Capital | Budapest
Population | 9,976,062 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 93,030 SQ KM
Official Language | Hungarian
Holidays | Saint Stephen's Day, 20 August; note - commemorates the date when his remains were transferred to Buda (now Budapest)
Currency | Forint (HUF)
Time Zone | UTC +1
Best Time to Visit | May to September (summer)
Connecting with the Culture | Soothing away those aches and pains in one of Budapest’s thermal baths. Letting loose at a resort on Lake Balaton, Hungary’s ‘inland sea’. Strolling around the Castle District in Buda. Cycling along the Danube Bend, particularly around Szentendre. Bird watching in the Hortobágy National Park. Caving in the Aggtelek Karst, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Read | Fateless, by Imre Kertész, an autobiographical novel about the author’s experiences in concentration camps in WWII: Eclipse of the Crescent Moon, by Géza Gárdonyi, a tale set in the 16th century during the Turkish siege.
Listen | to Márta Sebestyén, whose haunting voice appears on The English Patient soundtrack, or Hungarian folk ensembles such as Cifra.
Watch | István a Király (Stephen the King), written by Levente Szörényi and János Bródy, a stiring rock-opera about the life of the first king of Hungary. 6:3 is Péter Timár’s account of the impact the ‘football match of the century’ between England and Hungary in 1953 had on people’s lives.
Eat | töttött káposzta, cabbage leaves rolled and stuffed with meat and rice; madátej is a delicious custard- like dessert.
Drink | Tokaji Aszú—‘the wine of kings and the king of wines’; pálinka, a kick-like –a-mule brandy made from stone fruits such as pear, apricot or plum.
In a Word | Szia (hello)
Characteristics | Goulash; salami; Rubik’s Cube; water polo; Nobel prize winners; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Gypsy music.
Surprises | Hungarian surnames appear before their Christian names, as in Asian cultures; the burial place of Attila the Hun and his lost treasure is said to be in Hungary.
NEWS ABOUT HUNGARY
Hungary and Kazakhstan form economic alliance
(HN, 5/7/12) - Hungary's PM Viktor Orbán signed several agreements with his Kazakhstan counterpart Karim Massimov on a trip to Astana this weekend for the Hungary-Kazakhstan business forum where Orban discussed his country's economic crisis & stated: “We not only have a new government, but also changed our mentality & approach to general issues: this is the main source of our international vision. We started thinking this way 2 years ago. We did not lose our hopes & ambitions. This is why 50 Hungarian companies consider it a priority to send their representatives to this forum to improve & enhance relations with our Kazakhstan partners.” Kazakhstan is Hungary's primary trading partner in Central-Asia. (Read more at NEW EUROPE)
Hungarian President in plagiarism scandal
(HN, 3/28/12) - On Friday Hungarian President Pal Schmitt, in office since 2012, cancelled all public engagements. In January news magazine HVG alleged that 90% Schmitt's 1992, 215-page PhD dissertation was almost a direct translation of a work written by Nikolay Georgiev in 1987, a now deceased Bulgarian sport historian. Schmitt's actions come after a special committee set up by Semmelweis University, Mr. Schmitt's alma mater, concluded the Hungarian president had copied large chunks of the thesis on the modern Olympic's "word for word"; & revoked his scientific degree by a University board vote of 33-4. HVG also claimed that 17 pages of the 35-page paper appear to have directly from an essay written in English in 1992 by German academic Klaus Heinemann; & published extracts apparently showing Mr. Schmitt's inaccurate translations.
Schmitt is a former Olympic fencing champion & member of the International Olympic Committee since 1983. The 69-year-old president denies cheating, claiming to have used 21 sources & "the best of his own learning" in writing the paper. He is expected to make a live address on Hungarian television & radio amid widespread expectations that he will step down. Opposition parties close to the conservative government of Hungary's PM Viktor Orban, who backed Schmitt's election by Parliament in 2010 for a 5-year term, have called for Schmitt's resignation. If Schmitt resigns, he will be temporarily replaced by Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover until lawmakers elect a new president.