Walk through old Roman and Turkish ruins on the same excursion, explore what Hungary's history has to offer!
Hungary lies in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe. The greatest distance from north to south is 268 km, and from east to west, 528 km. Fifty percent of Hungary's territory consists of flatlands: the ALFÖLD (The Great Plain) comprises the entire eastern half of Hungary, while the KISALFÖLD (The Little Plain) extends along the northwestern border.
The country's two most prominent rivers - the Danube, of which the Hungarian section is 417 km long, and the Tisza at 598 km - traverse Hungary from north to south. The Central Danube-Tisza region is also flatland, while the Transdanubian countryside lying west of the Danube has hilly terrain. Lake Balaton, Central Europe's warmest lake, is situated in the center of this region. The highlands stretch diagonally across Hungary: west of the Danube lies the Central Transdanubian mountain range with its hills reaching 400-700 meters (e.g. The Keszthely, Bakony, Vértes, Gerecse, Pilis, and Visegrád mountain ranges).East of the Danube lies the Central Northern Mountain range with hills of 500-1000 meters (e.g. the Börzsöny, Cserhát, Mátra, Bükk, Cserehát, Zemplén mountain ranges).
The highest point in Hungary is 1014 meters, which can be found at Kékes in the Mátra mountain range. The Hungarian "puszta" (meaning "wasteland" or "barren land") is a popular tourist destination. Its one-time characteristic animals and ethnographic traditions can be seen at the horse-riding shows in the Hortobágy National Park (e.g. Bugac, Apajpuszta, Lajosmizse).
The Turkish Occupation
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hungary became a bulwark of Christianity because, in the age of castle warfare, the Turkish campaigns were blocked regularly by the Hungarian resistance (e.g., Kõszeg in 1532, Eger in 1552, Szigetvár in 1566). As the Turkish yoke was finally falling from the long-suffering central part of the country, the principality in Transylvania was flourishing under the reign of Gábor Bethlen (1613-1629).
The Habsburg Era
The expulsion of the Turks - long urged by poet and General Miklós Zrinyi (1620-1664) - was finally accomplished at the end of the century. The Saint League, led by the Habsburgs, occupied Buda first (1686) and then the whole country and made it a part of the Habsburg Empire.
The sovereigns in the 18th century, Maria Theresia (1740-1780) and Joseph II, governed the country in an absolutist way. During their rule the country recovered from the destruction of the Turkish Conquest, and agricultural development started again in the age of the Counter-Reformation and baroque. The movement to develop the Hungarian language began at this time. The absolutist governance without parliament stopped in 1825.
From this time on, the politicians endeavored to change the still-feudal society into a bourgeois one. István Széchenyi in the 30s and Lajos Kossuth in the 40s led the aristocracy in opposition. New buildings (the Chain Bridge), river regulation (the Tisza) and the first railway line were fruits of their activity. In addition, culture and nationalism also flourished at this time. Changes in political life were embodied in the so-called April Laws, based on the Twelve Items of the March, 1848 Revolution.
The Habsburgs, after putting down the revolution in Austria and Italy, turned against the Hungarians. Here the rebellion turned into full-fledged revolution, with the Hungarians declaring their independence from Vienna. The Habsburgs managed to suppress the Hungarians with the help of Russia in the summer of 1849 ("Capitulation at Vilagos").
After the bloody revenge (the execution of Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány and the 13 Arad martyrs), the country rejected cooperation. In 1867 a compromise with the Habsburgs was arranged (with Ferenc Deak taking a leading role) and a dual government was established.
World War I
After the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, the First World War (1914-1918) broke out and Austria-Hungary joined the side of Germany. In accordance with Wilson's "14 Points", defeat saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire divided into independent nation-states.
After the "Aster Revolution" led by Mihály Károlyi (1918) and the Hungarian Soviet Republic (1919), a right-wing consolidation took place under the leadership of Regent Miklós Horthy. In addition to the war indemnity, the Trianon Peace Agreement (1920) meant the loss of large areas of land: the historical, thousand-year-old state lost two-thirds of its territory, and 3.3 million Hungarians were left outside the borders of the new State in Transylvania, Felvidék, Burgenland, Bánság, Muraköz and Bácska.
The peace agreement, perceived as a national trauma, determined Hungarian foreign policy between the two World Wars. Stability in domestic politics and the economy were swept away by the Great Depression (1929-33). Hungarian politicians, hoping for a revision of the new borders, drifted into World War II (1939-1945) on the side of Germany and Italy, both of whom were likewise dissatisfied with the Versailles Treaty.
World War II
In return for territories re-annexed in the early stages of the war, Hungary supported the Germans, while being in contact with the Allies, as well. The German army occupied Hungary in March, 1944. Ghettos were established and 500,000 people were sent to concentration camps in a few months.
After Miklós Horthy's attempts for an armistice, the Germans forced his resignation and transferred power to the Hungarian Nazis. Meanwhile, the Soviet Army reached Hungary's borders. The country became a theatre of war between the German and Soviet armies. Budapest was destroyed and the country was sacked.
Behind the Iron Curtain
In 1945 free elections were held, but the results were irrelevant as the presence of the Soviet Army strengthened the communists and resulted in the elimination of the multi-party system by 1948. This was the period of deportations, fear and the terror of the communist secret police.
On 23 October 1956 a revolution aimed at restoring democracy broke out against the communist dictatorship of Mátyás Rákosi. After the Soviet Army had occupied Hungary a second time, the Communist Party executed, among others, Prime Minister Imre Nagy. A strong emigration to the West began.
In the 80s, along with the economic crisis, political fermentation began. With the power of the Soviet Union impaired, the Hungarian Communist Party lost its military support and, facing ever more severe economic problems, agreed to hold free elections.
The Third Hungarian Republic
On 23 October 1989, in commemoration of the revolution against the communist dictatorship, the Third Hungarian Republic was declared. Hungary, as a result of the multi-party elections of the 90s, has been undergoing great economic and political development within the democratic, parliamentary system.
Hungary is a member of NATO and the European Union.
Considering its relatively small size, Hungary offers outstanding natural diversity, most of which can be discovered within a few hours of Budapest.
As much as ten per cent of the country is unspoiled National Park, home to species of plant and wildlife found only in Hungary. The country’s wetlands, rivers and lakes are a haven for birdwatchers and anglers, and the forgiving landscape is ideal for hiking and cycling. More challenging terrain is offered by the rolling hills to the north and along the mountainous wine regions overlooking Lake Balaton.