Astounding and funny facts about Hungary and the Hungarians. Facts about Hungarian history, gastronomy, and the strange habits of Hungarians.
What is Hungary like? What are Hungarians like? What funny habits do they have?
As a Hungarian, I will try and do my best to provide objective answers to these questions.
Meat softened under saddle. Melancholy. Patriotism. Sharp-witted thinking. A strange language that is impossible to learn. These are only a few things that come to my mind right now.
I brought you some interesting facts that may help you get to know us better and find it easier to get along once in Hungary.
As St. Augustine said –“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” And it is so true, isn’t it?
There is an amazing amount of knowledge, curiosities, and novelties in the world awaiting visitors. You broaden your own perspective by getting to know other cultures and nations. Hearing their stories might make you re-evaluate your life.
All groups of people have their own stories and customs. And, to be honest, we all like to create stereotypes of every nation.
But have you ever wondered what fuelled these stereotypes and local traditions the way they are? Why don’t Hungarians clink with beer and why are they so distrustful?
Well, you will get answers to all the questions. Sometimes more than one. Some facts are explained in greater detail; thus, this article is quite comprehensive. I recommend you to read it in pieces.
So, without further ado, let me tell you about the 150 facts that you have not known or heard about Hungary and the Hungarians.
Table of Contents
77-95. Culinary facts about Hungary
140-150. What we are proud of
Astounding and funny facts about Hungary
1. “Hungry” – the word that drives all of us mad
Since the word Hungary is quite similar to the English word “hungry”, people from abroad feel obliged to make a joke about it.
Let me assure you, you are not the first one to ask with a smile on your face: “Are you hungry? And what would you like to eat?”.
If you are with a polite and cheerful Hungarian, they get the joke and reply that they have already eaten. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a bad place if we have a bad day.
So, don’t ever make this joke if you really want to impress us!
2. From Asia to Europe
Once upon a time, there was a nomad nation living at the foot of the Ural Mountains in Asia. They rode perky horses and had strong cattle raised on the vast steppe.
But suddenly hot days came, the land dried out, the steppe turned into a desert and there was not enough food for the animals.
Thus, the nomad tribe set off leading their animals toward the west. As they were migrating, they met Goths, Vandals, Gepids, and other tribes, all telling them about a great empire on the west.
Since the nomad tribe did not wish to engage in battles, they stayed on the grassland of Bashkiria where they “multiplied” and grew stronger, while the other tribes kept fighting.
But the lands got exhausted again, so they set off and did not stop until they reached the Carpathian Basin. This fabulous landscape has been home to them for more than a thousand years. This nomad tribe was us, the Hungarians.
You can read more about the origin and fighting tactics of Hungarians in this article.
3. We speak Hungarian abroad
We are not pros in foreign languages. Some of us don’t even try. They ask locals for directions abroad in perfect Hungarian without flinching.
The surprised foreigner and the Hungarian waiting for the answer staring at each other is as much fun as a cabaret.
4. Do you understand me? DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??!
We have this strange habit of speaking more loudly if foreigners don’t understand a Hungarian question (which is often the case, to be honest).
Many times, even I stand perplexed when a fellow countryman thinks the Spanish waiter will understand his question if he repeats it more loudly. In such cases, I tend to alleviate the pain of both parties and translate eagerly.
5. A history of 1100 years
The history of Hungarians began with the Conquest in 895. We arrived in the Carpathian Basin as a wandering nomad nation imprinting our name into the history of Europe.
We’ve been a great conquering kingdom, a vassal state divided into three parts, oppressed and small state. Kings, emperors, ideas came and went, our state has been everything from a kingdom and a monarchy to a republic.
Our lands have been walked all over by Austrians, Turks, Germans, and Russians. Yet, we are still here.
6. Born on horseback
Our relationship with horses is as old as our thousand-year history. We conquered the Carpathian Basin and fought the greatest wars of the Hungarian Kingdom on horseback.
The most famous stud farms – including the Lipizzaner stud – were established one after the other in Greater Hungary. Towns were built around stables, round pens, and manors.
Hungarian racehorses were well-known all over the world. The most famous one was Kincsem (My Treasure), the English Thoroughbred, also known as the Hungarian marvel.
Throughout his career, he won 54 times in 54 races, and still holds the record of unbeaten racing horses to this day.
7. We have such an ornate way of swearing that no one else does
If there were competition from the ornate way of swearing, Hungarians would most certainly win it.
While the Anglo-Saxons only use the word starting with an “F” to tell others off, Hungarians releasing their anger would sound like a smaller performance. Without any repetition!
8. We love talking politics, but you should stay out of it!
Hungarians love to politicize. We have our opinion about basically everything and think that no one is better informed about the current political situation than us.
And we give voice to this opinion, of course. Our reasons are getting louder as we try to convince others that we are right.
In the end, shouting turns into a heated argument. If you want to have a good relationship with us, don’t bring up this topic.
9. Hungarians are patriots; however, it is rather embarrassing in the eyes of others
We are proud of so many things: our history, traditions, heroes, our country, lakes and hills, our language, culture, arts, gastronomy, wines and foods, sportsmen, inventors, and scientists.
Basically, we are proud of everything that is Hungarian.
No matter how hard Hungarians try to show their cheerful and friendly side, they can’t completely hide their melancholy.
It is there in their every single word and move. It is mostly caused by social inequality, high taxes, low salaries, financial insecurity, and hopelessness. We try to look at the bright side of life, but sometimes there are quite a lot of clouds hiding it.
11. The country of inventors
You might have heard many times that Hungarians are resourceful. A good example of this is the fact that there is a huge number of Hungarian inventors.
Did you know that the ballpoint pen was invented by László Biró in 1930 and it was called the biro-pen for a long time in England?
But you have probably seen a Rubik’s Cube World Championship where competitors solve its faces at amazing speed. Indeed, this popular game was patented by Ernő Rubik in 1975.
Vitamin C and its physiological effects can be attributed to Albert Szent-Györgyi. And something that will make your jaws drop: the computer and color TV were also invented by Hungarians! You are welcome!
12. Meat softened under saddle
There is an interesting legend saying that wandering Hungarians softened meat under their saddles. However, no written evidence of this unusual habit of storing food has been found.
This funny example probably refers to the fact that Hungarians were wandering so much on their horseback that they had hardly enough time to have dinner in one place.
13. Noon bells
Did you know that noon bells toll for Hungarian heroes? Pope Callixtus III ordered the Christian world to commemorate the triumph of faithful Hungarians against the Turks in 1456.
The Hungarian troops gloriously defeated Mehmed II’s army in Nándorfehérvár (now Belgrade). It was a huge victory because the mighty Turkish army was threatening the whole of Europe.
Western Europe could then breathe a sigh of relief escaping the Ottoman Empire.
14. The forbidden attracts us
We have an irresistible urge to do something forbidden. Driving in the bus lane or the hard shoulder of the motorway is something we love. “Forgetting to notice” disabled parking spaces and stop signs is also something we tend to do.
We turn back at a solid white line if no one is around or drive against traffic in one-way streets without turning a hair if we need to do something there.
What matters is that there is no policeman nearby – because in that case, we act as if nothing happened.
15. The country of the Olympic gold
Hungarians are excellent athletes – it’s a fact. A clear proof of it is that the Olympics is a people’s festivity in Hungary.
We consider our sports-people national heroes, but it is no wonder since they earned it. Hungarians are always in the top ten of the all-time medal table of the Summer Olympics.
Our performance is only beaten by the “great powers” that are larger in territory and population.
However, in terms of the number of Olympic medals per capita, only the Finns are ahead of us on the podium. If you want to meet an unforgettable fanbase atmosphere, make sure you visit Hungary during the next Summer Olympics!
16. The country of waters
The Carpathian Basin is a huge natural bath, collecting not only surface water but also groundwater in the area.
Our country is full of lakes, rivers, subterranean mineral waters, and thermal springs. According to some estimations, the freshwater supply of Hungary is sufficient for about 200 million people (Europe has a population of 470 million).
This area, rich in water was already praised by the Ancient Romans, while Turkish Baths were opened in areas occupied by the Turks.
Our medicinal and thermal waters are well-known all over Europe, and almost all can be used to treat locomotor problems. If you love the world of spas, don’t miss the Széchényi Baths in Budapest with its hot outdoor pools!
17. We are a water sport great power
Since we are the country of waters, we are excellent in water sports. The men’s water polo team has brought home nine Olympic gold medals so far, while England, the runner-up has only four.
Our swimmers are also outstanding with Kristóf Milák setting a world record in the 200-meter butterfly in 2019, and Katinka Hosszú in 100- and 200-meter backstroke and 200- and 400-meter medley. She got the nickname “Ironlady” for a reason.
But our canoers should not be ashamed either: with 25 gold, 29 silver, and 26 bronze medals, they came third in the overall Olympic Kayak Canoe Medal Table, just behind Germany and Russia.
18. “How are you?” Just forget this question
“How are you?” is considered to be a polite way of greeting mainly in America, but also in other western countries. In most cases, the person asking is not at all interested in the answer.
Yet for Hungarians, it is an invitation. We can complain for hours about our lives, misfortunes, and how we got here.
So, if you’re in Hungary, a simple “szia” (hi) is enough and forget “hogy vagy” (how are you?)! Unless, of course, you want to hear about a person’s whole life.
19. Foreigners are always surprised by how we greet each other
I once asked an English friend of mine what he found the funniest when visiting Hungary. That is what he said immediately. And honestly, it may really be funny for a foreigner.
Saying “puszi, puszi” (kisses) and giving a kiss on both cheeks is a habit when meeting close acquaintances, friends, and family members. That’s how we greet the people we know.
Yet, this may be quite embarrassing if it is happening in front of English speakers, since the word “puszi” means … in English, and it is pronounced pussy-pussy.
Foreigners usually raise an eyebrow and ask each other: “Did you hear what they said?” Or they just burst out in laughter.
20. An eternal misconception: Budapest vs. Bucharest
Here’s a piece of good advice: if you are not sure about something, don’t say it out loud.
Mixing up Budapest with Bucharest is the perfect example of this. The Romanian and Hungarian capitals do sound the same and they are quite close to each other geographically.
But believe me, no Hungarian will appreciate you saying Bucharest instead of Budapest. The only thing it will tell about you is that you did not prepare thoroughly for your journey and you don’t really care about Hungarians.
21. We enjoy not validating our tickets
Young people in Budapest have a “hobby” they pursue for a longer or shorter period of time. They do not validate their tickets on public transport.
The ticket control system of public transport is not really up-to-date, so it is quite easy to pursue this hobby, that is, traveling without a validated ticket on buses and trams.
It is the subways that cause the greatest challenge since ticket inspectors are watching you validating your tickets. Of course, after a while, everyone grows up, but in the meantime, it is great fun waiting for the inspector to get on and finding a way to escape them.
22. We eat in silence
If you end up in a Hungarian family, don’t be shocked when they have lunch or dinner in complete silence.
We were taught not to talk with our mouth full and we take this dogma very seriously. Since instead of eating, we gobble, there is not a single moment when we could talk with an empty mouth.
Therefore, we don’t chat until the very last bite is consumed.
23. Is it your birthday today? I will pull your ear!
If it’s someone’s birthday, we greet them with a short rhyme: „Isten éltessen sokáig, füled érjen bokáig!” (God bless you—live so long that your ears reach your ankles!) And we pull their earlobes.
There is no specific origin of this tradition; it is rather a biological curiosity. Our ears are one of the body parts that grow until the end of our lives – up to 0.22 mm.
So, this short anecdote means that we wish them to live long.
24. Hungarian girls are the most beautiful in the world
Most nations claim that their ladies are the most beautiful in the world. It is understandable since all hearts draw home. However, in the case of Hungarian girls, there is a bit of uniqueness: there is no particular characteristic.
While girls of several nations can be recognized by the characteristics of the given nation (e.g. northern people have pale skin and blue eyes, southerners have dark hair and dark eyes), Hungarians have no specific features.
Over the centuries, different groups of people put their foot on our land: either we fought the Turks, or Germans or Russians settled down here.
We unintentionally came into contact with the children of other nations, creating a very diverse, mixed nation in the Carpathian Basin.
25. We hold the inflation record
Today’s Hungarian forint was preceded by a very short-lived currency, the pengo which went through a very high rate of inflation.
After World War II, the value of pengo decreased rapidly: there was a 41,900 trillion percent inflation in the Hungarian economy for 13 months.
This meant that prices doubled every 12 hours. You went down to the shop for bread in the morning, and by the afternoon you could only buy half the bread for the same money.
26. Clinking your beer with a Hungarian is a big no-no
“Hungarians don’t clink with beer!” – I heard my grandpa say so many times. The reason? It goes way back in history.
Legend has it that when the 13 martyrs had been executed in Arad after the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848, Austrian officers clinked with beer celebrating their victory.
Is it rude to toast with beer in Hungary? – Risky or not?
Whether it is a fact or just a legend, historians cannot confirm. One thing is certain: Hungarians commemorate the victims of the war of independence with this tradition.
So, don’t be offended if a Hungarian does not offer to clink his glass of beer! They simply commemorate these victims.
Otherwise, we really don’t care if foreigners clink their beer in Hungary. Don’t worry, we aren’t hurt. It applies to us only.
27. Kilometer-long words
The Hungarian language is quite playful. Phrasal verbs and affixes are added to the root word creating a new one, and we can say astonishingly long words.
Although we rarely use them in our everyday life, still it is fun to try and say them out loud in a single breath.
Some examples of “ kilometer-long” words:
I’d rather not try translating them now.
28. Hungary? Where is that?
During my travels, I was often asked where I came from. When I told them I was from Hungary, they were thinking hard where that could be.
And when they finally ventured to ask where it was, I didn’t bother too much with the explanation, just said it was in Central Europe. That’s when they nodded wisely, saying they knew then. But of course, they didn’t…
29. Reforming American football
Did you know that it was a Hungarian who taught American footballers how to kick the ball?
Well, the ball was already invented by Americans by that time, but Peter Gogolak, who emigrated to the United States kicked the ball further than anyone else did before.
The secret was to kick the ball “soccer-style” – with the instep. Stronger and more accurate kicks brought Gogolak huge success. He was selected one of the ten most important players in NFL history who changed football.
30. We are a festival great power
I can safely say that Hungary has become a festival superpower. You can pick from thousands of festivals, including music, culinary, cultural, and motorcycle… Which one are you interested in?
There are already 3–4 pop music festivals on summer weekends. Sziget, VOLT, EFOTT, Strand, B My Lake, Balaton Sound are only some of the great concert festivals that both Hungarians and foreigners take part in.
Going to festivals is a special experience. If you have not yet attended a festival, you are not considered a true Hungarian.
31. We love alcohol; we drink ourselves silly
Although it is the northern nations and Russians who are considered great consumers of alcohol, we are not far behind either.
We love alcohol, know how to drink, and can drink anyone under the table anytime. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that we don’t know how to be moderate.
According to statistics, there have been almost 1 million alcohol addicts in the last few years in Hungary.
The worst thing is that 90% of them don’t admit their problems. Therefore, this is a rather doubtful glory.
32. We’ve become a tiny country
We have become a tiny country due to some unfortunate events in history.
We are 93,000 km2 smaller in territory than the State of New York. Our population of almost 10 million is less than that of Moscow.
I will never forget when a Chinese friend of mine said that the number of people living in our capital equals the population of an average Chinese village.
33. We are the “greatest” in this one as well! It is a fact that we have the highest VAT
I told you about melancholy a bit earlier. Well, this is one of its causes. The Hungarian 27% VAT rate is the highest both in the European Union and in the world.
So, no matter what kind of product or service we buy, 27% of it belongs to the state. Thus, it (among many other things) plays a huge role in the high rate of the gross domestic product – 39.9% of the GDP comes from various taxes.
34. We can donate 1% of our tax
We can donate 1% of our tax to an organization of our choice at the time of tax return, which is a unique thing in Europe.
The list includes foundations, hospitals, schools, sports clubs, cultural institutions, shelters, and churches. This way we can support the cause most pleasing to our hearts.
35. We don’t earn much
According to the data gathered in 2019 by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the average salary of Hungarians is 355,000 Ft that is 1050 euros or approximately 1150 American dollars.
This includes both minimum wages of 161,000 Ft (approx. 480 EUR) and 2–3 million HUF (5900–8900 EUR) elite salaries. Wages are much lower in the countryside compared to that of the capital.
The disproportion can be explained by the Budapest-based economy, which means that most companies try to establish their base in the capital.
36. Surname first, first name second
Compared to other European countries, Hungarians are somewhat eccentric in their name as well. We are the only ones on the continent to follow the Eastern name order – that is, our surname comes first and first name comes second.
Apart from Hungarians, the Eastern name order is only used in the largest Asian countries like China, Japan, North, and South Korea.
At international companies, many Hungarians have already switched to Western name order – putting the first name in front of the surname – in written communication to avoid misunderstandings.
37. Approved names
Hungarian parents can choose their children’s names from the list of approved names issued by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
If the name is not on the list (e.g. a foreign name), they must apply for permission from the Academy. The child can only be given the chosen name if it gets approved.
38. Variants of married women’s names
Until the regime change, Hungarian women “lost” their maiden name and had to take their husband’s whole name with a “-né” (a married feminine derivative) added to it.
For instance, if Kiss Anna married Nagy András, she would have to introduce herself as Nagy Andrásné from then on. This way everyone would know that the lady is no longer available. However, after the fall of socialism in the 1990s, women could eventually choose their names.
Today, there are a dozen variations on the way women would like to take up their husbands’ names.
Let’s stick to the above example and see what choices Anna has now:
- Nagy Andrásné
- Nagy Andrásné Kiss Anna
- Nagyné Kiss Anna
- Nagy-Kiss Anna (the most common form currently)
- Kiss Anna (keep her maiden name)
- Nagy Anna (leave her maiden surname for her husband’s).
39. Date backward
It is not only our names that are backward. Instead of the traditional day-month-year order, we use year-month-day.
Of course, there is no logical explanation to it, only different interesting theories. One of my favorites is that while in Western states’ society lives for today (so, the day comes first in the date), Hungarians tend to “get stuck in the past” (that is why we start with the year). Well, there might be something to it.
40. We don’t know what prudishness is
We are not a shy nation. Don’t you believe me? Visit us in the summer and you will see.
There are no skirts short enough or cleavage long enough for Hungarian girls.
What you can see on a hot summer day almost makes me blush. A sight for the delight of men. And the Hungarian youths do not really feel embarrassed when starting long kiss battles on the bus or tram. Hail love!
41. Sex industry superpower
Being a brave nation, we’ve become the most famous sex superpower in Europe since the 1990s. The porn film producer István “Kovi” Kovács established the reputation of Hungary with his exciting style in Europe and America.
There are creative producers and beautiful Hungarian girls. Put them together and the result is easy to guess. Instead of cliché solutions, they shot real adult “fairy-tales” gaining international recognition.
The Hungarian porn industry came to an end with the advent of the DVD era and the spreading of the internet. Nowadays, with low-budget, free, one-minute footages, there’s no need for quality adult films.
42. We don’t like getting married
Thanks to the Hungarian family support policies of recent years getting married is in its renaissance, but there are too many people who are still afraid of it. In many cases, the reason lies in bad parental examples.
In the communist era, there was a pressure on women to get married not to be “spinsters” and to have someone to support them. Due to premature ceremonies and – in the countryside – marriages of convenience, relationships were doomed to fail. However, divorce was not “fashionable”.
Thus, the generation that grew up in such a tense family environment does not believe in the institution of marriage. There is a widespread belief that “love doesn’t require any paper”, so the number of children born out of wedlock is quite high. 50% percent of Hungarian children are born this way.
43. We are family-oriented
Don’t raise your eyebrows because of the previous fact! Although we are disappointed in the institution of marriage, we do believe in family.
We need to be loved and really want to love others. Although we always seem to be complaining about our loved ones, we would, in fact, really miss family troubles.
A family does not always mean blood ties. Friends, distant relatives, or even neighbors can become our family. But you’d better run if you abuse our loved ones.
44. Go, large families, go!
There has been a decreasing tendency in the Hungarian population. Therefore, the government has introduced “exceptional” measures.
There are pre-natal loans that do not have to be repaid after the third child. Large families receive a car purchase subsidy.
Mothers of four children don’t need to pay taxes. The aim of this family protection action plan is to “make” large families popular again and put an end to the decline in population.
45. We really are fat
We try not to wave around the title “Fattest nation in Europe”, but it is quite obvious for everyone. It is easy to blame it on rich, fatty, “Hungarian” meals, but really it is us and our changed lifestyle that is responsible for the problem.
Being an agricultural and producer country before the regime change, both men and women did serious physical work in factories and lands. We burnt all the calories provided by our food.
However, the internet and technological development reached us in the 2000s. Today, most of the work is done in offices.
Yet, our eating habits have not changed a bit. Unless we decide to consciously change them, we will continue to be the fattest nation in Europe.
46. Hungarian police brigadier general in the American Civil War
Sándor Asbóth, who emigrated to America after the suppression of the Hungarian War of Independence, started working as a design engineer in New York.
He reported for service to the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Asbóth was soon promoted to brigadier general due to his quick wits and exceptional logic.
He and his soldiers conducted a successful campaign on the border of Missouri and Arkansas. As popular as he was among the Unionists, he was just as much hated by Confederates.
His black American and Hungarian emigrant soldiers were labeled “foreigners”, “Yankees”, and “nigger lovers”. They were despised and at the same time feared.
47. 600,000 Hungarians in Europe
Since Hungarian borders were opened toward the western countries of the European Union in 2004, emigration has been unstoppable.
More than half a million Hungarians – including doctors, nurses, engineers, IT experts, and professionals – took a leap of faith toward a better life.
Of course, we tend to cling to the illusion that Hungarians stick to their roots, so our fellow Hungarians will come home sooner or later. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Our braver fellow countrymen are just fine and thanks to them being hard-working, they are very well settled in other countries of the EU.
Top 5 countries where Hungarians live:
- UK: 250,000 persons
- Germany: 192,340 persons
- Austria: 72,390 persons
- Sweden: 16,676 persons
- The Netherlands: 14,024 persons
48. 15 million Hungarians live worldwide
Sometimes I have this feeling that no matter where I go, there is at least one Hungarian there. As small as we are, we are so many in the world.
Currently, 10 million Hungarians live in Hungary and almost 5 million worldwide. There are over one and a half million living only in the United States.
The rest are scattered across the five continents, but I always bump into one of them.
49. We need private property
Living in tenement houses is quite popular abroad. It increases people’s mobility in case there is a possible change of jobs or the family is expanding and it is easier to move to a bigger house.
This concept is totally unacceptable in Hungary since we have material thinking. That is, the only thing that is certain is what is ours, what we paid for.
This is partly because of our precarious economy and low wages. Renting a flat has been popular in Budapest for quite a long time, but we only rent these apartments temporarily.
Especially college students and young couples live in sublease for 5 to 10 years, until they finish their studies or raise enough money to buy their own home.
50. We are an immigrant-free country
The Hungarian government managed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants despite the European migrant crisis.
Although our small country was essentially a transit country for immigrants to Europe, there was a huge responsibility on our shoulders.
Most refugees from Serbia were able to enter the European Union by crossing the Hungarian border. Thus, Hungary has become the blocking line of illegal migration facing the hard work of only allowing registered refugees to EU territory.
Of course, many countries do not like that we wish to choose who we admit to our land and who we want to live with.
Historical facts about Hungary you can’t have heard of
51. Once three seas washed the Hungarian shores
You must find it hard to believe that Slovakia, the western part of Ukraine, the Transylvania part of Romania, northern Serbia and the whole of Croatia were once ruled by Hungarian kings.
Hungarians are proud of their conquering years and 1000 years of history. So, the legend of a historical Hungary spreading to three seas was developed easily. It is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far from the truth.
The Adriatic Sea belonged to Hungary “permanently”. Croatia was the autonomous territory of Hungary from the 9th century. The sister of the then Hungarian king Saint Ladislaus I was married to the Croatian king Zvonomir.
Zvonomir, however, died without a child, and among the surrounding “heirs”, Ladislaus was the first to claim the vacant throne.
The state of turmoil was ended by the Hungarian king Coloman the Learned in 1102 and the Croatian-Hungarian Union was known for having close connection until 1981.
So, if you have a Hungarian acquaintance and you are in Dalmatia, you might hear them say: “I’m at home, after all.”
The Hungarian king Louis the Great used the Moldovan territory on the coast of the Black Sea as a “buffer state” against the invading Tatars.
He planted Dragos as Voivode of Maramures, who in return served his king with devotion.
In all his three years in charge, Hungarians could not enjoy the neighborhood of the Black Sea, as in 1359, Dragos’ grandson, Balc was removed by Voivode Bogdan who also founded the independent Moldova.
The third sea – Tyrrhenian Sea – belonging to Hungary can also be related to the times under Louis the Great. Louis the Great dreamed of ruling Naples and uniting the two kingdoms.
This was the reason why his younger brother, Andrew married Princess Joanna I of Naples. However, the King of Naples did not accept the brother of Louis the Great as his heir, so he left all power to Johanna, excluding Andrew from the reign.
The rest of the story would perfectly fit a well-written Shakespearean tragedy: the relationship between the married couple turned bitter and by the time Louis arrived in Naples, Johanna poisoned Andrew.
Therefore, Louis the Great launched a campaign against Johanna, and despite the fact that he won an easy victory, he was never able to consolidate his power in Naples.
Thus, the king – who had lost his brother – finally gave up on his dream and returned to the Kingdom of Hungary.
52. Polish-Hungarian friendship
The good relationship between the Polish and the Hungarians is literally a thousand years old since the two states were founded around the same time.
In the course of history, the two countries mutually supported each other; they immediately came to one another’s help if there was a threat of an enemy or struggles for the throne.
Hungarians persecuted during the War of Independence found refuge in Poland, and during WWII Polish refugees were allowed to pass Hungary despite German pressure.
There is even a nursery rhyme about the relationship between the two nations: Pole and Hungarian – two good friends, joint fight, and drinking are their ends.
53. We are referred to as Hungarians, but we call ourselves Magyars
It might be the greatest mistake in history that the Magyar nation has been referred to as Hungarians in Latin writings.
Huns and Magyars are proven to be related, but the two groups are not at all the same.
The mix-up might be attributed to their almost identical behavior, both nations were wanderers, raiders, rubbers so, Europe could not differentiate between them. That’s why we were called “Hungarians”.
54. The Turul bird – the symbol of Hungarians
The Turul – originating from our wanderings on the steppe –is an ancient Hungarian symbol. The legendary bird carries the characteristics of both a hawk and an eagle. It was most probably modeled on a rare Ural bird of prey.
Several myths survived about a turul bird appearing in the dreams of Nomad Hungarian chieftains –who were searching for a new home – showing them the way.
According to the most famous Hungarian legend, the birth of Álmos, the glorious Hungarian leader was predicted by a Turul appearing in his mother’s dream.
55. Hussars to the front!
Hussars, the light cavalry established in the 15th century played an important role in the military strategy of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy until WWI.
Breaking out from behind a shielded unit with their fast, light-weight horses, they effectively reduced the number of the enemy with their swords. The rapid attack technique became popular in the military, and Hussars later appeared in Russia, Italy, and Poland.
Our most famous Hussar, László Bercsényi (Ladislas Ignace de Bercheny) organized the first French Hussar regiment under Louis XV.
The effective style of fighting was also used in the Napoleonic wars and the Bercheny Hussards have been the oldest French military unit.
56. Hungarian Saints and Beatified
Hungarians have always excelled at serving and protecting the Christian religion. The long list of 25 Saints and 25 Beatified includes rulers, priests, and commoners as well.
One of the most famous Hungarian saints is King Stephen I, the founding founder of the state. He was also the person to lead Hungary toward Christianity. But the last Austrian emperor and Hungarian king, Habsburg Charles IV needs to be mentioned as well.
57. We are real tough guys
One of the most tragic figures of Hungarian legends was the descendant of “the Turk Beater” Hunyadi family who dedicated their life and blood to the protection of the country.
László Hunyadi – who was only twenty-one at the time – was envied for his power and wealth, so he was convicted on trumped-up charges.
According to the verdict, he was to be beheaded on 16th March 1457. Under Hungarian law, at the time if someone survives being struck three times by the hangman, they were pardoned.
The hangman did strike him three times, yet he stood up. Fearing for their power, the tribunal disregarded the law and ordered a fourth strike, which eventually killed Hunyadi.
58. The legend of Botond
Did you know that Hungarians have their own David who fought against the Byzantines’ Goliath? After the conquest of the Carpathian Basin, wandering and raids toward western countries halted, and Hungarians turned their attention toward the Byzantine Empire.
In 958, Hungarian hordes stood at the walls of Constantinople when a giant Greek stepped forward from the Byzantine forces. He said that if he were beaten, the Byzantine emperor would pay tribute to Hungarians.
Just then, a small Hungarian stepped forward, swung his mace, and threw it at the copper gate of Byzantium cutting a hole in it which a five-year-old could easily climb through.
Botond faced the Greek and defeated him right in front of the Byzantine emperor. Despite the victory, the emperor refused to pay tribute. Hearing this, the Hungarians broke into Constantinople and scorched the once glorious state.
59. The legend of Lehel’s Horn
Hungarians had wasted several provinces of Germany. However, at the castle of Augsburg, they stumbled into the united forces of a German-Italian army that brutally decimated the raiders. Survivors – including Lehel and Captain Bulcsú – were captured.
When they were taken to Emperor Konrad, he let them choose their own death. Lehel only asked to blow his horn before being executed. When he was given the horn, he killed the emperor with a single swung.
That is when the most famous sentence of the Hungarian folklore was said: „Előttem jársz, és szolgám leszel a másvilágon!” (You have walked before me to become my slave in the other world.)
Wandering Hungarians believed that the people they killed in their life would serve them after their death.
60. We lived under Turkish oppression for 150 years
It was the Hungarians who stopped the aspirations of the Ottoman Empire to conquer Europe. But we paid a great price for it.
With the occupation of the Buda Castle in 1541, the then Hungarian Kingdom was split into three parts. One came under the control of the Habsburgs, the other was the Principality of Transylvania, while the third part was occupied by the Turks. The borders were protected from further Ottoman invasion by border castle systems.
It wasn’t until 1684 that Pope Innocent XI formed the Holy League of the then great powers and recaptured Buda with the united Christian army in 1686. But by then the Turks weren’t our only problem…
61. We have several Turkish monuments
The 150-year Turkish oppression left its mark on our country. Since they intended to stay long in Hungary, they started some serious constructions.
According to some Turkish sources, there were 24 jamis, 43 mosques, 3 tombs, and 10 monasteries only on the Buda side. After the occupation, most of these buildings were taken down and the stones were used to rebuild the destroyed country.
But Turkish architecture can be seen in other Hungarian cities as well. There is, for instance, the imposing domed jami of Osman Bey in the center of Pécs or the slender Muslim prayer tower, the Eger Minaret.
62. Victims of freedom
We were under oppression basically since the Turks left. First, it was the Austrian Habsburg House that took control of the destroyed Hungarian Kingdom trying to seize power with violent means.
The War of Independence between 1703 and 1711 led by Ferenc Rákóczi intended to end this process. However, due to the lack of help, the initial successes soon turned into failure.
Thus, the peace treaty about dualism was signed in 1711. Rákóczi went into exile taking the dream of free Hungarians with him.
Our next attempt at Hungarian independence took place in 1848. The most significant Hungarian War of Independence was the only one to reach successful military resistance amongst the revolutionary waves in Europe.
If it weren’t for the Russian Empire, the Habsburg House would have lost control over the country. The last Hungarian operational corps laid down their weapons in front of the Tsarist troops on 13th August 1849. And this marked the beginning of a period of bloody retaliation…
63. National heroes whose names are everywhere
Our past freedom fighters will never be forgotten. We don’t only commemorate them on national holidays (e.g. 15th March), but they are also part of our everyday life.
You can find a Rákóczi Ferenc, Petőfi Sándor, Kossuth Lajos or Széchenyi István Street or Square in almost every Hungarian town.
The names of our national heroes can be found everywhere from bridges (Széchenyi Bridge, Petőfi Bridge, Rákóczi Bridge) and libraries (National Széchenyi Library) to radio stations (Petőfi Radio). This way, we will never forget what they did for our freedom.
64. Trianon, the Hungarian torment
Hungary is so small that sometimes you need to look really hard to find it on the map. It does not have extensive borders, but this has not always been the case.
Before that “dark day” Hungary was considered one of Europe’s determining powers. On 4th June 1920, our defeated country signed the Peace Treaty concluding WWI at the Grand Trianon Palace of Versailles.
With this treaty, Hungary lost two-thirds of its then territory and population. The previously secondary power state of 320,000 km2 of 20 million inhabitants turned into a small state of 90,000 km2 with a population of 7 million.
Dozens of Hungarian-populated towns came under the control of foreign governments, families were torn apart and national and natural treasures were separated from the motherland within a single day.
This period has become such a deep and painful memory of our history that not even the abolition of internal borders within the European Union could help forget.
Hundreds of Hungarian songs, dramas, and stage pieces were born from this mourning simply referred to as Trianon. There are many “movements” among Hungarians that do not accept the Peace Treaty of Trianon and still consider the annexed territories “Great Hungary”.
65. Sopron, the most loyal city
We lost several historical cities with the signing of the Peace Treaty of Trianon. There was only one that was given the right to decide where it wanted to belong: to the dismembered Hungary or Austria, the country gaining new territories.
On 14th December 1921, the citizens of Sopron and the surrounding area voted for Hungary in a referendum. Sopron is still the proud owner of the title of “Most Loyal City” and in 2001 – on the anniversary of the referendum – the government declared 14th December the day of loyalty.
66. 1956 – The age of heroes
Until WWI, being part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, we had to give up our complete independence. Unfortunately, we did not get our freedom back after the two world wars either.
Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union making our land part of their member states, forcing the ideas of communism on us.
And those who did not like it disappeared – they were either taken to a gulag or simply a cellar they never came back from.
It was the Revolution of 1956 that was supposed to end the communist reign of terror. Armed fights broke out on the streets of Budapest. Our initial success was monitored by the whole world, supporting us.
However, the promised help never arrived from the US. So, the revolution ended with Soviet tanks occupying Budapest and towns in the countryside. Another retaliation followed…
67. Defections: Hungarians leaving their homeland
The outcome of the events of 1956 was already predictable in early November. During the Revolution, Soviet border control ceased to exist, all attention was turned toward the capital.
Fearing retaliation, 200,000 Hungarians left the country across the borders that were “left open”.
Most of them settled down in America, Canada, and Western Europe. Some tens of thousands have returned home after accepting the amnesty, but many still live in their new home.
68. Victims of Communism
Thousands of Hungarians were broken by Soviet dictatorship between 1945 and 1989. More than 70,000 people were imprisoned, 600,000 were taken to forced labor camps from which only 200,000 returned.
No one could be trusted. Anyone could be an informant from your colleague, the cashier at the shop, the kindergarten nurse, the neighbor to your best friend.
You never knew who the black car braking in front of your house would take away. Is it going to be you or the guy living opposite? A single bad word and you would become a prosecuted, “suspicious individual” and vetted – that is, kept under constant surveillance – for the rest of your life.
The House of Terror, located at 60, Andrássy Avenue commemorates this tragic period. Its walls absorbed the screams and death rattles of thousands until 1956.
69. We were the first ones to dismantle the Iron Curtain
Being one of the victims of communist dictatorship, Hungary was the first to have enough of the system. It started with a radio announcement on 28th January 1989: The politician Imre Pozsgay called the Revolution of 1956 popular uprising which was considered treason by the socialist system.
We started dismantling the Iron Curtain at the border of Hegyeshalom in May. Then the political and economic transformation began, and with it, the third Hungarian Republic was proclaimed in October.
The transformation of the system took nearly two years with its end date considered to be 19th June 1991. At 3.15 pm this day, the last Soviet soldier left across the Hungarian border.
70. Hungary as the member state of the European Union
While we were just shaking off the chains of socialism, the European Union was born.
We made every effort to become its members, but it took roughly ten years to shake our economy back to normal, so we could start negotiations with the EU.
Finally, on 1st May 2004, we were able to become a member state of the European Union.
71. We are members of the NATO
The regime changes in Eastern Europe left behind a great deal of chaos. The borders of the country were far from final, and there was a threat of war in the south.
So, former Soviet member states – including us – considered joining a military organization a tempting idea. Thus, the third national referendum of democratic Hungary, the 1997 NATO referendum was decisive: 85% of Hungarian voters supported our accession to NATO.
Facts about national treasures in Hungary
72. The Hungarian Sea – Lake Balaton
If you happen to spend a bit longer time in Hungary and intend to get to know the marvelous landscapes of our country, Lake Balaton is a must.
The sparkling, turquoise giant lake is not called the “Hungarian Sea” by mare coincidence. Whether you are walking on the northern or southern shore, the waters of Lake Balaton reach to the horizon – as if you were looking at an endless, calm sea. The water surface is only broken by silently gliding sailboats, cruise ships and dreamily floating swans.
In the north, it is guarded by the soft slopes of the Badacsony wineries, while the southern part is covered by endless beaches with slowly deepening waters.
Want to have a genuine “Hungarian holiday” experience? Get on a train at the Southern Railway Station and head for Lake Balaton.
I recommend to you the following settlements around Lake Balaton where everything is there for your recreation:
73. Fabulous Hungarian wildlife
If you are talking with a person skilled in hunting in Hungary or abroad, you will definitely see them smile at the words Gemenc and Bükk.
Our big game herds are world-famous and foreign hunters tend to visit our country aiming to enrich their trophy collection with beautiful red deer and fat pheasants.
The key to the world-class level is the responsible Hungarian wildlife management: foresters place great emphasis on maintaining an excellent gene pool while taking care of the harmony of forests.
74. Blooming of the Tisza
If you like miracles, don’t miss the chance to visit the banks of the Tisza at the end of June, since this is the time when you can see a unique phenomenon nowhere else to be seen in the world.
Contrary to the name, they are not plants, but very short-lived insects that grow as larvae in the sediment of the river for three years.
Then, on a marvelous June day, millions of transformed, winged “Tisza flowers” rise into the air. With their barely half-day wedding dance, they only focus on finding their mate and lay eggs in the slowly flowing water of the river.
The sight is further enhanced by the fact that the swarming takes place in the late afternoon and early evening hours. So, you can admire the blooming and the sunset at the same time.
75. We have 22 wine regions
Being a wine-loving nation, we quickly found the areas where quality wine can be produced from excellent grapes. We were so thorough that in the end 22 different wine regions were created in our small country.
Red wines, white wines, cuvées, rosés, sweet, dry – all earthly goods, that are perfect on the table and complete a good Hungarian meal, are produced here. Taste them – if not otherwise, as a spritzer!
76. World-recorder cave
In 1995, UNESCO declared the caves of the Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst World Heritage Sites. There are 273 caves in the Aggtelek National Park (I wouldn’t like to get lost in them), and two of them are recorders.
The 25 km long Baradla-Domica cave system extending to Slovakia is the longest cave in the temperate zone with an active stream, while the Silica Ice Cave is the lowest-lying ice cave in the world.
In the “Hall of Titans” one feels like a tiny grain of sand among several thousand-year-old stalactites, especially when the tour guide turns off the lights, thus covering the caves in deep ethereal darkness and silence…
Culinary facts about Hungary
77. Tokaji Aszú – the wine of kings, the king of wines
„Vinum regum, rex vinorum” – can be read on the bottle of Tokaji Aszú in Latin. King Louis XV of France also praised the wine for its unparalleled taste.
Legend has it that Hungarians owe the Tokaji Aszú to the war with the Turks. Due to the advances of the Ottoman army, winemakers had to leave Tokaj. They could only return to their lands much later, after harvest, at the end of October, when the grapes had become shriveled and moldy.
To avoid wasting an entire year’s work, they picked the raisin-like grains and tried to make wine. To their surprise, a special wine similar to golden nectar was made from the saved grapes.
The color gold aroused the curiosity of rulers on several occasions: the Austro-Hungarian Empress Maria Theresa had biochemists examine the bunches of grapes in Vienna to see if they contained gold.
Its taste is inimitable, which is due to the volcanic soil and much sun, the climate of the cellars, and the hundreds of years of wine-making traditions.
78. We put paprika into almost everything
Just as salt is the essential element of every cuisine, so is red paprika the basis of Hungarian gastronomy.
Although paprika had already been known in the 16th century, it was only an ornamental plant in noble courts. It became popular because it was easy to use, cheap, had a long shelf life and intense taste.
In addition, it is also an excellent immune system booster because it is rich in vitamin C, and provides relief to pain and inflammation due to its capsaicin content.
If you only want to take a single Hungaricum home, let it be red paprika from Szeged or Kalocsa!
79. Pálinka (brandy) – the national protective drink
Pálinka is the Hungarian superweapon. We can make the approximately 45% alcoholic drink from any kind of fruit. There is someone in every Hungarian’s circle of friends who makes pálinka and they swear it is the best.
We believe it is good for everything: for clinking when welcoming guests, setting the mood at a party, and drinking before leaving.
It is a medicine in case of the cold or indigestion, but it’s also excellent for disinfection, both internally and externally.
If you are in Hungary and the host offers you their own pálinka, you’d better accept it! They offer it so aggressively, that you will have no choice.
80. Spritzer – the essential element of Hungarian summers
Have you ever drunk wine mixed with soda water? Don’t judge before trying it! This refreshing drink is a part of the drink menu of every Hungarian beach and club.
The first spritzer was born in a winery in Fót mixed by the famous Hungarian inventor, Ányos Jedlik.
The experimenting man took the soda bottle he invented to a harvest and gave a short demonstration to his friends using a glass.
The audience liked the light drink moderating the strength of wine, that our famous poet, Mihály Vörösmarty, who was a guest there immediately named fröccs (spritzer) instead of “spiccer” that had a German sound to it.
Since then, the drink has become an essential part of social gatherings and parties.
81. We have a sweet tooth
We just love cakes and sweets. Hungarian confectioneries have a rich past and we have lots of unique recipes of our own.
The stars of Hungarian Christmas are walnut and poppy seed cake. For birthdays we make Dobos Cake. Somló dumplings and Rigó Jancsi are regular Sunday desserts.
Every Hungarian grandmother has a famously secret Gerbeaud Cake recipe. For those of you with a sweet tooth, these are a must!
82. Special food creations
Every nation has its interesting foods that other people look at with somewhat dubious eyes. Of course, we must have ours, too.
Have you ever eaten bread and dripping with red onions and red paprika? Or Hortobágy-stlye pancake? Perhaps a pink, cold fruit soup with a mountain of whipped cream on top? No? You don’t know what you’ve missed!
83. We fry everything in breadcrumbs
According to a wise Hungarian saying we make a stew of everything that we don’t fry in breadcrumbs. Breaded meat and cheese are among the first words of Hungarian children.
It is the basis of Sunday lunches, but we tend to take them when visiting someone or put them between two slices of bread for excursions.
And we do not spare vegetables within the framework of a healthy meal: cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini. Anything that doesn’t fall apart in the breadcrumbs can come!
84. This goulash is not that goulash
When I am abroad, I always feel nervous when I see the card in front of the food holder in the hotel restaurant saying goulash. But then curiosity wins. How do they prepare goulash here? When I take off the lid of the holder, my eyes start to jitter.
It looks like a very thick stew. Then I swallow my Hungarian pride and count to fifty, not to run into the kitchen and give a lecture on how to prepare a proper goulash to the chef.
Let me clarify one important thing: the original goulash is a soup! Everything else that is thicker than soup is stew. I recommend you to eat goulash at a Hungarian restaurant.
85. Túró Rudi – the Hungarian Milky Way
The popularity of the lemon curd bar coated in dark chocolate glaze has continued undiminished among Hungarians since the sixties.
There is no Hungarian who doesn’t know what it is or doesn’t keep at least some in the fridge. Túró Rudi has become one with Hungarian consciousness. So, delicatessen brings these sweets from the motherland to Hungarians living in America.
Since curd is basically a Hungarian curiosity and a less-known dairy product in other countries, Túró Rudi could never be brought into the international market due to the lack of consumers.
However, if you visit Hungary, I encourage you to taste our favorite sweet snack!
86. Mákos guba
If you have tasted a simple, but amazing dessert, you will love the mákos guba. It is also very easy to make. Pour vanilla flavored milk over some stale crescent rolls, roll them in poppy seed and sugar, and voilá!
The originally Christmas dessert has outgrown its seasonal character becoming a cunning ace in the hands of Hungarian grandmas when they want to surprise their grandchildren.
And you can meet countless exciting variations of it on the menu of Hungarian restaurants in our age of culinary revolution.
87. Sunday lunch is a cult here
Sunday is about family and Sunday lunch is the essence of a family reunion. Since we Hungarians love our bellies, we enhance the experience of good meals by sharing them with our loved ones.
Sunday is entirely about resting. We love to sit down with our family next to a plate of steaming goulash soup after a week of hard work and an active Saturday.
We have time for each other and discuss the events of the week. And more importantly, we can fill our tummies.
88. Sour cream on everything!
It is hard to describe sour cream to someone who has not tasted it yet. I’d say it is similar to sour fresh cream and densely flowing fatty milk.
Sour cream – just like paprika – is the basis of Hungarian cuisine. It is used to soften strong-tasting foods, e.g. veal stew and stuffed cabbage.
But there are numerous sauces and soups that we thicken with sour cream, too. It can be used for both salads and sweet pastries. You should try chicken paprika with sour cream once.
89. Hot pepper is a favorite with us
If we don’t have sour cream at our fingertips, we liven everything up with hot pepper. We have an irresistible attraction to fiery flavors often flavoring soup and stew with it.
You will most probably see hot pepper strung as a necklace hung on porches to dry when in the countryside.
90. Every fisherman’s dream – fish soup
Being the country of waters, it is probably not surprising that a lot of Hungarians love fishing in their spare time. And a fisherman’s greatest glory is if he can catch enough fish for a good Hungarian fish soup.
The basis of the traditional Hungarian fish soup is paprika broth (what else?) and thick slices of fish. The tastiest fish soup is made over the open fire as this way the smoke adds to the flavor.
91. Pig slaughter – an ancient Hungarian tradition
Our ancestors brought the pig of Szalonta with them from the east. Its descendant is the Mangalica pig which is still a Hungaricum (you can read more about it later).
Thanks to the delicate-meat animal, our ancestors organized rich feasts. So, pork and bacon have been the basis of Hungarian gastronomy for thousands of years.
Pig slaughter has been an integral part of Hungarian culture for centuries. During the winter, many follow this all-day-long tradition with the whole family taking part in the hard work.
Neighbors, friends, and relatives are all invited and they also receive something from the ready piggy parts for their efforts. The men like to offer each other home-made pálinka (brandy), so by the end of the day, the mood is at its peak.
92. We are the kings of sausages and salamis
Even though Germany is considered the home of “wurst”, don’t miss Hungarian sausages either. Since the science of pig farming dates back to a thousand years, we also had time to experiment with excellent meat products.
If you would like to eat some really delicious sausages and salamis, don’t miss the Gyula and Csaba Sausages and Pick Salami of Szeged.
93. Gourmet goose liver
Apart from France, Hungary exports the finest goose liver. But goose stuffing – the method developed to get fattened goose liver – was a red flag with animal rights organizations.
Decades of fighting started. While experts are trying to prove that professional goose stuffing doesn’t even come close to the concept of animal torture, from time to time activists announce a boycott on goose liver.
For the time being, goose liver still occupies a prominent place on the menu of Hungarian restaurants. But who knows for how long? So be sure to try it if you are in Hungary.
94. We eat meat with meat
We could blame it on our gastronomy. Sausages, bacon, organ and rice sausages, goulash – just a few dishes based on pork, beef, or veal. And most importantly: we prepare them well. What is more, there are also festivals organized around them.
We would most probably make all vegetarians sweat at the Csaba Sausage Festival or the Karcag Sheep Cooking Festival. Despite the rise of different reform kitchens in Western countries, Hungarians still prefer to eat meat with meat.
But here’s a detail that might shock you: according to the KSH (Central Statistical Office) we consume almost 100 kg of meat a year.
95. We always eat while traveling
Talking about eating: we can eat at any time. An interesting feature of our traveling: as soon as we have gotten on a train or sat in our car, we take out a sandwich or some snacks and eat.
This custom originates from the beginning or middle of the 20th century when traveling from one town to another took several hours. Today, of course, everything is faster and easier, yet the habit has stayed with us and will probably continue to do so for a long time.
Hungaricums – Facts that are synonymous with Hungarians
96. Diverse Hungarian folk music
If it is too stereotypical to say we love music, then here’s an interesting fact: there are more than 150,000 recorded melodies in the Hungarian language area.
Our greatest folk song collector, Zoltán Kodály collected 5100 melodies in 235 settlements in 35 counties over 60 years. He was quite active.
97. Hungarian cards
If you want to take home a really authentic Hungarian game, I recommend to you the 1836 invention of the card painter József Schneider, the Hungarian Cards.
What to buy in Budapest? – 30 Hungarian souvenirs to take home a piece of Budapest
Also known as Tell Cards, it is the second most popular card game in Europe after French Cards. In addition to Hungarians, Germans also like to spend time playing with them.
The eye-catching drawings on the 32 cards are artistically elaborate and in addition to the allegories of the seasons, images of such famous Hungarian people as Vilmos Tell also appear on them.
98. Csikósok – cowboys of the Hungarian Plain
If Hungarian csikósok (wranglers) had lived in America, some extremely exciting “western” films would have been made about them. In the age of the Kingdom of Hungary, it was a respected and dangerous profession; wranglers looked after lords’ studs in the plain.
In order to protect the horses from bandits and packs of mad dogs, they became masters of their hand-made whips. Their most loyal companion was their own horse, they understood their every tiny flutter and trained them easily.
Today, csikós shows, where these fearless men race on their horses while standing, are an essential part of a tour in Hungary. Want to see it? Visit Hortobágy.
99. We have excellent shepherd dogs
Thanks to our Great Hungarian Plain, agriculture was flourishing until the end of the 20th century. Stocky, but brave and clever shepherd dogs appeared during our thousand-year history of pastoral farming in the plains.
The Puli is a real Hungaricum – its floor-length, shaggy, funny “coat” with only its tongue sticking out indicating which part is the front has become its trademark. Its agility, intelligence, and endurance have made him one of the best shepherd dogs in the world. In old times a puppy Puli was worth a whole cow.
The Pumi is not a Puli with cut fur as many would think. It was born from the cross-breeding of the Puli and the terrier shepherd dog of merino sheep inheriting the best qualities of the two. Due to its versatility, it is excellent for herding not only flocks of sheep, but also teams of pigs and cattle.
The Mudi is the rarest Hungarian shepherd dog. Due to its pointedness, it stands out a bit from the “tufty” nature of the Puli and Pumi. Yet, they have become great companions of shepherds because of their intelligence, loyalty, and toughness.
The breed almost became extinct during WWII, but the “protector” of Hungarian shepherd dogs, Dr. Zoltán Balássy saved them from complete extinction. Although in fewer color variations, we can still enjoy the devotional attention of the Mudis today.
Hungary has 9 unique breeds of dogs. I wrote a comprehensive article about them providing useful information about their character, keeping, and training.
100. Verbunkos – a military recruiting dance
If we want to translate it to a modern meaning, verbunk is a musical PR activity that helps military recruiting. This – by the standard of that time – quite a clever method of recruitment started spreading in the 1700s.
Verbunk-style dance groups performing at markets and merriments present the beauties of hussar life with dance and songs and mostly gypsy music accompaniment.
Hussar officers parading in fabulous clothing, perky horses, pretty, angelic-voiced girls, and ferocious amusement made military life attractive for the peasant youth looking for adventure.
Recruiting was quite tricky. When the mood was at its highest and the chosen men were under the influence of alcohol, a senior hussar approached the while dancing and placed a hussar hat on their head. “You are a hussar from now on. Will you serve the country with me and spill your blood for it if necessary?” – he asked.
Those who did not protest were immediately taken to become hussars.
Due to its more “humane” form of recruitment, voluntary military service gave young people more strength than if they had been taken away via force.
101. Atilla Jacket
One of the most characteristic pieces of folk clothing is the Atilla Jacket. The short, ornate, laced garment resembles the name of King Attila the Hun.
It was considered an integral part of a Hungarian gentleman’s attire. The jacket – originally an equestrian jacket – was a basic piece of hussar clothing. Its slender, downward expanding fit made it easier to get off and up on the horse.
Before the ancient folk garment was forgotten at the end of the 18th century, Hungarians took out their national costume in protest against the decrees of the then Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II.
They wanted to annoy the emperor who tried to “Germanize” Hungarians and became more Hungarian in return. That is how the Atilla Jacket came back into focus again before it was finally forgotten for good.
102. Mangalica, the Hungarian ancient pig
Our ancestors who conquered the Carpathian Basin brought a pig from Szalonta, Asia. Although this breed of pig became extinct, its descendant, the Mangalica pig has stayed with us as an ancient Hungarian domestic animal.
The meat of mangalica is low in cholesterol and extremely tasty due to its party free-range farming. It dominated the domestic meat market until the swine fever in 1895. During the 20 years of swine fever, 95% of the mangalica sheep died and drifted to the brink of extinction.
Until WWII, it took serious effort to save the breed, but the war almost completely killed the breed again.
Finally, from the early 1990s, the herd was increased again making it possible to put mangalica meat out on the market again. The finest Italian serrano hams are also made from Hungarian mangalica meat.
103. The Hungarian prayer – the Anthem
If you check out the lyrics of different nations’ national anthems, you will see that most of them are about glorifying those people and remembering their great deeds.
However, the Hungarian Anthem is different. Ferenc Kölcsey’s poem, written in 1823, was originally entitled Hymnus, from the stormy centuries of the Hungarian nation.
Even this makes it obvious that the poem is not about an easy topic. We pray to God through eight verses to alleviate our pain and give us a better future.
While the anthem of the other nations consists of swirling melodies, the Hungarian anthem is the perfect reflection of our sad gloomy nature.
104. The Hungarian Grey
According to the most popular history of the origin of the Hungarian Grey, these savage, powerful animals arrived in the Carpathian Basin together with the conquering Hungarians.
According to other theories, ancient Hungarians met the ancestor of the Hungarian Grey in their new homeland and bred the Hungaricum that lives today.
No matter what the story was, we can’t imagine the Great Hungarian Plain without The Hungarian Grey cattle.
Due to its free-range farming and savageness, its meat is considered the healthiest beef. The uniqueness of the breed is that it is resistant against mad cow disease, and since it is not fed with feed, its meat is guaranteed to be free of BSE.
Grey Cattle trade was flourishing until the beginning of the 19th century. Then, it was replaced by beef cattle giving more milk and suitable for stable animal husbandry. Today, they are more like tourist attractions wandering the Hungarian Plain.
105. Easter Sprinkling
It is a typical Hungarian tradition for men to sprinkle girls at Easter. Until the regime change, in the countryside young men of the village set off and honored all the single girls with a whole bucket of cold water or simply threw them into the drinking trough.
Watering can be identified with the Christian fertility cult: we water flowers to grow, we water girls for the same reason.
This custom has become a bit less wild in cities and modern times; buckets have been replaced by fragrant cologne. In return for watering, girls made ornate, boiled, Easter eggs as gifts.
In modern times, this tradition is limited to close family and friends, if kept at all. However, if you are interested in this fun, Hungarian custom, visit Hollókő at Easter!
106. Mohács Busójárás (Busó-walking in Mohács)
This folk custom started in Mohács, and closely connected to the carnival is called Busó-walking and is already on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The aim of the multi-day small festival is to chase away winter as part of a seriously composed program.
After setting foot on the bank of the river, the scary masked Busós walk along the main street, making loud noises and use ratchets to chase winter away.
Finally, the burning “coffin of winter” is put on water and there is a dance around the bonfire on the main square. In addition to one of our most spectacular folk customs – Easter watering – this one is also worth seeing!
107. Our Zsolnay and Herend porcelains are world-famous
The Zsolnay porcelain factory was one of the most famous ceramic and porcelain manufactories of the turn of the century.
It was partly due to its self-developed eosin glaze and Art Nouveau style that it won prestigious awards in a row and has become known throughout Europe. The tiles of the roof of several Hungarian buildings, e.g. the Museum of Applied Arts, were made of Zsolnay ceramics.
Handmade Herend porcelain is also very famous. They only work for individual orders, and tens of thousands of euros are charged for a set of porcelain.
You can find more information about the topic in my article on Herend Porcelain.
Honest facts about what Hungarians are like
108. We are sharp-witted
It would most probably give Sherlock Holmes a serious headache. Due to the peculiarities of the Hungarian language, our speech contains a lot of pictorial representations and our word order is also free.
So, we can describe the same story with hundreds of word combinations. Since there is strong visualization in our language, we do not only use the left hemisphere of the brain responsible for speech, but the right side as well since it is responsible for imagination.
Thus, the Hungarian way of thinking involves both hemispheres. Others say we approach everything in a very strange way.
109. We are world-famous for our creativity
How could there be so many Hungarian inventors if we weren’t creative? We have the instinct to try and make our lives easier.
In addition, because most of us are in a rather modest financial situation, we don’t change our equipment, furniture, and cars on a monthly basis. So, we learn carpentry, sewing, car repairs, and haircut.
Our creativity, which comes naturally, is a gold mine for foreign companies. That’s why Hungarian employees are much appreciated abroad.
110. We don’t make friends easily
At first sight, it might seem true that Hungarians find it hard to open up. Unfortunately, our distrust is due to our history, and these wounds take time to heal.
These days when borders are opened up, we also try to open toward the world, yet, there are still huge language barriers. But if you manage to break through our walls, we will put ourselves on the line for you.
111. Hungarian hospitality
Although it is quite difficult to gain our hearts, you will see the famous Hungarian hospitality if you manage to break through our walls.
Our love is measured in cooking. We love to impress our guests with several multi-course meals and spice them up with fine Hungarian wines and pálinkas.
And if a Hungarian gives you some leftovers to take home – a small bottle of pálinka, stew in a box and some scones wrapped in a napkin –, they definitely like you.
112. We are quite diligent
Give a Hungarian a goal and they will achieve it no matter what. If we find our dream job, the meaning of our lives, we jump into the middle of it without sparing ourselves.
We are tough, persistent, hard-working and our workload is like that of a stubborn buffalo. They throw us out on the door? We punch a hole in the wall and crawl back through it.
113. Nothing is impossible for us! We find every loophole
Hungarian legislation and taxation work within a strictly organized framework. Yet, thanks to our sharp-witted nature, we always find a hole in the system.
The government is constantly filling these holes, but unfortunately in vain because we will find new ones. We keep thinking about ways to bend the rules so they won’t apply to us.
114. A superstitious nation
Black cat, chimney-sweeper bringing luck, spilled salt – they are only a few of the superstitions Hungarians believe in.
The most common superstition is “knocking everything down” – if we are satisfied with something and tell someone about it, we knock it down with a finger on a wooden surface not to lose our luck. E.g.: “How was your exam?” “I feel I did well, I’m knocking it down.” Whether it helps or not is unknown, but it cannot harm.
115. We were at the top of the suicide list for a long time
Hungarians are gloomy people as international statistics show. Until 2018, we were at the top of European suicide statistics and in the top ten in the world.
Thus, the improvement was quite amazing in 2019: we got off the podium of the old continent and also jumped off the top ten world list. Perhaps there is hope.
116. Nothing is ever good enough
Complaining is our nature. We find it hard to see the silver lining, but rather focus on the negativities.
Nothing is enough, we always want something better or more. This way of thinking could motivate us to fight our way through things and improve ourselves. It will work for some of us while others are left with the complaints.
117. Envy is a national disease here
Continuing the previous line of thought that we tend to see the bad in our own affairs, we are also envious of others’ success.
Congratulations on a smile, but there is rage behind the smile. And there is no way a Hungarian would recognize others’ talent or work.
Rather, we deceive ourselves with explanations like “of course it was easy for them to get a medical degree, their mother is a doctor” or “her husband is loaded; starting a new business was nothing for her”.
That is how we try to convince ourselves that we cannot be successful because others are in a much better condition. However, in many cases, this is simply not true.
118. We seriously believe that the rich stole their money
We are so envious that when upon seeing a brand-new luxury car with a young man driving, we immediately think they must have stolen some money. This originates from huge social differences and high tax rates.
An average citizen with an average job and a barely 30 m2 studio apartment can’t imagine how anyone with decent work could save enough money for a new car without applying for a loan.
Of course, our stubbornness would never allow us to learn from others.
119. Hungarians are weird because they party crying. We laugh at ourselves if we had bad luck
Our history is stormy, extreme, and full of wars. Due to our central location, we have been affected by the greatest European wars without exception and suffered heavy losses in both world wars.
Real peace was unknown to us until the last twenty years, that is, after the regime change. Thus, it’s no wonder we could only sing about sad stories while getting drunk in the pub.
Most of our folk songs are about loss, stolen love, and poverty. There are still bands in our modern age with songs mourning Greater Hungary and the areas annexed after the war.
If a group of Hungarians gets drunk, they hug each other and cry – don’t worry, everything is OK. That’s just us. This is how we are having a good time!
But if something bad happens, we laugh at ourselves a lot. We laugh so hard at our own misfortune, that we start slapping our knees. And if we have company, they will also join in and laugh at our misfortune.
120. The given word and a handshake – ideas of a bygone era
Prior to the regime change, given word was equal to a contract. If two people agreed on something and shook hands, nothing would stop it from happening.
There was no need for paper, witness, or notary. A “gentleman’s word of honor” wasn’t only conventional among the rich. If someone broke their promise or went against their given word, they became equal to the devil.
No one would ever trust them again. They were stigmatized. This tradition is no longer fashionable among young people today, but it is still alive among the older generation.
121. We advise everyone
We have some unsolicited advice on any problems you may have. And that is because we like to think that we know everything.
Thus, there is a solution for every situation you might be in. And whether you asked for it or not, we would share it with you!
122. We like to keep our money at home
Let me continue with the material line of thought for a bit: we don’t trust banks. That is due to the different transaction and card usage fees.
Companies have had to transfer salaries to bank accounts and bank cards have existed for over 10 years. However, Hungarians run to the ATM and withdraw their whole salary on every payday.
We feel more secure financially if we can touch the money and keep it at home. And money stored in the pillowcase refers to the old Hungarian custom that if we sleep on our money, it can’t be found or stolen.
123. Taxation? Seriously?
Because of strict and uniquely high taxes in Europe, Hungarians do everything they can to pay less taxes.
Although our economy has whitened a lot over the last decade, there are still a lot of shifty people. So, don’t be surprised if a receipt is “forgotten” at smaller stores and sellers.
124. Hungarian men are courteous
Hungarian men know naturally how to treat women politely. Ladies must be let in first at the door or lift and they must be helped with their coat when leaving.
A Hungarian man opens the door when a woman intends to get in the car and carries her luggage. Some men pay attention that the woman should walk on their right, as dogs and streetwalkers are carried on the left.
My father has been teaching me these basic things since I was a child. That’s why it was weird for me when I wanted to let an American lady forward at the hotel entrance during my trip to Mexico, but she insisted that she wouldn’t. I insisted, too.
It was a funny situation. We were pointing at each other for about one and a half minutes as a small line began forming behind us. Finally, the lady got tired of it and went in, but not without saying: “Male chauvinist pig”. At first, I didn’t understand, then I realized: abroad, it’s an insult if a man is polite to a woman.
125. We love learning
The first Hungarian university was opened in Pécs on 1st September 1367 on the initiative of our king Louis the Great.
Since then, 36 universities have been welcoming students from Hungary and abroad. More and more students apply to our universities from Western Europe and developing countries because of quality education.
In 2018, nearly 200,000 Hungarian students attended one of our higher education institutions, and approximately 30,000 foreign students also chose Hungary for their further studies.
Interesting facts about the Hungarian language
126. We use 44 letters in our alphabet
There are 44 letters in the Hungarian alphabet, while only 26 in the Latin.
This is due to the fact that we have long vowels (a – á) and double- and triple-glyph letters (sz, ny, cs, zs, ty, dzs).
If you didn’t know why it was difficult to learn Hungarian, I believe you are starting to understand it now, right?
127. Runic writing
If it’s not enough that our alphabet deviates from the traditional Latin alphabet by nearly 18 letters, check this out! We also have our own ancient Hungarian letters and numbers that we call runic writing.
Physical archaeological finds from the 18th century prove the presence of runic writing among conquering Hungarians. The oldest inscriptions appeared engraved in various materials such as wood, bones, stone, and metal.
If you love fantasy, ancient druid signs may come to mind immediately when looking at Hungarian runic writing.
128. Unparalleled mother tongue
As George Bernard Shaw once said, referring to his oeuvre: “[…] had Hungarian been my mother tongue, it would have been more precious.”
The expressive power of our language is unprecedented. We use nearly 1,160 verbs for motion, and our vocabulary expands year by year with the changing world.
129. Letters that do not exist anywhere else
Have I told you that the Hungarian language is extremely unique? Not only because of kilometer-long words and an infinite number of word orders but also because of unique letters.
Every short vowel has its long pair: a-á, e-é, i-í, o-ó, u-ú. And there are also some extra ones: ö-ő, ü-ű.
Translate the following word using Google Translate and check the pronunciation: töpörtyű (cracklings). Now, try to imitate it! How long did it take you to get it right?
130. Noble blood by name
In the Kingdom of Hungary, it was very easy to distinguish common people from noblemen. If there was a “y ” instead of an “i” at the end of the surname, we were surely dealing with an aristocrat.
131. As many Hungarian dialects as many landscapes
Just like in most language areas, we have several landscapes, where Hungarian is spoken in a bit different way.
The Palóc dialect is spoken in northern Hungarian regions, and “a” is mostly pronounced as “á” there. In the eastern region where people speak the Tisza dialect: “e” is often pronounced as “ö”. Sometimes even we Hungarians have to pay attention to understand our fellow citizens.
132. A pass from English
In the last 20 years, it has been compulsory to learn at least one foreign language at primary and secondary school. However, only a few people can speak another language.
According to a survey, only 35% of the population speak a language other than their mother tongue. This could be a pretty good rate if we didn’t know that the EU average is 66%. With this performance, we are at the lowest platform of the podium.
Facts you most probably didn’t know about Budapest
133. The name of our capital came from the merger of two cities
Did you know that our capital has officially been known as Budapest since 1873?
Earlier, Buda – located on the right bank of the Danube – was the royal capital, while the quickly expanding Pest on the left bank was registered as a free royal city.
With the prosperity and economic and cultural development in the Reform Era, it was time for the two cities to merge.
If you are interested in how Budapest got its name, read my article about it.
134. Mysterious caves and bunkers under Budapest
There are countless caves in the bowels of the Buda Mountains. In addition to the Buda Castle Cave, the Szemlő Hill Cave and the Pálvölgyi Cave System built for touristic purposes, there are approximately 200 more registered caves. The Remete Cave has been discovered by prehistoric men.
Shh! There are plenty of bunkers, tunnels, and secret facilities that only the most privileged can access, but that is for your ears only!
Earlier the mere existence of the caves has been treated as a strict state secret. Those who tried to gather information about them were arrested and interrogated – a procedure that was not very good for the individual’s health. On second thought, now you know about it, too. Oops!
135. We built the first underground electric train in Europe
Did you know that the Underground itself is a monument? Well, it is! With the opening of the Underground – line 1 – in 1896, it became the first underground railway in Europe.
The Underground – nicknamed Kisföldalatti – mostly runs under the famous Andrássy Avenue touching on major tourist attractions.
136. Budapest is home to the world’s largest synagogue
You won’t miss the Synagogue in Dohány Street since it dominates the area between Astoria and Deák Ferenc Square with its monumental size.
The Oriental style, huge domed towers, and high windows of Europe’s first and the world’s second-largest Jewish church attract a lot of attention. In addition to Jewish religious life, concerts, festivals, and organ concerts are often held within its walls.
I wrote a shocking article about the Nazi terror, which is worth reading. Budapest does not forget the murders, that is when the shoes of Jewish people were worth more than their lives.
137. We have the third-largest parliament in the world
There is no more perfect point for taking photographs than Batthyány Square opposite the Hungarian Parliament.
This magnificent building may rightly be called the most beautiful parliament in the world (for us it is) since it looks like more of a fairy-tale palace than an office building.
The foundation of the Neo-Gothic building was laid in 1885 and it was built for almost 20 years. – definitely worth the effort. In addition to the magnificent ornamental staircase, the dome hall, and the reception room of the President of the Republic of Hungary, you can also see the Hungarian Holy Crown and the Crown Jewels in one go.
138. Budapest – the city of ruin bars
Perhaps the most popular destination point of young foreigners is a ruin bar in Budapest. The bars that are located in unused buildings reach out to the hearts of many with their discarded furniture and eclectic decorations.
And the honesty of their dilapidated, unflamboyant appearance and homeliness may also contribute to it. These ruin bars not only function as places of entertainment but also provide the public and cultural scene for the underground life in Budapest.
I have already written a comprehensive article about ruin bars in Budapest describing which ones you should visit and why.
139. City Park – the first public park in the world
The 100-hectare City Park (or as we call it, the Liget) was the first public park in the world accessible to the commons.
In 1813, Archduke Joseph Anton issued a tender for the design of a “place of entertainment and pleasure for all classes of society”. This is how horticulturist, Heinrich Nebbien’s idea of a precisely designed people’s garden was adopted.
The oldest sycamore trees were planted here between 1818 and 1830. The park saved the people of Pest several times: once during the Great Pest flood of 1838 when citizens found refuge from the water on the hills, and also during the War of Independence of 1848–49 when people fled to the trees from cannon fires.
The City Park has been expanding for almost 100 years giving a home to tourist attractions that are famous today, such as the City Park Ice Rink, Heroes’ Square, Széchényi Baths, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Zoo.
What we are proud of
140. Aranycsapat (The Golden Team)
Earlier we were only good at water polo, but suddenly we became successful on the football pitch as well. The Hungarian national football team, referred to as the Golden Team with Ferenc Puskás beat all the European teams from 1948 to 1956.
They won the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and also finished first in the 1948 and 1953 European Cup.
But the most memorable match took place at the Wembley Stadium in 1953 between Hungary and the UK and ended in 6:3.
The inventors of football had not been beaten by any team from the old continent before that. The triumph of the Golden Team was only broken at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, where after a 2-0 lead in the final, Germany (then FRG) finally beat Ferenc Puskás’s team 2:3.
141. Ferenc Puskás – the star of Hungarian football
If you mention the name Ferenc Puskás to a Hungarian, you have almost won them over.
The legendary Hungarian footballer holds numerous records which we are very proud of. Puskás scored 15 goals at Cope del Rey during the Spanish Cup in 1960–61 – which hasn’t been broken until today.
He’s also been the oldest one to score a goal in the history of Real Madrid – scoring his last goal at the exact age of 38 years and 233 days.
Not to mention, that the most goals scored at Hungarian first-class championship matches with seven goals scored during a single match also belong to him. But he was not the only goal king in the Hungarian league: sharing the glory with Alfredo di Stefano, they scored a total of 7-7 goals in the European Cup Series Final.
As if that was not enough, he scored the most goals (exactly 4) at the European Cup Final.
In comparison: Cristiano Ronaldo’s personal best is two goals at the 2016 UEFA Championships League Final, while Messi scored maximum once.
142. We love Formula 1
We have been organizing Formula 1 races at Hungaroring in Mogyoród – near Budapest – since 1986.
Fast cars are something we adore, so quite a lot of Hungarians follow Formula 1 at weekends. Although we don’t have any successful racers, we are very proud of Zsolt Baumgartner – the only Hungarian to race and collect points at the World Championships.
143. Ferenc Liszt – the uncrowned king of music
Ferenc Liszt went down in history as one of the most outstanding pianists of all time. He was only 11 when he performed at the House of Order where – legend has it –the prodigy was kissed on the forehead by Beethoven.
That is how Liszt’s career started during which he toured Buda, Paris, London, and St. Petersburg. He was friends with Paganini, Chopin, and Berlioz. His work includes more than 1,400 masterpieces.
144. József Pulitzer – the father of journalism
Who was the Pulitzer Prize – the most prestigious award in American journalism – named after? Of course, it was a Hungarian journalist.
It was József Pulitzer’s rivalry with press magnate, William Randolph Hearst that led to the emergence of “yellow press”, that is, sensationalist journalism. This model helped deepen the foundations of American freedom of the press and democracy by shedding light on political scandals, corruption cases, and economic abuse.
It was Pulitzer’s $ 2 million legacy that helped open the Columbia University School of Journalism, one of the most prestigious schools of journalism in the world to date.
145. War-photographer, Robert Capa
It is not an easy task to deduce his origins from the name as Robert Capa was only a pseudonym. Endre Friedman was born in Budapest. He took the name Capa and launched his photography career after he emigrated to Paris.
Capa was at the Spanish Civil War, the First Sino–Japanese War, the European battlefields of WWII, the First Arab–Israeli War and the Indochina War under the commission of Life Magazine.
He was also there during the Normandy Landings and documented the liberation of Paris. His photos traveled the world; his style was deeply captivating. It was his passion that caused his death – he was killed by a landmine in Indochina doing a war report.
146. Bertalan Farkas, the Hungarian astronaut
Originally serving as a fighter pilot, Bertalan Farkas was selected for the Soviet-led Interkosmos Space Program during the Soviet-American Space Race.
He and his companion, Valerij Kubaszov were launched toward the stars at 8.20 pm (CET) on 26th May 1980 and attached to the Soviet space station two days later. With Bertalan Farkas’s journey, Hungarians were the seventh nation to enter space.
147. Semmelweis, the savior of mothers
Did you know that giving birth in a safe way can be attributed to a Hungarian doctor? Until the mid-1800s, a significant number of women giving birth at the hospital were in danger of dying from the so-called puerperal fever.
It was Ignác Semmelweis who introduced that doctors wash hands with chlorinated water before conducting deliveries.
Until then, doctors helped women in labor directly after an autopsy without washing hands… I think that would have been worth a Nobel Prize at least!
148. Hungarian Nobel laureates
Our scientific work is also recognized abroad. There are two Hungarian Nobel laureates who worked here at home, and seven more who were forced to emigrate and continue their work abroad.
Albert Szent-Györgyi won the medical prize for the discovery of vitamin C in 1937, while Imre Kertész became the proud owner of a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002.
With the number of Nobel laureates per capita, we are ahead of Canada and Australia.
149. Hungarians in Hollywood
The American film production has a lot to thank us for. We were there at the beginning of film-making – Hungarian-born William Fox and Adolph Zukor founded Fox Film Corporation and Paramount Pictures in the early 1910s.
Film director Michael Curtiz (Mihály Kertész) made 100 films in the US including Casablanca in 1942.
Composer Miklós Rózsa contributed to the music of films such as Ben Hur, The Thief of Bagdad, and El Cid. And the list is not over yet…
150. The most famous escape artist
If I say Erik Weisz, you have no idea, right? But if you hear the name Harry Houdini, I am sure you know right away who he is. Erik Weisz – born in Budapest in 1874 – was one of the greatest escape artists and illusionists in the world.
He only spent his early years in Hungary; his career started in America. Thanks to his tricks, he was also called the king of cards and handcuffs, and he starred in films as well. His chosen country recognized his work by giving him a star on the promenade of Hollywood celebrities.