Hungary is a country of contrasts. In rural areas life goes on much as it has done for many years. Take the train across the country and you will see small picturesque villages and farmland. Then you arrive at Budapest, a bustling metropolitan city. Even here you will find remarkable contrasts. The grand facades of stately buildings line the streets next to modern constructions of steel and glass. In the distance towering concrete blocks remind you of the Communist era while enormous shopping malls declare Hungary’s emerging status as a capitalist economy and member of the EU. Aside from global-brand advertising there aren’t many words you will recognise.
The Hungarian language has almost nothing in common with any other language you will have heard and has a reputation for being hard to learn. That said, it isn’t impossible and as with any new language there is a tremendous sense of achievement when you can be understood without having to nervously ask “Do you speak English?”
There is no better place to practice a few phrases than in the many coffee houses, tea shops or restaurants. Budapest has it all: McDonalds to Greek buffet restaurants, basic Hungarian food at a market cafe or luxurious cuisine and fine wine at a restaurant.
A short history lesson…
Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which collapsed during World War I. The country lost the 2/3 of territory as well as circa 3 million of it’s population and fell under Communist role following World War II. In 1956 a revolt and announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact were met with a massive military intervention by Moscow. Under the leadership of Janos Kadar in 1968, Hungary began making it’s economy more liberal, introducing so-called ‘goulash communism’. Churches and free-thinkers were still oppressed but the average people enjoyed a relative safety and prosperity (the latter came from debts that the country is still paying back). Hungary held its first multi-party elections in 1990 and initiated a free market economy. It joined NATO in 1999 and the EU on 1st May 2004.
- Budapest Tourism Office
- Currency converter
- Train timetables for Hungary
- Learning Hungarian
- On-line English/Hungarian dictionary
To see photos of Budapest taken by one of our volunteers click here.