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Places that I visited in Hungary:

Hungary is a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Its capital is Budapest. Hungary is a member of OECD, NATO, EU and a Schengen state. The official language is Hungarian (also known as Magyar), which forms part of the Finno-Ugric family. It is one of the four official languages of the European Union that is not of Indo-European origin.

Following a Celtic (after c. 450 BC) and a Roman (9 BC - c. 4th century) period, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late Ninth Century by the Magyar chieftain Árpád, whose great grandson István ascended to the throne with a crown sent from Rome in 1000. The Kingdom of Hungary existed with minor interruptions for more than 900 years, and at various points was regarded as one of the cultural centers of the Western world. It was succeeded by a Communist era (1947-1989) during which Hungary gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal move of opening its border with Austria in 1989, thus accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The present form of government is a parliamentary republic (since 1989). Hungary's current goal is to become a developed country by IMF standards, having become already developed by most traditional measures, including GDP and HDI (world ranking 36th and rising). The country's first ever term of EU presidency is due in 2011.

Hungary was one of the 15 most popular tourist destinations in the world in the past decade, with a capital regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. Despite its relatively small size, the country is home to numerous World Heritage Sites, UNESCO Biosphere reserves, the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grassland in Europe (Hortobágy).

In the time of the Roman Empire, the region west of the Danube river was known as Pannonia. After the Western Roman Empire collapsed under the stress of the migration of Germanic tribes and Carpian pressure, the Migration Period continued bringing many invaders to Europe. Among the first to arrive were the Huns, who built up a powerful empire under Attila. Attila the Hun was regarded as an ancestral ruler of the Hungarians. It is believed that the origin of the name "Hungary" does not come from the Central Asian nomadic invaders called the Huns, but rather originated from a later, 7th century Bulgar alliance called On-Ogour, which in Old Turkish meant "(the) Ten Arrows" . After Hunnish rule faded, the Germanic Ostrogoths then the Lombards came to Pannonia, and the Gepids had a presence in the eastern part of the Carpathian Basin for about 100 years. In the 560s the Avars founded the Avar Khaganate , a state which maintained supremacy in the region for more than two centuries and had the military power to launch attacks against all its neighbours. The Avar Khagnate was weakened by constant wars and outside pressure. The Franks under Charlemagne managed to defeat the Avars ending their 250 year rule. Neither the Franks nor others were able to create a lasting state in the region until the freshly unified Hungarians led by Árpád settled in the Carpathian Basin starting in 896.

Medieval Hungary controlled more territory than medieval France, and the population of medieval Hungary was the third largest of any country in Europe. Árpád was the Magyar leader whom sources name as the single leader who unified the Magyar tribes via the Covenant of Blood(Vérszerződés) forged one nation, thereafter known as the Hungarian nation and led the new nation to the territory of the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. After an early Hungarian state was formed in this territory military power of the nation allowed the Hungarians to conduct fierce campaigns and raids as far as present-day Spain. A later defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 signaled an end to raids on foreign territories, and links between the tribes weakened. The ruling prince (fejedelem) Géza of the House of Árpád, who was the ruler of only some of the united territory, but the nominal overlord of all seven Magyar tribes, intended to integrate Hungary into Christian (Western) Europe, rebuilding the state according to the Western political and social model. He established a dynasty by naming his son Vajk (later called Stephen) as his successor. This was contrary to the then dominant tradition of the succession of the eldest surviving member of the ruling family.

Hungary was established as a Christian kingdom under Stephen I of Hungary, who was crowned in December 1000 AD in the capital, Esztergom. He was the son of Géza and thus a descendant of Árpád. By 1006, Stephen had solidified his power, eliminating all rivals who either wanted to follow the old pagan traditions or wanted an alliance with the orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire. Then he started sweeping reforms to convert Hungary into a feudal state, complete with forced Christianisation. What emerged was a strong kingdom that withstood attacks from German kings and Emperors, and nomadic tribes following the Hungarians from the East, integrating some of the latter into the population (along with Germans invited to Transylvania and present-day Slovakia, especially after 1242), and subjugating Croatia in 1102. King Andrew II. led crusade to Holy Land in 1217. The Golden Bull, in 1222), was the first constitution in continental Europe.

In 1241-1242, this kingdom received a major blow in the form of the Mongol invasion of Europe: after the defeat of the Hungarian army in the Battle of Muhi, King Béla IV fled, and a large part (though not as great as suspected by historians earlier) of the population died (leading later to the invitation of settlers from neighbours in the West and South) in the ensuing destruction (Tatárjárás). Only strongly fortified cities and abbeys could withstand the assault. As a consequence, after the Mongols retreated, King Béla ordered the construction of stone castles, meant to be defence against a possible second Mongol invasion. Mongols returned to Hungary in 1286, but the new built stone-castle systems and new tactics (with large ratio of heavy calvary) stopped them. The invading Mongol force was defeated near Pest by the royal army of king Ladislaus IV.

These castles proved to be very important later in the long struggle with the Ottoman Empire in the following centuries (from the late 14th century onwards), but their cost indebted the King to the major feudal landlords again, so the royal power reclaimed by Béla IV after his father King András II weakened it (leading to the issue of the so called 'Arany Bulla' or Golden Bull, in 1222), was lost again.

Árpád's direct descendants in the male line ruled the country until 1301. During the reigns of the Kings after the house of Árpád, the Kingdom of Hungary reached its greatest extent, yet royal power was weakened as the major landlords greatly increased their influence. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks confronted the country ever more often. The second Hungarian king in the 'Anjou' Angevin line also descendant of Árpád on the female line, Louis I the Great (I. or Nagy Lajos, king 1342-1382) extended his rule over territories from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea, and temporarily occupied the Kingdom of Naples (after his brother was murdered there by his wife, who was also his cousin). From 1370, the death of Casimir III the Great, he was also king of Poland. The alliance between Casimir and Charles I of Hungary, the father of Louis, was the start of a still lasting Polish-Hungarian friendship. Sigismund, a prince from the Luxembourg line succeeded to the throne by marrying Louis's daughter, Queen Mary. In 1433 he even became Holy Roman Emperor. The last strong king was the renaissance king Matthias Corvinus. Hungary was the first non-Italian country, where the renaissance appeared in Europe. Andras Hess set up a printing press in Buda in 1472. Matthias was the son of the feudal landlord and warlord John Hunyadi, who led the Hungarian troops in the 1456 Siege of Nándorfehérvár. Building on his fathers' vision, the aim of taking on the Ottoman Empire with a strong enough background, Matthias set out to build a great empire, expanding southward and northwest, while he also implemented internal reforms. His army called the 'Fekete Sereg' (Black Army of Hungary) accomplished a series of victories also capturing the city of Vienna in 1485. In 1514, the weakened King Ladislaus II faced a major peasant rebellion led by György Dózsa, which was crushed barbarously by the nobles mainly by János Szapolyai. As central rule degenerated, the stage was set for a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1521, the strongest Hungarian fortress in the South Nándorfehérvár (modern Belgrade) fell to the Turks, and in 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed in the Battle of Mohács.

Through the centuries the Kingdom of Hungary kept its old "constitution", which granted special "freedoms" or rights to the nobility and groups like the Saxons resident in Hungary or the Jassic people and Cumans, and to free royal towns such as Buda, Kassa (Košice), Pozsony (Bratislava), Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca).

After some 150 years of wars with the Hungarians and other states, the Turks conquered parts of Hungary, and continued their expansion until 1556. The Ottomans gained their first decisive victory over the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The next decades were characterised by political chaos; the divided Hungarian nobility elected two kings simultaneously, 'Szapolyai János' (1526-1540) and Ferdinand Habsburg (1527-1540), whose armed conflicts weakened the country further. With the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, Hungary fell into three parts. The north-western part see map) termed as Royal Hungary remained under the Habsburgs who ruled as Kings of Hungary. The eastern part of the kingdom (Partium and Transylvania), in turn, became independent as the Principality of Transylvania,often under Turkish influence. The remaining central area (mostly present-day Hungary), including the capital of Buda was known as Ottoman Hungary. A large part of the area became devastated by permanent warfare. Most smaller settlements disappeared. The Turks were indifferent to the type of Christian religion of their subjects and the Habsburg counter-reformation measures could not reach this area. As a result, the majority of the population of the area became Protestant (Calvinist). In 1686, Austria-led Christian forces reconquered Buda, and in the next few years, all of the country except areas near Temesvár (Timişoara). In the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz these changes were officially recognized, and in 1718 the entire Kingdom of Hungary was restored from the Ottomans.

Pozsony (Bratislava) became the new capital (1536-1784), coronation town (1563-1830) and seat of the Diet (1536-1848) of Hungary. Nagyszombat(Trnava) in turn, became the religious center in 1541. Parallelly, between 1604 and 1711, there was a series of anti-Habsburg (i.e. anti-Austrian) and anti-Catholic (requiring equal rights and freedom for all Christian religions) uprisings, which – with the exception of the last one – took place in Royal Hungary. The uprisings were usually organized from Transylvania. The last one was an uprising led by 'II. Rákóczi Ferenc', who after the dethronement of the Habsburgs in 1707 at the Diet of Ónód took power as the "Ruling Prince" of Hungary. When Austrians defeated the uprising in 1711, Rákóczi was in Poland. He later fled to France, finally Turkey, and lived to the end of his life (1735) in nearby Rodosto. Afterwards, to make further armed resistance impossible, the Austrians blew up some castles (most of the castles on the border between the now-reclaimed territories occupied earlier by the Ottomans and Royal Hungary), and allowed peasants to use the stones from most of the others as building material (the végvárs among them).
Hungary political map:
Hungary location map:
November 2007


kisagi said...

Dear Samual, it's fantastic! You summerized really very well this Hungarian topic. I watched your pictures on Panoramio. Wha do you say, that my pictures are better? Your's are much better, and I voted all of your March contest. Congratulation! My best wishes. Agnes from Budapest

Travel said...

Thank you very much Kisagi for your votes and your comments.

Imre Lakat said...

Very beautiful blog !

Regards , Imre Lakat

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