About Hungary

The Hungarian state was formed by Magyar tribes over 1,000 years ago; it has survived wars and occupations by many other nations, which is probably why its national anthem describes Hungarians as people “torn by fate.” Hungary has contributed much to the arts and sciences; its capital city, Budapest, is a fascinating destination that attracts over 20 million visitors per year. Cruise visitors witness the splendor of Budapest, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as they sail along the Danube River into the city. Budapest is a wonderful introduction to Hungarian culture and architecture for the cruise traveler.

The country is located in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe and is landlocked. Because of their distance from the sea, Hungarians have often relied on the Danube River for transportation of goods and people. A Hungary river cruise along the Danube gives visitors an opportunity to see this beautiful country from a new perspective as well as experience a bit of history as they cruise along an important European river. Travelers will learn about the Hungarian culture and people as their river cruise unfolds.

Historic Background

The territory has been inhabited since the early Paleolithic period; following Celtic and Roman periods, the foundation of the Hungarian state was laid in the 9th century by the Magyar chieftain Árpád. The Hungarian mother tongue is part of the Finno-Ugric language family; it does not share a heritage with the Germanic or Romance languages, but with Finnish and Estonian.The Hungarian kingdom continued until the 13th century, when the Mongolian Tatars devastated the country and halted development for at least a century. From the 16th to the late 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire occupied Buda and the country was split into three parts ruled by the Turks, the Habsburgs and Transylvania, respectively. In the 19th century, Hungarian nationalism came to the fore; Pest, Buda and Obuda were united across the Danube River as Budapest in 1873. Buda and Pest were at one time separated by the river and connected only by ferry. With the building of the Chain Bridge, the two towns grew together into today’s beautiful Hungarian capital on the Danube River. Many of the city’s architectural delights, such as the Opera House and the Parliament, were constructed at the time the united city was formed. Modern Budapest, aptly called “Queen of the Danube,” is a magnificent sight for river cruise visitors. From the river, cruise travelers see the portion of the city known as Buda built into the side of a hill with the majestic silhouette of its cathedral and castle, while Pest spreads out along the flatter eastern bank of the river.The Hungarian government allied itself with Germany in both World Wars, but suffered defeat. The Russians occupied Hungary in 1945, beginning the Communist era. In 1989, the Hungarian border with Austria was opened, accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, and the Soviet army left the country in 1990. Today, the Hungarian nation is a parliamentary republic.

Beautiful Sights in Budapest

Hungary’s river cruise visitors enjoy touring both the older and the more modern sections of Budapest, sampling the local cuisine and wines, taking in operatic or folkloric performances and visiting the area’s beautiful spas. During their occupation, the Turks built spa baths, and eventually traditional Turkish-style baths, to take advantage of the hot springs that the Romans also enjoyed. Budapest boasts Europe’s largest deposit of thermal mineral water, and there are thirty such spa baths that cruise travelers can visit in the city. They are built in grand style, with decorative columns and ornate tile work, and are well worth a visit.Many river cruise visitors take free time to tour inside some of the landmarks they see on their walking tours: for example, Buda Castle, from which Hungarian kings, Turkish pashas, and Austrian emperors have ruled. Maria Theresa lived luxuriously in its more than two hundred rooms. Nearby is another magnificent site of historic importance for cruise visitors to enjoy: Matthias Church, a place of worship since it was first built in the 13th century. Budapest’s 19th-century Moorish-style Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue, is the largest in Europe and fourth-largest in the world. It was bombed and used as a stable during World War II but underwent a three-year reconstruction in the 1990s funded largely by the late Estée Lauder, whose mother was a Hungarian Jewish émigré.

Cultural Contributions

Hungarians have contributed much to the arts—composers Bartók and Liszt, writers Péter Esterházy and Imre Kertész to name a few—and sciences, with important innovations in the fields of mathematics, computing and physics. Hungarians invented holography (Dennis Gabor), the ballpoint pen (László Bíró) and the Rubik’s cube (Ernõ Rubik).

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