Travel

A country at the center of Europe: Hungary

hungary is a beautiful country, situated right in the middle of Central Europe. 

With a surface area of 93,000 kilometers and a population of roughly 10 million, this country shares 2,185 kilometers of border with its many neighbors: Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Hungary is cold and cloudy during the wintertime and quite warm in the summer months. Though it has a generally flat topography near the Slovak border, it has many hills and mountainous areas. Some of Hungary’s underground riches include coal, natural gas and bauxite.

The Huns first settled along the Danube, which runs through modern Hungary. The name “Hungary” is derived from Europeans’ labeling of the country “land of the Huns.”

There is great love in Hungary for King Stephen I, the country’s founder.

The Hungarian flag is red, white and green, with red symbolizing strength, white, fidelity and green, hope. These days, there are around 5 million Hungarians who live outside their home country. Some say Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world, but for Turks it is said to be not all that difficult. Around 15 million tourists visit Hungary each year.

There is a famous Hungarian cultural village where traditional arts are kept alive named Skanzen. Tourists who visit get the chance to see and encounter Hungarian customs and traditions firsthand. We headed off with our Hungarian and Turkish counterparts to see it for ourselves.

We meet up with a Hungarian man, Emil, who specializes in traditional craftsmanship. He has been carving wood now for some 55 years, and is now 70 years old. He is able to transform any drawing he sees into wood. He is surrounded by his handicrafts in his little shop, and they are beautiful to behold.

We see someone working on ceramics a little later; the woman, Anna, has been working with ceramics since she was 16, designing cups, glasses and decorative items, all in traditional Hungarian styles. She tried to keep alive pieces that are reminiscent of the 19th century in particular, so that the styles won’t be forgotten. She tells us: “We try to keep alive so many different kinds of ceramics here, from the east to the west, the north to the south. And we don’t just focus on one region of Hungary, but in fact on all the regions.” She shows us a container for food she is working with, explaining: “People used to design their food containers this way. One of the most popular and valued items for farmers and others working in agriculture a long time ago were these food containers they would use to bring their food along with them wherever they were going to work.” Anna also shows us a chicken feed container she’s working on. The chicken can stick only its beak into the container, preventing the feed from scattering far and wide. Anna continues: “This particular piece is something that no one really knows about any more. It’s an example of something that would have only been found in villages.”

On our tour of the culture village, we also bump into some musicians dressed in traditional Hungarian outfits. We ask them to play us some traditional Hungarian music, and they break into song. Two of them play on instruments, while one of them dances.

A little later, we come upon a house where traditional Hungarian food is being served. Here, Hungarian girls are working on making noodles; we watch, almost in a trance, until we realize it’s time to move on. Interestingly, this village is so large that you need a train to get around it. What’s great about this is that you can look out the window at the views as you get to your destination.

We are accompanied by the Turkish ambassador to Hungary, Bahaeddin Nakiboğlu; we tell him we feel as though this train has transported us to the past.

We disembark from the train and see a series of traditional Hungarian houses built in the style of the country’s northern regions. We see thatched roofs and lots of traditionally dressed Hungarians strolling around in the courtyards. In the kitchens of these homes, Hungarian women are busy preparing traditional Hungarian fare, which tourists have the opportunity to taste when they wander in.

We arrive at the part of the village where they keep animals; we see the long-necked Hungarian steers, horses, goats and pigs. Hungarians love pork, but just the sight of these pigs is enough to drive us away from this area. The racka, a breed of sheep here, are world famous; they have long, spiral-shaped horns and originate from these lands. Hungarians eat the meat and drink the milk of these special sheep.

Osman SEZER
Email: osman@thelondonpost.co.uk

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