Hungary encompasses one of the most unique and fascinating European cultures.
At first glance, the Hungarian people may seem very similar to several other
European nationalities, but upon closer inspection it’s evident that Hungarian
history has carved out a niche of extremely unique people and a language unlike
any other in the world. The origin of the Magyars, or Hungarians, transpired
from the sweeping Ural Mountain range, which they left in search of a new life.
They were nomads renowned for their accomplished equestrian ways. Wandering
the lands for hundreds of years, the Magyars passed over the Caspian and Volga
Seas until they reached the Carpathian Basin. Lead by the Grand Prince of the
Magyars, called Árpád, they settled and herded out many of the other, long-time
settlers in the area, consuming the land for themselves.
The official Hungarian nation was first inaugurated around 1000 AD when Prince Stephen was crowned with a coronal sent from Rome by the Pope himself. Later in the history of Hungary around 1055, a seminary was created at Tihany. It was here, along the northern banks of Lake Balaton, that the foundation of the Hungarian language was first recorded and the true beginnings of the history of Hungary were established. In the next three hundred years came invasions from the Mongolian Tatars and the ruling of Prince Matthias. When Prince Matthias, which Matthias Church in the capital is named for, ruled from 1458 to 1490, the common man’s life was thriving and considered the best it ever was in all the years in the history of Hungary. His palaces, in what is now Budapest, were eventually taken over by the Turks after they destroyed the Hungarian army. Hungary was then split in three sections and ruled by the Turks, the Romanians, and the Habsburgs, who occupied and ruled the western part of the country. Hungarian culture lived on strongly in the Transylvania-ruled area.
Throughout the rest of the early history of Hungary there was ample contention for ruling power. The Turks lost the region of Buda and lost most of their power to advance further into Europe to claim other land. Throughout the first part of the nineteenth century, there was a strong national reform and Hungarian culture was reestablished firmly into the country. Hungary was also reformed economically and politically, strengthening the country and uniting it. This time period saw many important events such as the birth of the Hungarian national anthem, the rebirth of many ancient Hungarian traditions, and the very beginnings of the construction of the now famous Chain Bridge in Budapest.
The oncoming years saw a revolution oust the royal Habsburgs. Years later, the Hungarians reached a compromise with the royals and initiated a double-ruled monarchy with seats in Pest-Buda and Vienna. With the ongoing strife settled down, the country enjoyed a major revitalization in main industries. Hungarian culture was given the opportunity to flourish fully without the suppression of armies and other combatants. The Royal Palace stood strong, traditional thermal spas were enjoyed by all, and life went on at a pleasant and lively pace. One of the most significant dates in the history of Hungary is 1873, when Buda and Pest were unified and the city became a major European municipality. Ruling the skyline of the city then and now is the Parliament Building, the National Gallery, and the magnificent Opera House. Transportation was reeling into modern times with the very first underground rail in the first stages of development.
Hungarian traditions and culture were again suppressed through the ravaging years of the first and second world wars. Hungary lost two thirds of its land and one third of its population through the Trianon Treaty, a WWI peace treaty, with many Hungarian minorities now living outside the official country because of the land splice. The following years saw Hungarian culture survive yet even more strident times through a Nazi occupation, Communist rule, and Soviet occupation, and at last an uprising against Stalinism with democracy on the horizon. In 1990, the Soviet Army finally departed Hungary and a mixed party parliament offered long-awaited democracy to the Hungarian people. Hungary became an official member of NATO in 1999 and a member of the European Union in 2004.
Today Hungary remains one of the most popular countries to visit during European vacations. The affordable prices along with the many things to do in Hungary create a diverse and delightful holiday destination. History is illustrated throughout the country, but is best examined in Budapest where many of the old buildings tell a tale of a long and arduous past. Heroes Square, the Great Synagogue, Gellert Hill, and many more famous attractions lie in the united capital city. Hungarian traditions can be seen in big and small cities alike through dining, special celebrations, and events, renowned folk art and the much-loved Budapest thermal baths. A trip to Hungary illuminates the history of a prudent and determined nation that offers some of the best vacation destinations in all of Europe.