Hungary is a country of contrasts. In
rural areas life goes on much as it has done for many years. Take the
train across the country and you will see small picturesque villages
and farmland. Then you arrive at Budapest, a bustling metropolitan
city. Even here you will find remarkable contrasts. The grand facades
of stately buildings line the streets next to modern constructions of
steel and glass. In the distance towering concrete blocks remind you of
the communist era while enormous shopping malls declare Hungary's
emerging status as a capitalist economy and member of the EU. Aside
from global brand advertising there aren't many words you will
The Hungarian language has almost nothing in common with any
other language you will have heard and has a reputation for being hard
to learn. That said it isn't impossible and as with any new language
there is a tremendous sense of achievement when you can be understood
without having to nervously ask "Do you speak English?"
There is no better place to practice a few phrases than in the many
coffee houses, tea shops or restaurants. Budapest has it all: McDonalds
to Greek buffet restaurants; basic Hungarian food at a market cafe or
luxurious cuisine and fine wine at a restaurant.
The history lesson...
Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which collapsed during
World War I. The country fell under Communist role following World War
II. In 1956 a revolt and announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact were
met with a massive military intervention by Moscow. Under the
leadership of Janos Kadar in 1968 Hungary began liberalising its
economy, introducing so-called 'goulash communism'. Hungary held its
first multiparty elections in 1990 and initiated a free market economy.
It joined NATO in 1999 and the EU on 1st May 2004.
Land area: 100,000sq km
Population: 10 million people
Currency: Forint (not florint) Click here to see current exchange rate.
Weather: Click here for the 5 day weather forecast.
To see photos of Budapest taken by one of our volunteers click here.