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things i didn't know about hungary
By Dennis Batchelder 10 January 1999

Things we didn't know about Hungary:

1) Budapest was actually two separate cities, each named for a branch of the Danube River. Buda is on the west side, and Pest is on the east. 150 years ago, they became one city - Budapest. Do you think this will happen to Minneapolis/St. Paul?

2) Paprika has a taste to it. I thought it was invented as a garnish for deviled eggs. I mean, is there any other use for it? And I certainly didn't know it was spicy. I think I've used it to sprinkle on a cake before - I can't believe my ignorance! The Hungarians use it in goulash, on steak, on chicken. It's also at the table in the restaurants - instead of salt and pepper, it's salt and paprika.

3) The allowed blood alcohol level for drivers is zero. No tolerance whatsoever. Probably pushed through by the taxi drivers. We were pulled over by the Hungarian police when we took a side road, and were asked if we had druken any alcohol. Nope. Did you have any alcohol absolute? Nope - just Findlandia (don't feel bad if you don't get it; they didn't get it, either). Then they asked to see our drivers licenses, passports, and vehicle registration. Uh oh. But it was OK, I guess. They gave it all back and let us go after giving us detailed instructions on how to get to our hotel. Too bad it was in German.

4) Hungarians are not related to the Slavic peoples in the region. Their language is not similar, either. Traffic signs are impossible to read - worse than Dutch ones. We have absolutely no clue what they mean. Anyway, Hungarians are Magyars, from Asia. They were a horseback Asiatic nomadic (enough adjectives already!) tribe who conquered large portions of Europe 1100 years ago, until they converted to Christianity and settled down in Hungary.

5) Lots of people have invaded Budapest. First the Magyars. Then the Mongols in 1241. Then the Turks in 1526 (Pest) and 1541 (Buda). The Hapsburgs in 1835, who were thrown out in 1848, and the Soviet Union in 1956, who were thrown out in 1990.

6) Hungarian music sounds unlike European music. They have some instrument that resembled a large auto-harp (remember those? I wonder what happened to them?), mixed with a clarinet, bass, and 2 violins. It made some "different" sounds.

We will do a bit more exploring in Budapest tomorrow morning, and then head north through central Slovakia, back to Bratislava for the night. Then on to the High Tatras for the day, ending up in Prague for the night. 


things i didn't know about hungary - hungary