In 1456 the Christian Hungarian troops defending Nándorfehérvár, led by János Hunyadi, inflicted a crushing defeat on the army of Turkish Sultan Mehmet II after a battle that ensued for more than two weeks, and thereby stopped the continued expansion of the Turks in Europe for some 70 years. The anniversary was celebrated in Budapest this year Sunday (July 22, 2012) when thousands of people present remembered the Hungarian heroes at the siege. There was a flotilla of boats and small warships that commemorated the battle by giving the heroes a salute at the Chain Bridge. It was a very colourful affair as many re-enactors were also present in medieval armour and clothing. Since 2011 on this date it has become a national memorial day in Hungary.
Annually (2012 was the 556th anniversary and took place on Sunday, July 22)
The celebration began at 10:00 am with the Naval salute at 10:30 am
The parade starts at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and ends at the statue of János Hunyadi in the Buda Castle.
It was the fiftieth anniversary of the of 1956 uprising the year I visited Budapest. My visit also coincided with widespread political riots, based on the words of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany leaked admission that he lied in order to get re-elected. The coincidence of the riots and the anniversary were not lost on the protesters, who made every effort to link the two together, playing rousing nationalist songs, staging the protests by the grave of the Imre Nagy, the Prime Minister during the failed uprising, and having men in traditional dress standing around waving giant Hungarian flags with the middle cut out significantly, just like the protest flags of the revolutionaries 50 years earlier.
The 1956 revolution was a proud moment in Hungary's history, but a shameful one in the West's. The Hungarians were successful in overthrowing their undemocratic communist government, and chasing the Soviets out of the city. Lacking any support from the West, however, the Soviets came back with their tanks some weeks later. The revolution was crushed, its leaders were executed, and the Hungarians were forced to endure more than 30 years of communist dictatorship.
While nearly all public toilets (especially in tourist areas) are not free, you can try the following as you need not pay a penny (as at Sep 2013):
1. The MacDonald at "Astoria" Metro Station (Red Line, 2nd stop from Derek Station)
2. The Museum of Fine Arts (besides Heros Square), downstairs as you enter the main entrance (where the souvenir shop is located) [You don't have to buy the admission ticket before going downstairs]
3. The MacDonald at the Derek Square (a long queue always)
The toilets of the above are mostly acceptable and clean. :)
The best beer in town is sold in a rundown shop way off the beaten track. It is produced by Imre Lehmann and sold only (in plastic bottles!) in his unassuming shop (where they also sell their bakery), located at Aranyhegy út 10 in the district of Óbuda. It is best to be reached by car (or taxi).
The family that runs this business came back from Transylvania and does a great job. However, it seems that it needs some support.
If you awake on your first morning in Budapest and are craving your usual breakfast of ham and eggs with potatoes (or something similar) be aware that Hungarians do not eat such a breakfast. You will normally find just a roll and some cheese unless your hotel has something different.
Necessity being the mother of invention, I wondered out into the slightly chilly October morning (since my hostel didn't offer breakfast at the time). For the truly committed you might find a McDonalds without too much difficulty. Many of the cafe's really aren't open for early breakfast (tend to open at 10 am).
But don't despair. Just stop into any of the little bakeries. They aren't hard to find, there are plenty all over the place. Let me tell you, the bread they have there is excellent!! The locals will stop in and get a roll and some yogurt or something before heading off.
The cold fruit soup in summer is the most refreshing and surprisingly tasty dish I have ever tasted. It is made of fruits, cherries, berries or strawberries. I warmly recommend it in summer as it is sweet and tasty!
On top of sampling local dishes, I always try to sample local drinks when I travel to a new country :o) There was no shortage of choice in that field in Budapest: On top of its surprisingly wide selection of local beer, wine and sparkiling wine, Hungary is famous for palinka, which was a little strong for my taste, Unicum, a herbal liquor that tastes a bit like Jägermeister, and tokaji, a really nice dessert wine, which turned out to be my favourite of them all. Cheers - or as they say in Hungary, Fenékig!
Here's a sign I'd never seen before! I'm assuming it indicates when a street isn't for pedestrians, but we did laugh when we first spotted it. Our first guesses were "no children or elderly citizens allowed" or "do not hold yout kid's hand when you cross the street". What's would be your guess?
Since Hungarian is almost exclusively spoken in Hungary, no one expects visitors to speak it. English serves as the common language, and is is widely spoken by Hungarians, perhaps more so than in any other European country. Practically all the signs throughout the city are translated into English, as are restaurant menus. Never did we find ourselves in a spot where not speaking Hungarian was a problem, nor were the locals any less friendly because we only spoke English. It's yet another thing that makes Budapest suh a visitor-friendly city!
Hungarian is an amazingly intimidating language. The first time you see something written in Hungarian you will most likely feel like you have not the slightest idea of where to start. Most tourists going somewhere where a different language is spoken try to learn a few simple phrases and words but the task seems far more monumental where Hungarian is concerned. In a few days stay in Budapest you will most likely recognize a few words and phrases. I found it easiest to concentrate on how a word sounded rather than how it was written, that made things a little easier for me.
Most Hungarians that come into contact with foreigners already understand this and most likely will not expect you to know much of their language. To their credit, I found the locals tried very hard to communicate with you and were very willing to help.
Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ungric family of languages, though really the only languages that are even distantly related to Hungarian are Finnish and Estonian. Because of its location, Hungary is surrounded by Slavic, Romance and Germanic languages, and though it has borrowed from its neighbors, their language is still totally different.
To give you an idea, German has 4 grammatical cases, Russian has 6, Hungarian has 18.
Though communicating with the locals was a greater challenge in Hungary than in neighboring countries I had relatively little trouble finding people that could communicate in English or German. Though the people in some of the museums and tourist sights spoke relatively little English, young people for the most part spoke at least some English. One thing i did that may be helpful to others. At my hostel I asked them to tell me a few of the words I would hear and should know. I wrote down how they sounded and did pretty well that way.
naturally the most essential word is thank you.
Even though Budapest is becoming a very touristic city, most people aren't well trained to provide a good service to the tourists.
We found out that car drivers are very kind and will always stop for you to cross the street, but cyclists are a nightmare and there are MANY of them. They aren't nearly as careful, and sometimes the sidewalk isn't enough for both pedestrians and cyclists so you have to walk on the bike lanes which I know isn't the right thing to do but sometimes there's no choice.
In regards to the language, I was very frustrated to see that not even people at the information desks or tourist offices spoke English well enough to explain you basic things -- let alone clerks at metro stations, supermarkets, etc. So when you tried to get them to express themselves better they would also get frustrated and behave rather unhelpfully. I understand their feelings but it is really irritating and disappointing for us visitors to face this, especially when we're visiting the town for the first time and are clueless and need some orientation. Sometimes I even preferred figuring out whatever on my own than asking for help. It seems that people in stores are the ones who speak the best English (in order to try to sell you stuff, of course) and even in this case their knowledge was very limited. Their language is very special and not similar to anything I know, so I don't think they should expect everyone to speak Hungarian when visiting Budapest.... I really think they should make a bigger effort to deal with the tourists and not make them feel lost and helpless, as I did.
Except from Admiral Horty Memoires
As early as October 22nd, 1944, a government decree had drawn
all male Jews between the ages of ten and sixty into a Defence
Labour Force On November 4th, all Jewish property was confiscated by the state.
Hitler found time to receive Szalasi, and on December 4th the two
Fuehrers vied with each other in self-delusion when they published
a joint official communique on the firm
determination of the German people and the Hungarian people united under
the revolutionary movement of Hungarists to carry on the defensive
struggle with all the means in their possession and in the spirit of the
traditional and well-tried comradeship-in-arms and friendship of the two
By the time this communiqe was published, the encirclement of Budapest by
the armies of Marshal Malinovski32 and Marshal Tolbuchin was almost
complete. The circle was closed on Christmas Eve.
(Soviet Marshal Rogion Jakovlevich Malinovsky (1898-1967).
The Siege of Budapest did not end un til Febuary 13, 1945. There was a
total of 70 thousand German and Hungarian forces en circled under the
command of SS Gen eral Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch.The fight went on
from house to house. All seven bridges on the Danube were dynamited.
Against Hitler's command, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch decided at the end to stage
a break out. The Soviets were secretly in formed of this, and the
German forces were massacred on what was later named Malinovsky Boulevard.
Only 785 Germans survived.
Visit the Zoo if you're in Budapest. Thsi is the main entrance of the Budapest City Zoo. Don't feed the animals inside with junk food. They sell special food inside for the animals you can feed to them.
What food and drinks I liked in Hungary? :)
Of course, it was wine – the wine in Hungary, as it seems, is very cheap, especially in big bottles. The more expensive wine is Tokaji. What is more, there was an offer to try some nice ketchups and peppers in Hungary and some kind of national food - langosh (it is like big pancake, but actually I didn’t like this one).
To use the words of Tina Turner ...... you are simply the best! I discoved them a few years ago in Romania. You can have them sprinkled with nuts/chocolate/coconut or cinnamon sugar. You eat them nice and hot directly from the friendly baker on the street corner.