Hungary differs from other Central and Eastern European countries from many points of view, which makes it an especially interesting tourist destination. In the past thirty years the tourism of Hungary has undergone unprecedented improvement. Due to its favourable natural endowments, the country has become a leading power in the fields of health tourism and medical tourism in Central Europe. Hungary is now the country of medicinal waters and therapists, and health tourism, medical tourism and dental tourism have evolved into leading sectors of tourism.
The country is located in the Carpathian Basin, and it has an area of about 93 thousand sq. kilometres. Its capital is Budapest. Hungary is an independent, democratic republic. The Great Plain, which is a huge plain stretching across the central and eastern parts of the country, is one of its characteristic regions. Hungary’s important holiday destination is Lake Balaton, which is the largest lake in Central Europe. The rather complicated official language of Hungary is one of its peculiarities, which very few people speak or have heard of.
Hungarians are very proud of the cultural products characteristic to their land, which are calledHungaricums, using an umbrella term. The Hungarian cuisine is a Hungaricum, for instance, which is renowned for its typical, spicy dishes. Its most common ingredients are potatoes, onions and peppers. Peppers are used in dishes fresh, dried and ground, which is a peculiar Hungarian invention. The best-known dishes of Hungarian cuisine are goulash, stew and letcho; strudel is an especially tasty pastry of thin, crispy layers of dough, filled with apples, cherries, poppy seed and curd, or even cabbage at times. The oven-baked “langalló” is a traditional folk dish, which resembles pizza the best and has come into fashion again lately. “Kifli” is a peculiar bakery product. It was named after the German Kipferl, and it is produced in very few places in the world.
Hungary can take great pride in its wine regions, too.
Besides Tokay, home to the world-famous dessert wine, Tokay Aszú, many wine regions grow quality wine grapes, which are used for producing mainly dry white and red wines. “Egri Bikavér” or Bull’s Blood of Eger, “Badacsonyi Szürkebarát” or the Grey Monk of Badacsony grown on the slopes north of Lake Balaton, or the red wines of Mediterranean character grown in Villány wine region are also very smooth and spicy. As for alcoholic drinks: the various sorts of “pálinka” made from apricots, plums, cherries or pears are an absolute must, together with the famous herbal bitters, Unicum.
Just like other nations, Hungarians also have their traditional folk dance, and when asked to mention dances, most people instantly think of the best-known Hungarian couple dance,”csárdás” or czardas. This, however, is nothing more than geographical association: as bolero and flamenco are associated with Spain, jig and reel with Ireland and waltz and lander with Austria, czardas is associated with Hungary.
The names Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) are probably not unknown to the musically cultured. Bartók became famous and popular mainly as a composer, whereas Kodály had great achievements in the field of musical education. These two great musicians worked a lot for Hungarian folk music to be re-discovered in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The work they began has been continued ever since: the incorporation and re-interpretation of folk music treasures are fundamental factors of Hungarian musical culture even today.
Rubik’s cube, or “Magic cube”, the logical game that is popular all over the world, bears the name of a Hungarian inventor. The game designed by Ernő Rubik is a very simple construction. The six faces of the cube have different colours, and each face is divided into 9 smaller squares, i.e. cubelets. The central piece of each face has a fixed location, and the rest can be rotated on three axes. Therefore, eight cubelets that show three different faces, and twelve cubelets that show two different faces can be moved to different locations. The task is simple: the mixed up cubelets must be moved in a way that each face of the cube consists of one colour.
Rubik’s cube, which the inventor patented in 1975, has gained world-wide popularity. It became Game of the Year in England in 1980, and a year later the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York included it in its architecture and design collection.
Hungary’s geological endowments had been instrumental in the establishment of numerous potteries centuries before porcelain became widespread in Europe. They produced pots for carrying water, milk jugs, earthenware pots and other indispensable household items. Manufactories specializing in making porcelain items were established in Hungary in the first half of the 19th century. The three best-known are the manufactories in Herend and Hollóháza, and Zsolnay manufactory in Pécs.
Hungary holds its sports traditions in high esteem, first and foremost football, which once brought the country great fame. Football is widely regarded as the national sport of Hungary, and although Hungarian teams have been far from achieving high rankings in the past 50 years, we still have something to be proud of. The best-known Hungarian footballer is Ferenc Puskás, or Öcsi Puskás, which is his nickname in Hungary. Ferenc Puskás is regarded as the most successful inside-left of all times, the top scorer of all times and the best player of all times. Puskás, the key player of the Hungarian “Golden Team”, represented two national teams.