Located in central Europe, Hungary is bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia. Apart from its quality wines and Baroque towns, its strategic location in the continent also attracts thousands of tourists to the country.
The country is slightly larger than all of Ireland. North to south, the greatest distance is 268km; east to west, it’s 528km. The landscape consists mostly of plains in the east, low hills to the west, and small mountains to the north. Kékes Mountain, the country’s highest point, is a modest 1014m. The major rivers are the Danube and the Tisza.
Originally the Hungarians came from the Ural mountains and belong to the finno-ugric linguistic stock. They swept over the plains to Europe in the ninth and tenth century. Finally they settled in the country they liked most. In this time they found some Slavonic, Hunnish and Avar tribes in the Carpatian Basin and they merged in the Hungarian nation. When you come to Hungary you can imagine why: the endless puszta plains are everything a horseman and a farmer could wish. On this plains are many beautiful cities, but above all the capital Budapest. This city, right in the heart of Europe, can be considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and a very lively one at that.
The Carpathian Basin in which Hungary lies was inhabited by the nomadic Magyars in the 8th century AD. They allied with the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century and a Magyar prince named Stephen I was crowned the ‘Christian King’. However, with Stephen’s death in 1038, the emerging nation witnessed constant plots and counterplots by rival claimants to the throne. It enjoyed stability and prosperity under the rule of Matthias Corvinus in the 15th century. In 1526, Hungary faced defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, a defeat that brought to an end the independence of the country. Hungary joined both the World War I and II as an ally of Germany.
The capital Budapest is a beautiful city with a lively nightlife. Known as the Paris of Eastern Europe because of its monuments, broad avenues and well-laid parks, the city is best explored on foot. The Castle District and the Royal Palace are frequented by travellers almost throughout the year, while the Óbuda area has some Roman ruins and the Kiscelli Museum. A cruise along the Danube is a wonderful option while you are in Budapest.
The Balaton Lake, situated around 100 km from Budapest, is one of the largest in Europe and has several high-rise hotels and beaches along its shore. An important city lying between the Danube and the Dráva rivers is Pécs, known for the paradoxically named Mosque Church built by the Turks.
Though summer is the tourist season, Hungary is best visited during spring and autumn when the climate is neither too hot nor too cold.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and with a population of 2 million citizens by far the largest city in the country.
The city is often referred as the Paris of the east, and deserves this name. It bears some resemblance to Vienna, but slightly smaller and friendlier. The picturesque setting on two sides of the Danube, the nine connecting bridges and the villa’s and public buildings from the fin-de-siècle era really make Budapest one of the most enjoyable cities in Europe.
Budapest is composed of two cities: the small Buda, on the west side of the river looking over the much larger Pest on the opposite side. The two parts developed seperately as the bourgois Buda with it’s palaces and spas and the more commercial Pest. At first, the hills of Buda were the safe core of the twin cities, but as Buda and Pest were united with Óbuda (Ancient Buda) the plains of Pest became the centre of the growing metropolis.
Today, the most famous landmark of Budapest is the Parliament building on the banks of the Danube. From a distance it looks a lot like the English House of Parliament. Only Big Ben is missing. The best view of the Parliament can be had from Castle Hill, a Budapset highlight itself. This collection of palaces, churches and monuments has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is a must see for every tourist. Around here you can also check out the ugliest fountain in eastern Europe. Budapest has some very good museums as well, The National Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Historical Museum of Budapest being the best.
Budapest has developed to become a very lively city, with many good restaurants and a nightlife scene you need to check out to believe it. By day, you can roam the city, visit a museum, take a look around churches, make your choise from the dozen or so types of coffee in one of the cafés. By night you can have dinner at a cheap or a fancy eating out, go to the opera, and afterwards dance the night away.
This pleasant little town is very popular with both tourists and artists. It was founded in the 14th century by Greek and Serbian refugees who fled from the Turks. Although they struggled with invasians, they managed to hold on to their orthodox religion, as is testified by the many small orthodox churches still in Szentendre. After most of the Serbs moved away during the Habsburg era, the town lost it’s commercial importance and became just another quiet little town on the Danube. In the early 20th century, a group of pioneering young artists led the way for the many artist who live and work here until today.
Szentendre offers the visitor a relaxing day out. You can take a walk along the Danube, have something to eat in one of the small restaurants, stock up on your souvenirs, and visit a gallery or museum.
The Margit Kovács museum (located on Vastagh György utca) displays the works of this influential Hungarian artist who is considered to be a master of ceramics. Her works usually focusses around themes of motherhood, love and destiny, and never fails to move.
On Görög utca you can find a small gallery with works by Károly Ferenczy. He was a leading Hungarian impressionist whos works are also exhibited in the museums in Budapest.
Just outside of Szentendre lies the open air ethnographical museum (Skanzen) which depicts Hungarian rural life in the 17th and 18th century. Various thatched cottages, mills and craft demonstrations can be seen all year through. In summer, you can partake in free wine tastings.
Lake Balaton may not be the Mediterranean, but don’t tell that to Hungarians. Somehow over the years they have managed to create their own Central European version of a Mediterranean culture along the shores of their long, shallow, milky-white lake. Throughout the long summer, swimmers, windsurfers, sailboats, kayaks, and cruisers fill the warm and silky smooth lake, Europe’s largest at 50 miles (80 km) long and 10 miles (15km) wide at its broadest stretch. Around the lake’s 315 miles (197km) of shoreline, vacationers cast their reels for pike; play tennis, soccer, and volleyball; ride horses; and hike in the hills.
First settled in the Iron Age, the Balaton region has been a recreation spot since at least Roman times. From the 18th century onward, the upper classes erected spas and villas along the shoreline. Not until the post-World War II Communist era did the lake open up to a wider tourist base. Many large hotels along the lake are former trade union resorts built under the previous regime.
Lake Balaton, it seems, has something for everyone. Teenagers, students, and young travelers tend to congregate in the hedonistic towns of the south shore. Here, huge 1970s-style beachside hotels are filled to capacity all summer long, and disco music pulsates into the early morning hours. The south-shore towns are as flat as Pest; walk 10 minutes from the lake and you’re deep in farm country. The air here is still and quiet; in summer, the sun hangs heavily in the sky.
Older travelers and families tend to spend more time on the hillier, more graceful north shore. There, little villages are neatly tucked away in the rolling countryside, where the grapes of the popular Balaton wines ripen in the strong southern sun. However, if you’re coming from Budapest, the northern shore of the lake at first appears every bit as built up and crowded as the southern shore. Beyond Balatonfüred, this impression begins to fade. You’ll discover the Tihany Peninsula, a protected area whose 12 square kilometers (4 3/4 square miles) jut out into the lake like a knob. Moving westward along the coast, passing from one lakeside settlement to the next, you can make forays inland into the rolling hills of the Balaton wine country. Stop for a swim–or the night–in a small town like Szigliget. The city of Keszthely, sitting at the lake’s western edge, marks the end of its northern shore. All towns on the lake are within 1 1/2 to 4 hours from Budapest by a gyors (fast) train, but the trip takes much longer on a sebes (local) train.
Szekesfehervar was once the hub of political Hungary where kings were crowned. It is only an hour train ride southwest of Budapest. And, home to several colleges. If you grab a train from here to Mor don’t be surprised when there are only two cars and you stop to pick up people where there appears to be no stop.
Székesfehérvár has a nice old town centre and a great atmosphere.
Miskolc is the third bigest city (200,000) in Hungary (with the first being Budapest (2 million inhabitants), the second Debrecen (210,000), and the fourth Szeged (160,000) .
Miskolc, city in northeastern Hungary, capital of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, located on the Sajó River at the mouth of the Szinva River. The city lies at the eastern foot of the Bükk Mountains in a pass called the Miskolc Gate.
The history of Miskolc, the descendants of the ancient settlement which was formed at the foot of the Avas Hill, along the two brooks called Szinva and Pece flowing into the river Sajó, can be traced back to paleoanthropic cultures where man’s earliest implements were carved from stone and bone. The
Szeleta Cave near by Lillafüred and other caves in the Bükk Mountains have preserved not only the memories, but also traces of the hard life of man in pieces of clothing and finely worked clasps. At the top of the Avas Hill Neolithic tools were found. The region was gradually populated during this period over 10,000 years ago. The grinding implements and the richly ornamented ceramics found in the Bükk Mountains are 5,000 years old. The finds coming from the area of the today’s Iron Works refer to a more developed way of life during the Bronze Age.
The first dwellers known in the Miskolc region at the end of the Iron Age were the Cotinus, one of the Celts’ tribes. During the period of the Great Migrations, Teutonic, Sarmatian, Hun, and Avar people made their permanent home in this region.
This area was settled by the Ancient Hungarians over a thousand years ago, and the settlement was named after the Miskóc clan. The settlement became the centre of the region from the beginning of 11th century. A work by Anonymus (ca. 1210) mentions the dwelling place of the Bors-Miskóc clan at the time of the Magyar conquest as terra Miskoucy. This clan founded a St. Benedictine abbey in Tapolca Valley but the Tartars burnt down the settlement in 1241.
The Bors-Miskóc clan lost their power in 1312 when they stood against Róbert Károly, whose intention was to break the feudal anarchy.
The clan of Miskóc was followed by the Széchy family who laid the foundations of urbanization. They managed to obtain the rights to hold countrywide fairs, and exercise minor jurisdiction, which resulted in Miskolc, the former village developing into a market town.
At the end of 1364 Lajos I. (the Great) annexed the town of Miskolc to the Diósgyőr Royal Estate. The 13th century Diósgyőr Royal Castle, which was accomplished and magnificently developed in the 15th century, became the centre of the Royal Estate including Miskolc. A Pauline Monastery, which was the only one of a Hungarian foundation dating back to the time of the Árpád dynasty, used to stand in Diósgyőr.
By the end of the 15th century the townscape had changed a lot and the origins of today’s town centre were gradually developing at the foot of the Avas Hill. The town’s ancient school (now museum) was established on the side of the Szinva brook near by the church, which still exists built on the side of the Avas Hill.
The first wave of Turkish war reached the town of Miskolc in 1544. The most beautiful buildings fell prey to the first attack of pasha of Buda. The Turks burnt the thatched houses, and carried off all the able-bodied men and drove away all their animals. With the fall of Eger Miskolc too, joined the taxpayers of the Turks but no such devastation as in 1544 reached town ever since, which can be attributed to the foresight and the tactful diplomacy of the town council.
Before chasing the Turks out of the country the Kuruc troops (Hungarian insurrectionists) had taken possession of the Diósgyőr Castle in 1674 but it was only in 1687 that Miskolc ceased to be taxpayer to the Turks.
During the Rákóczi war of independence the prince put his headquarters in Miskolc from 18th of January to 15th March in 1704. On 25th of September in 1706 town was sacked and burnt by the imperial forces.
The town council was formed on 1st January in 1707 and during two short years — with the patronage of the prince, the town of Miskolc was reconstructed.
The most significant buildings of Miskolc were constructed during the great period of prosperity in the 18th century. All denominations started to build their own churches and schools, and presently town hall and county hall were built.
The first inn of Miskolc with storeys was built in 1570. The rich landlords built mansions one after another: Dőry-, Almássy-, Szathmáry-, and Király mansions. Characteristically of a town advancing towards the Enlightenment there was an active Masonic lodge in Miskolc around 1780 which kept in touch with the Hungarian Jacobin people as well. The first stone-built theatre of the country was put up here with the contribution of Miskolc citizens in 1823.
When Széchenyi and Kossuth
appeared in the country’s public life their political programme was followed by Szemere Bertalan and Palóczy László first in Miskolc, and then as representatives in the Parliament. Szemere Bertalan, who was first Home Secretary, later on became the Prime Minister of the First Independent Hungarian Government on the side of the Governor Kossuth after the dethronement of the Hapsburgs.
The population of Miskolc took an active part in the revolution. More than 700 volunteers entered the newly formed militia. Later on the Hungarian Army was set up and all these militiamen went over to it. During the winter of 1848 Szemere Bertalan organized the Upper-Tisza Army in Miskolc. Jókai Mór in order to evade persecution also hid here in the vast forests of the Bükk.
After the Compromise of 1867 the town began developing. This development was based on the railway, which was completed by 1859. In 1868 the Diósgyőr Ironworks became the successor of the Hámor metallurgy. Development was interrupted neither by the cholera epidemic in 1873 nor the devastating flood in 1878. This natural catastrophe took 277 human lives away in one hour, destroyed 700 houses and damaged 2182 buildings.
After nearly all of the famous vineyards of Miskolc were devastated by the filoxera they were not replanted as the inhabitants now earned their living in industry and trade. Multi-storied houses built at this time gave an urban character to the town. They still can be seen in the streets. The town got municipal rights in 1907. Ferenc József I. granted a crested charter to the town on 11th May in 1909.
The violence of the First World War did not reach the immediate area of the town but indirectly it damaged the inhabitants of the town. More than 5000 people fell victim to the cholera epidemic in the local military hospital and the cholera huts. Two new cemeteries had to be built: the Heroes’ cemetery at Tetemvár (Corpsecastle) and another cemetery for those who died of cholera situated beyond the Sajó river.
Following the First World War, a decline occurred in the regime’s economy. This situation was made worse by influx of Hungarian refugees arriving from the newly detached parts of the country.
The production level decreased initially because of the economic crisis. However, by the middle of the 1930’s an economic upturn occurred due to the development of the military industry making preparations for war.
During the 2nd World War the town first experienced an air attack on 2nd June 1944. For the inhabitants of Miskolc the war came to an end on 3rd December with the arrival of the Soviet Red Army. Miskolc suffered massively because of the war: 350 houses were destroyed; 7150 damaged and all the bridges were blown up due to the air raids. Wooden headboards were erected in memory of the victims of the 2nd World War in the Szemere-garden.
The town was rebuilt rapidly and became one of the industrial centres of the region. Consequently, huge factories and housing estates were built and the University of Technical Sciences was established here in 1949.
The Miskolc University Youth and the Workers’ Council of the Iron Works played an important role in the revolutionary events of 1956. The victims of the revolution are commemorated with plaques in several prominent places in the city.
The number of inhabitants increased significantly due to the industrial developments of the 1960-70’s and therefore huge housing estates were built in different parts of the town such as Kilián and Szentpéteri kapu. Besides these the Avas housing estate was built where more than 35 thousands people live at present.
The vast reconstruction of the town centre began in the middle of the 1980’s and it is still going on. The principal street of the town called Széchenyi Street was repaved as a part of this redevelopment. The 100 year-old tram network is also being renovated. The commercial life of the city is now growing rapidly. Miskolc in the 90’s is a dynamic town developing and changing with the new times.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.