Hungary is a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia.
Its territory is 93,036 km2, population is 9,994,000. The country’s official language is Hungarian, its currency is Hungarian Forint (HUF). It is in the GMT + 1 hour time zone, which is usually called Central European Time (CET).
Its capital is Budapest, which is also the biggest town of the country. Other important towns are Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, Pécs, Győr, Nyíregyháza, Kecskemét and Székesfehérvár.
Hungary is a member of OECD (since 1996), NATO (since 1998), EU (since 2004), one of the founders of so called ’Visegrád Group’ and since end 2007 it is also a Schengen state.
Slightly more than one half of Hungary's landscape consists of flat to rolling plains of the Pannonian Basin. Its lowest point is Gyálarét, near Szeged, which is 78 m high. The highest point is Kékes, 1014 m. Major rivers are Danube (Duna) and Tisza. The biggest lakes are Balaton (the biggest lake in Central Europe) and Lake Velencei.
Hungary is in the temperate zone, and has a relatively dry continental climate. There are big differences between the weather in the four seasons, summers are hot and winters are cold. Average temperatures range from -1 °C in January to 21 °C in July. Hungary is protected from extreme weather conditions by the surrounding mountain ranges, the Alps and the Carpathians.
On the territory of Hungary there are 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites. 3 of those in Budapest - the Danube Bend View, the Buda Castle District, Andrassy Street - and 7 in the country – the village of Hollókő, Aggtelek and Hortobágy National Parks, the cultural landscape of Lake Fertő, the Benedictine Arch Abbey of Pannonhalma, the early christian necropolis in Pécs and the Tokaj-Hegyalja Wine Region.
According to Richard Hill, the author of ‘We, Europeans’, Hungarians are clearly speaking and analitically thinking people, who are extremely inventive. Their 2 specialties are that they speak a complicated language which is very different from those in their neighbouring countries and they use their names in an upside-down way starting with family name and then saying the Christian name. Hungarians are very open-minded, friendly and hospitable.
Hungary has 10 Nobel laureates of which the better known are Albert Szent-Györgyi (vitamin C) and Dénes Gábor (hologram). Many famous scientists and inventors are also Hungarian, such as Ignác Semmelweis physician (the reason behind childbed fever), Leó Szilárd physicist (nuclear chain reaction), Ede Teller physicist (father of the hydrogen bomb), János Neumann mathematician (father of computer), László Bíró the inventor of biro and Ernő Rubik the creator of Rubik cube.
Hungarians are also many important artists in world history e.g. Ferenc Liszt, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály composers, János Pulitzer journalist (namegiver of the Pulitzer journalism prize), André Kertész photographer, Victor Vasarely painter and even Harry Houdini magician.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary with its close to 2 million inhabitants, is the country's administrative, economic, cultural, and scientific centre and its main touristic attraction. A true cosmopolitan European city in every sense of the word, where it is worth to stay even for weeks on the banks of the Danube.
The city came to life with the merge of the 2 towns on the opposite sides of the Danube, Buda and Pest in 1872. The Buda side is rich in historic sites and the picturesque Buda hills are home of many springs, caves and a place for a nice excursion. The Pest side is more modern and geographically flatter. Between the 2 sides there is the Danube with its wonderful view which is protected UNESCO World Heritage. Part of the city are also 6 islands of which the beautiful Margaret Island and the Óbuda Island, home of the yearly music festival called Sziget, are better known.
With its 80 mineral and thermal springs and 10 splendid thermal baths, Budapest is the world’s richest capital city in natural spas. For water lovers we truely recommend a visit in one of the 3 most popular - Gellért, Széchenyi and Margaret Island - spas.
The city is home of around 1,000 listed sites from the most significant European artistic periods, including some outstanding Classicist and special Hungarian Secession buildings. Indeed, the latter can only be seen here in Hungary. Must sees are the other Budapest UNESCO World Heritages: the Buda Castle (Budai vár), the Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út) with its luxurious palaces and the Heroes' Square (Hősök tere) with its ceremonious atmosphere.
Budapest is a real cultural center with several hundred museums and galleries, which in addition to artefacts of Hungarian history, art, and natural science, also exhibit numerous works of universal European and world culture. Entertainment is guaranteed in the 40 theatres, 7 concert halls, and 2 opera houses for those who love the performing arts. The choice multiplies in the summer thanks to the numerous open-air concerts and performances.
If you are a gourmand the more thousand restaurants, cafés, and venues, where the delicacies of Hungarian and international cuisine are accompanied by the finest Hungarian wines are just for you. Party people also find their way in Budapest, with many nice places to dance and relax with fine DJs and concerts.
INTRODUCING LAKE BALATON
Whether it's peace and quiet you're after or a calendar full of things to see and do, Lake Balaton is here to satisfy your every need. Smooth waters and fresh wines, sand and surf, fishing and frolicking, splashing and sailing, concerts and clubs, partying and paddle boating, beach volleyball and biking, elegant castles and sleepy villages, beautiful landscapes and crystal clear air, Lake Balaton has it all.
The highlights on the northern shore of Lake Balaton include romantic strolls along the pretty streets of Balatonfüred oozing 19th century charm and hiking to the top of Tihany for a breathtaking view of the lake in the lavender scented air. Just a few million years ago geysers spouted hot water into the air on the Tihany peninsula. Take a hike on the lunar landscape near the Inner Lake to see the evidence. Just a short ride from here to the west, between Balatonudvari and Örvényes, you'll find one of the most spectacular golf courses of Hungary, Royal Balaton Golf & Yacht Club.
The volcanic slopes further west along the shore are the perfect terrain for refreshing white wines. Badacsony is a perfect spot for hiking, but a local myth makes it even more worthwhile for couples. If you and your loved one sit on the Rose Stone with your backs to the lake (it's hard to turn away from the view, we know), legend has it you'll be married within a year. Now that deserves a toast, right? Explore the many wine cellars and their fabulous wines and mouth watering dishes until you find your favourite one. Behind the basalt mountain of Badacsony you can find the fairytale valley called the Káli Basin. Visit its lovely quiet villages and move on to the mineral waters at Kékkút, source of Theodora Quelle waters.
At the western peak of the lake, you won't only find the source of health in the largest natural medicinal thermal water lake in the world in Hévíz, but also one of the three largest baroque palaces of the country, the Festetics Palace in Keszthely. If you like great contrasts, after the grandeur and elegance of the palace, don't miss out on the area's tiny jungle, the Little Balaton. It's paradise for endangered plants and for birds, with tens of thousands arriving as if for an annual convention at migration time. Patient birdwatchers have counted 250 species, of which 100 nest here and 27 are protected.
The southern shores of Lake Balaton will lull you with their quiet charm. Small towns oozing character, living traditions of arts and crafts, spas and wineries,; exquisite castle hotels and the largest walnut plantation in Europe.. But your trip to Lake Balaton won't be complete without visiting the party capital of the area, Siófok. After chilling out on one of the many lidos or practicing your wakeboarding moves on the silky smooth water during the day, this small town caters for all your partying needs with club complexes and beachside pubs where dancing on the tables is the norm, and everything in between.
SPA CULTURE OF HUNGARY
A visit to Hungary allows a unique combination of rich cultural experience with medical, health or wellness treatments. Relaxing in warm water, rich in curative minerals in beautiful surroundings and with the prospect of massage, mud treatments and many other sorts of special treatment, is a rare luxury that you can easily afford here in Hungary!
The key to Hungary's thermal culture is its location on the Carpathian Basin. The earth's crust is very thin here, allowing water to rise easily to the surface. Thus it is a land of more than 1,000 hot springs. Since ancient times, and all though the History of Hungary, the hot water bubbling up all across this region has been put to good use for its beneficial effects. The ancient Romans prized the healing effects of Hungarian thermal waters and developed bathing culture in Hungary more than 2000 years ago. During the Turkish occupation in the 16th century, the Turks added their own beautiful Turkish Baths, some of which are still in use today.
Where to find them:
Spas are located in big cities and smaller towns throughout the whole country. Some are simple thermal baths serving the local community, others are larger commercial baths. All the major spas and baths in the country offer thermal pools, leisure pools and some kind of family fun areas (kids' pools or slides of all lengths and shapes) and some count themselves as Aquaparks, (though they all feature thermal water pools). Some Spas in Budapest are housed in beautiful old buildings in Classical or Turkish style dating back anything from 100 to 400 years have become famous as tourist attractions in their own right. The biggest indoor water theme park in Central Europe is located in the outskirts of Budapest, while the largest spa complex is located in Hajdúszoboszló. Another larger-than-life phenomenon is Lake Hévíz, a real natural phenomenon with an average yearly average water temperature of 25 °C (77 °F ). This is the largest biologically active thermal lake in Europe. Tourists also enjoy the phenomenon of swimming in a huge, warm lake, even on the coldest winter day!
Hungarian spa hotels also offer cosmetic and beauty treatments of the highest quality, combining the beneficial effects of healing thermal water, professional know-how and the latest treatment trends. There are also successful Hungarian beauty products and treatments, which are based on natural active ingredients (mineral-rich thermal waters and mud).
Relaxing in Hungary's Thermal water relieves stress and anxiety and accelerates the body's own healing processes. Due to their chemical and biological structure, medicinal waters are:
- proven to remedy locomotive disorders
- beneficial for countering gynecological diseases, infertility and chronic skin problems
- an effective part of the rehabilitation process following sporting injuries.
Unique Hungarian methods have been developed to make maximum use of the waters. Hydrotherapy makes use of the physical qualities of water, such as buoyance, resistance and temperature. Weight baths for treating spinal conditions, are perhaps the best-known example. Balneotherapy is the technical name for the thermal water treatments that make more use of the chemical qualities of the water, which is rich in minerals but free of nitrates, nitrites and bacterial growth. Mofetta (a sort of dry bath employing carbon dioxide bubbles) is one example of this. Medicinal and rehabilitative tourism (based on thermal water, medical caves, medical resorts, balneotherapeutical treatments and special Hungarian methods) attracts more and more patients.