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BudapestHungary is a heart-stealer; it will lure you back again and again to sample its rich wines, lounge in its thermal spas, gaze at its birdlife and make one more attempt to master its hermetic language. It has all the luxury of western Europe with a Magyar twist and at half the cost.
Hungarian art and architecture is laced with Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau influences. The country has one of the finest folk traditions in Europe, producing excellent examples of embroidery, pottery, ceiling and wall painting, and objects carved from wood or bone. Its musical contributions are just as rich, and range from the rhapsodies of Franz Liszt and the operas of Ferenc Erkel to Gypsy and folk music. Literature has been shaped by the monumental events of the nation's history, which have given rise to swashbuckling odes, stirring poems of independence, gritty tales of realism, and strident polemic. Soccer is far and away the favourite spectator sport, while chess is also popular.
Capital and largest city - Budapest - graceful city, has a lively arts, cafe and music scene, and is host to a range of cultural and sporting festivals.
In the countryside you'll find majestic plains, resort-lined lakes, Baroque towns, horse markets and rustic villages.
Official language - hungarian, but German is popular too.
Currency - forint.


Hungary was part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed during World War I. The country fell under Communist rule 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 liberalizing 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 in 2004.

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BudapestHungary is a kidney-shaped country lying in the centre of Europe; it shares borders with seven neighbours: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia & Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. There are three basic topographies: the low-lying regions of the Great Plain in the east, centre and southeast, and the Little Plain in the northwest; the northern mountain ranges, which include Hungary's highest peak (the 1015m/3330ft-high Kekesteto); and the hilly regions of Transdanubia in the west and south-west. The biggest rivers are the Danube and the Tisza, which divide the country into thirds, and the Drava, which forms the southwestern border with Croatia. The country has over 1000 lakes - the largest, Balaton, is strewn with thermal springs.


- 10.1 million (89.9% Hungarian, 4% Roma, 2.6% German, 0.8% Slovak, 0.7% Romanian)
Religion - 68% Roman Catholic, 21% Reformed (Calvinist) Protestant, 6% Evangelical (Lutheran), 5% other.


BudapestThe city known as Budapest actually consists of three cities: Obuda, the oldest section, with Celtic and Roman ruins on the Buda side of the Danube; Buda in the gently rolling hills on the western bank, famous for its historic Castle Hill and beautiful residential area; and bustling Pest with its shopping, government and commercial districts on the flat plain of the east bank. United in 1873, Budapest is renowned as the location of one of the most beautiful World Heritage sites.
Only Budapest can say of itself that it has Europe's largest Parliament, largest functioning synagogue and the continent's first underground railway.
The visitor will find side by side the remains of fortresses and buildings from Roman times, still operating Turkish baths, Gothic and Baroque buildings, and the incredibly rich Art Nouveau architectural heritage.
Not only is Budapest the worthy holder of the title "Queen of the Danube", but in fact there is no other capital city in the world with almost 100 thermal springs and 12 medicinal baths within its boundaries, where 19 million gallons of thermal water rise to the surface each day.
Despite spectacular development, Budapest has preserved its old charm and magic. It is a city where the pleasing harmony of different architectural styles and superb structures, the cafes, baths, the food and culture, combined with legendary hospitality blend into an unforgettable experience for visitors.
For lovers of culture, the only problem is choice. 237 monuments, 223 museums and galleries, 35 theatres, 90 cinemas, 2 opera houses, 12 concert halls and nearly 200 places of amusement offer a wide variety of things to do. Travel agencies organize walks and sight-seeing tours by coach and boat, tailored to your requirements every day of the year.
You'll have to dig a little to unearth the wonders of Hungarian cuisine.
The natural abundance of fruits and vegetables should make eating here a delight, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Generally, basic dishes consist of fatty meat (pork is generally preferred) or overcooked fish, some sort of starch, and a teensy-weensy garnish of pickles. National staples include porkolt (stew, and what everyone calls 'goulash' abroad); gulyas (a thickish beef soup); and halaszle (spicy fish soup cooked with paprika). If you keep your eyes open for jokai bableves (bean soup), hideg gyumolcsleves (cold fruit soup made from sour cherry) or palacsinta (stuffed crepes) your tastebuds will thank you for it. Decent wine isn't difficult to find (but you'll have to look hard for the very good stuff), while the beer is good, and the brandy (palinka) vee-ee-ry strong.
Medical treatment available in Hungary is adequate at best, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to those in the United States. Physicians are generally well trained, but there is a lack of adequate emergency services. A language barrier can exist as well, if one does not speak Hungarian. Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate cash payment for health services.

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