Hungary is an eastern European country that differs from virtually all others. It has a unique history, language, and culture that really makes it stand out. Most people don’t know much about Hungary. So, to make this fascinating country more familiar to you, we bring you the 10 things you didn’t know about Hungary.
10: Unique Origin of Hungary
Unlike many other Europeans, Hungarians were latecomers to the stage of Europe. They arrived many millennia after other Europeans had already settled down in their respective regions. The Hungarians as they refer to themselves to their own tongue conquered the Carpathian basin 895 AD. But their history actually proceeds this event. Through archeology and linguistics study most scholars have concluded that the likely homeland of the original Medea Rock is in the area near the Ural Mountains in western Siberia many thousands of years ago.
They began migrating from that area several millennia later. Eventually finding their way into Eastern Europe. After much wandering in conquest, they eventually settled in an area that approximates what is now considered modern Hungary. And by the reign of Saint Stephen the first king of the kingdom of Hungary in 1000 AD. Hungary had become part of both Christendom and Europe despite its foreign origins in Hungary. Hungary today is very much a nation of Europeans both culturally and genetically. They have absorbed so much from surrounding countries in the millennium of its presence in Europe.
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No discussion about Hungary would be complete without a discussion of the language. Hungarian has a reputation for being fiercely difficult to learn and in many ways this is true. But it’s also incorrect in some ways as well. Unlike Indo-European languages such as German, Polish, and Russian which all have an arbitrary grammatical gender for each noun Hungarian has no grammatical gender whatsoever. The language is also very fanatic and is pronounced exactly as it is written, unlike English. However, this is where the ease of learning ends depending on how you count.
Hungarian has 18 to 24 different cases or endings that go on the ends of words and correspond to English prepositions. Such as with, to, from, away, and many more. Hungarian also has Val harmony which is a common feature in languages of a similar structure. This means that all the vowels in a word articulated in the same part of the mouth. And finally, because Hungarian is classified as a Finno-Ugric language the vocabulary is alien to most speakers of Indo-European languages. Whereas in German the word for cat is “Katze” and in French, it is “Chat (Sha)” in Hungarian it is called “Macska (Machka)”. The dog is “Hund” in German and “Chien” in French. Which is related to the word canine but in Hungarian, it is “Kutya”.
8: Mongolian Invasions in Hungary
Building up a good vocabulary in Hungarian might be the most difficult thing to do in the language. One of the most devastating periods in Hungarian history was the time of the Mongolian invasions. Situated on the frontiers of what was known as Europe at the time, the then kingdom of Hungary had to deal directly with the massive invading force and it suffered catastrophic losses. The most impactful event was the battle of the teaser river sometimes referred to as the battle of Mookie in April of 1241.
Three whole Mongol armies attacked Hungary. Despite their best efforts, this disastrous battle led to the defeat of the Hungarian forces. Whereupon the Hungarian king had to flee being relentlessly pursued by the Mongols. It is estimated that close to half the Hungarian population was lost as a consequence of the Mongol invasions. Some historians credit the Mongols with the introduction of firearms to Europe. At this time having borrowed them from the Chinese but regardless of why Hungary was forever changed by this event.
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7: Elizabeth Bathory
Elizabeth Bathory or Bathory Erzsebet in Hungarian was an infamous Hungarian countess that lived in the 16th and 17th centuries that has been named the most prolific female murder of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records and she had a bloodlust that could even put someone such as Vlad Tepes or the real-world inspiration for Dracula to shame. It is believed that she would sometimes hire local peasant girls and perform a horrible act of barbarism upon them from basic beatings, to severe mutilation, to freezing, burning, starvation and even biting the flesh off her victims’ faces. Most horribly remains the unconfirmed rumor that upon murdering her countless victims she would drink and bathe in their blood.
Her crimes were so profound. The complaints were voiced to both magistrates and the church. Eventually leading to a trial and imprisonment. Where she was kept in a walled-off brick cell with only tiny slits for breathing and the passing of food. Several years later she died and was buried in a local cemetery. But because of her infamy, local peasants refused to have her there even in death. Whereupon her remains were moved to an unknown location. No other woman in known history carries the bloody reputation of Elizabeth Bathory.
6: Food of Hungary
What would life be without Gulyas or Goulash, as it is known in English? Pretty dull, but that isn’t the only Hungarian dish you want to try. Because Hungarian cuisine goes well beyond just that. Most Hungarian dishes are thick, and savory filled with tons of meat and vegetables. Such as Salic which is a thick vegetable stew, töltött káposzta or stuffed cabbage, and many sweet foods such as doughboys cake or poppy seed rolls. If you like it sweet and hearty then Hungarian food is for you.
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5: Viktor Orban
He is regarded by some as a friend and others as a national hero. Viktor Orban has garnered international attention for his hard stance on immigration and his Euroscepticism. At times, it seems he’s more admired by non-Hungarians and Hungarians themselves. He comes across as a highly polarizing figure. He is a founding member and president of the Hungarian Conservative Party “Fidesz”. Viktor Orban has enjoyed two terms of office as the prime minister of Hungary. He seems poised to remain in that position for some time to come. He probably is best known for his open and vocal defiance of the Brussels bureaucratic brigade known as the EU. During the migration crisis and sponsored the building of a fence along the Hungarian border to keep out migrants. Many more liberal countries in Europe find this terrible. But Hungarian seem more than happy with the results despite some dissenting voices.
4: Intellectual Powerhouse
The early 20th century saw more geniuses about Hungary and perhaps from any other place in the world. Many of whom made lasting contributions to the sciences and changed the world forever. John Von Neuman is sometimes regarded as the smartest person who’s ever lived and made incredible contributions to the field of computer science, mathematics, and physics. Mária Telkes was one of the greatest female minds of the 20th century and did pioneering work in the field of solar energy technology and there are many more. Many of the great physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project were Hungarian. And it remains somewhat mysterious as to what allowed for this burst of intellectual energy during this time. One thing is for sure though we have not seen it’s like since.
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3: Thermal Baths of Hungary
Something is known in the region since Roman times, Hungarians have continued on with the tradition of taking advantage of the thermal energy in the ground to create one of the great pastimes in Budapest, “The Thermal Bath”. Some of the more formal-looking bathhouses are centuries old and carry with them the flavor of tradition and aristocracy. While others are more modern. However, one thing almost all in Budapest can agree on is that they provide rest, relaxation, and perhaps even curative properties to anyone who spends time bathing in them. Therefore, the Budapest thermal baths should be on everyone’s to-do list if they are in Hungary.
2: Hungarian Turanism
Because of Hungary’s unique historical origins, many Hungarians have a deep visceral belief in their special place in the world’s history. This feeling is best displayed in the form of Hungarian Turanism. Hungarian Turanism was a loose collection of ideas, theories, and ideologies that were most prominent in the 19th and early 20th-century promoting research into Hungary’s past and possible homeland. Political Turanism was largely developed as a counter-movement to pan-Germanism and pan-Slavism. It carried with it certain anti-European elements as some of the theories propose claimed in ancient unity with the steppe peoples of Central Asia though, no actual evidence exists for this.
Turanism also takes on aspects of shamanism and ancient Hungarian culture. The truth is no one really knows what Hungarian culture was like before the Madea Rock came to Europe. Either way, extreme Hungarian Turanists do not believe that Jesus was Middle Eastern. But in fact, a powerful Hungarian warrior prince from the great steps. While actively suppressed during the communist era after the fall of the Iron Curtain Hungarian Turanism has enjoyed renewed interest from many Hungarians in the past decade.
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1: Nationwide Revolt in Hungary
Perhaps the most significant event in modern Hungarian history was the Hungarian uprising of 1956. It was a nationwide revolt in the autumn of 1956 against Soviet tyranny and communist policies imposed on the Hungarians by the Kremlin. Although it started as a student protest it quickly caught fire until much of the nation was involved. Militias were formed and the Soviet puppet government collapse as municipal buildings and power centers formally ruled by the Hungarian working people’s party was seized by the emboldened rebels.
It was a time of renewed hope and change for many Hungarians, unfortunately, this did not last long. Despite the immense passion in vigorous resistance, the Hungarian revolt was eventually put down by the Soviets who re-established a Soviet rule puppet government. At the end of the conflict, more than 2500 Hungarians had died and more than 20,000 had been injured in the name of liberty. Those who could flee about Hungary primarily to the United States in one of the largest examples of mass immigration from Hungary in modern history. Many if not most Hungarian Americans today are the children of the fortunate few who managed to survive and escape.
So, that’s the end of our list of 10 things you didn’t know about Hungary. What are other facts do you know about Hungary? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.