: North-Transdanubia, Lake Balaton, South-Pannónia, Duna-region or Alföld, Upper-Hungary and Tokaj-Hegyalja. Hungarian wine regions offer a great variety of style: the main products of the country are elegant and full-bodied dry whites with good acidity, although complex sweet whites (Tokaj), elegant (Eger) and full-bodied robust reds (Villány and Szekszárd). The main varieties are: Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Furmint, Pinot gris or Szürkebarát, Chardonnay (whites), Kékfrankos (or Blaufrankisch in German), Kadarka, Portugieser, Zweigelt, Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot. The most famous wines from Hungary are Tokaji Aszú and Egri Bikavér.
Tokaji: Tokaji, meaning "of Tokaj", or "from Tokaj" in Hungarian, is used to label wines from the wine region of Tokaj-Hegyalja in Hungary. Tokaji wine has received accolades from numerous great writers and composers including Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert and Goethe; Joseph Haydn's favorite wine was a Tokaji. Louis XV and Frederick the Great tried to outdo one another in the excellence of the vintages they stocked when they treated guests like Voltaire to some Tokaji. Napoleon III, the last Emperor of the French, ordered 30–40 barrels of Tokaji for the Court every year. Gustav III, King of Sweden, never had any other wine to drink. In Russia, customers included Peter the Great and Empress Elizabeth of Russia.
Zwack Unicum: For over 150 years, a blend of 40 Hungarian herbs has been used to create the liqueur Unicum. Unicum is a bitter, dark-coloured liqueur that can be drunk as an apéritif or after a meal, thus helping the digestion. The recipe is held secret by the Zwack family.
Hungary's most outstanding annual events include the Budapest Spring Festival (mid-march to mid-April), Hortobágy Equestrian Days (late June), Sopron Early Music Days (late June), Festival in Budapest (late June), Miskolc Opera Festival (late June), Miskolc Kalálka International Folk Festival (July), Győr Summer Festival (late June), Győr Summer Cultural Festival (late June to late July), Pannon Festival in Pécs (July and August), Szentendre Summer Festival (July), Kőszeg Street Theatre Festival (late July), Savaria International Dance Competition in Szombathely (July), Debrecen Jazz Days (July), Szeged Open Air Festival (mid-July to August), Diáksziget (shorter: "Sziget" or "Sziget Festival", Student Island or Pepsi Island) north of Budapest (August), Eger Wine Harvest Festival (September), and Budapest Autumn Arts Festival (mid-September to mid-October).
St Stephen's Day (August 20) is celebrated with sporting events, parades and fireworks nationwide. On the same day there is a Floral Festival in Debrecen and a Bridge Fair in nearby Hortobágy. Formula 1 car races are held in early August at the Hungaroring near Mogyoród, 18 km northeast of Budapest.
Budapest Spring Ferstival : Designed to fit the needs of Budapest's cultural heritage and its requirements as a modern Central European centre, this metropolitan festival was instituted in 1981. By presenting and disseminating cultural assets it boosts the city's image and encourages dynamic development of its cultural tourism. This "festival of festivals", traditionally covering a range of artistic fields, presents a series of homogeneous artistic activities to which international professional symposia are linked. The Budapest Spring Festival takes place in the last two weeks of March. Its main emphasis is on those symphony orchestra concerts, opera and ballet performances which will appeal to the widest audience, but the program also includes open-air events and an Operetta Festival. The performances take place in the capital's most important concert halls and theatres, and often near historic monuments. Over the years a number of regional towns have been included in the Budapest Spring Festival - Debrecen, Gödöllő, Győr, Kaposvár, Kecskemét, Sopron, Szentendre and Szombathely - and thus it has more or less expanded into a national festival. The list of events always includes renowned foreign guests as well as distinguished artists and groups from the Hungarian musical life. Highlights include classical concerts, productions at the Opera House, open air events, the Operetta Festival, the Dance House Convention, the Dance Panorama, and what are considered to be the real treat, the exhibitions.
Haydn at Eszterháza: During its first quarter century, the palace was the primary home of the celebrated composer Joseph Haydn, who wrote the majority of his symphonies for the Prince's orchestra. Starting in 1768, the theater was a major venue for opera, often with more than a hundred performances per year. The palace was geographically isolated, a factor which led to loneliness and tedium among the musicians. This is seen in some of Haydn's letters, as well as in the famous tale of the Farewell Symphony
The basic aim of the festival is to evoke the musical paradise that Eszterháza was in Haydn's time, within the original walls, with the help of period instruments and performing practice. The programmes focus mainly on the works composed during the Eszterháza period of Haydn's creative life, and among these, on compositions belonging to the most important genres (symphonies, string quartets, keyboard sonatas and trios). In addition, however, the concert programmes regularly include works by the "unknown Haydn" (baryton pieces, rarely-heard church compositions, wind divertimenti, etc.). The festival aims to provide opportunities for the world's most outstanding Haydn performers to meet here, to gain inspiration from the atmosphere and acoustics of the place, and to inspire one another through shared music-making. The majority of the performers play only compositions by Joseph Haydn, but also in exceptional cases other works closely connected, either directly or through their composers, with Haydn, Eszterháza or the family of the Esterházy princes - such as, for example, the string quartets dedicated to Haydn by Mozart, and certain pieces by Michael Haydn (the composer's younger brother), Luigi Tomasini (leader of the Eszterháza orchestra) and others. The venue for most of the concerts is the enchantingly beautiful ceremonial hall of the palace, which has superb acoustics. Some of the more intimate, solistic performances are given in the sala terrena, the central hall of the original, smaller, Renaissance hunting palace. Some concerts of church music take place in one or other of the churches in the nearby villages.
Győr Summer Festival: This festival is held annually, from the second week in June to the second week in July. The Győr Summer International Cultural Festival, which displays Győr's cultural heritage, has a history of over three decades. The list of events, which covers a wide range of genres, is based on a series of separate activities. Every year, for a month in June and July, the Baroque decorations of the city centre, its atmospheric courtyards and the banks of the Rába river are home to the International Ballet Festival, the International Puppet and Street Theatre Convention, the International Folk Dancing and Folk Music Festival, and the International Handcraft Fair and Exhibition. In addition to the performances of the hosts - the Győr Ballet, the Győr National Theatre, and the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra - visitors can also see those of the visiting theatre companies and musical groups.
Republic of Hungary is located in the central part of the Pannonian Vale, and is a landlocked country, which is conducive to the development of all forms of traffic.
Hungary has developed road, railway, air and water traffic. Budapest, the capital of the state, to the measures is an important node in the public transport network, to say that "all roads lead to Budapest".
Railways: Train entering the Keleti Railway Station
- Total: 7,606 km
Note: Hungary and Austria jointly manage the cross-border standard-gauge railway between Győr–Sopron–Ebenfurt (GySEV/ROeEE), a distance of about 101 km in Hungary and 65 km in Austria.
In Budapest, the three main railway stations are the Eastern (Keleti), Western (Nyugati) and Southern (Déli), with other outlying stations like Kelenföld. Of the three, the Southern is the most modern but the Eastern and the Western are more decorative and architecturally interesting.
Other important railway stations countrywide include Szolnok (the most important railway intersection outside Budapest), Tiszai Railway Station in Miskolc and the stations of Pécs, Győr, Szeged and Székesfehérvár.
Four Hungarian city (Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged and Pécs is becoming the fifth) have tram network.
The only city with an underground railway system is Budapest with its Metro.
In Budapest there is also a suburban rail service in and around the city, operated under the name HÉV.
Motorways (Hungarian: Autópálya) : M0 - M1 - M2 - M15 - M3 - M30 - M35 - M5 - M6 - M7 - M70
- Total: 188,490 km
New motorway sections are being added to the existing network, that already connects many major economically important cities to the Capital City.
Ports and harbors: The most important port is Budapest, the capital. Other important ones include Dunaújváros and Baja.
Airports: There are 43-45 airports in Hungary, including smaller, unpaved ones too. (1999 est.) The five international ones are Budapest-Ferihegy, Debrecen Airport, Sármellék Airport (also called FlyBalaton for its proximity to Lake Balaton, Hungary's number one tourist attraction), Győr-Pér and Pécs-Pogány. MALÉV Hungarian Airlines operates flights to over 60, mostly European cities.
The Budapest Metro (Hungarian: Budapesti metró) is the metro system in the Hungarian capital Budapest. It is the third-oldest underground metro system in the world, and its iconic Line 1 (dating from 1896) was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. It consists of three lines, each designated by a number and a colour. Metro Line 4 is currently under construction; the first section is to begin operation in 2011. A fifth line has also been included in medium to long-term plans. The Budapest Metro trains start running at 4:30 in the morning, and the last train leaves at 11:10 p.m. from the terminus. The rush hours are between 6 and 8 a.m. and between 2 and 5 p.m. on workdays, when trains run every two or three minutes. Early morning and night trains run every 10 or 15 minutes. On Christmas Eve (December 24) trains usually run only until about 3:00 in the afternoon, and may also stop running early on other holidays, as advertised beforehand. Service time may be extended on New Year's Eve.