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Communism was never a good fit for Hungary, a self-assured and sophisticated nation long-celebrated for its discerning tastes and considerable good looks. Since the fall of the USSR, it has resumed its role as a thriving centre of European commerce and culture, now enjoying unprecedented popularity among international travellers. From the pomp and splendour of Budapest to the feisty folk traditions of its rural villages, Hungary is as passionate and free-spirited as it is idiosyncratic.
Geographically, Hungary is dominated by rolling plains and grasslands, much of it steeped in vineyards and ancient medieval towns. Although land-locked, Hungary is home to three sizeable lakes including Lake Balaton, the largest fresh water body in Europe, where thousands of visitors arrive each summer to bath, swim, boat or otherwise unwind. The mighty Danube River flows through the heart of the country, a suitably regal presence, whilst thermal springs emerge in some 80% of the national territory. Their piping hot waters are the perfect antidote to travel-weary bones.Read more
Poised at the heart of Europe, Hungary borders the nations of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. It has revelled in centuries of imperial drama and cultural interchange, playing a central role in European development.
Disorganised tribal conflict dominated the country’s early history, until the semi-nomadic Magyars arrived in 895 and forged the principality of Hungary. They proceeded to stamp their military authority on the region, organising into a formidable kingdom and an illustrious centre of Roman Catholicism. Throughout the middle ages, Hungary flourished as a centre of power and learning, eventually declining with the northward expansion of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Centuries of obscurity and subjugation followed, until a long and complicated relationship with Austria bore fruit with the formation of the jointly governed Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1873. Some of the country’s finest palaces were constructed during this brief period of imperial luminescence – suitable additions to Hungary’s already lavish collection of historical churches, rugged castles, and opulent mansions.
Today, Hungary’s sublime historical heritage is complimented by the living folk culture practised in the countryside. The infectious rhythms of traditional Hungarian music, often accompanied by raucous clapping, singing, and boot-slapping, are a cherished national institution, as are its dances, a swirl of colour and joy. Embroidered textiles continue to be produced to a high quality in rural Hungary, along with fine porcelain and clay. Traditional Hungarian cuisine, not to be missed, is somewhat hearty and includes goulash, wild game, and trout, all well-seasoned with paprika. The place to enjoy them is a csárda, a traditional tavern where you’re likely to be treated to warm displays of Hungarian hospitality.
Places of interest in Hungary
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is filled with elegance and style. Like London and Vienna, it is an ancient...
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