Located in central Europe, Hungary is bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia. Apart from its quality wines and Baroque towns, its strategic location in the continent also attracts thousands of tourists to the country.

The country is slightly larger than all of Ireland. North to south, the greatest distance is 268km; east to west, it's 528km. The landscape consists mostly of plains in the east, low hills to the west, and small mountains to the north. Kékes Mountain, the country's highest point, is a modest 1014m. The major rivers are the Danube and the Tisza. Since May, 1. Hungary is a member of the European Union (EU). The currency is the Forint (1 US$ ~ 200 HUF).

Originally the Hungarians came from the Ural mountains and belong to the finno-ugric linguistic stock. They swept over the plains to Europe in the ninth and tenth century. Finally they settled in the country they liked most. In this time they found some Slavonic, Hunnish and Avar tribes in the Carpatian Basin and they merged in the Hungarian nation. When you come to Hungary you can imagine why: the endless puszta plains are everything a horseman and a farmer could wish. On this plains are many beautiful cities, but above all the capital Budapest. This city, right in the heart of Europe, can be considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and a very lively one at that.

The Carpathian Basin in which Hungary lies was inhabited by the nomadic Magyars in the 8th century AD. They allied with the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century and a Magyar prince named Stephen I was crowned the 'Christian King'. However, with Stephen's death in 1038, the emerging nation witnessed constant plots and counterplots by rival claimants to the throne. It enjoyed stability and prosperity under the rule of Matthias Corvinus in the 15th century. In 1526, Hungary faced defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, a defeat that brought to an end the independence of the country. Hungary joined both the World War I and II as an ally of Germany.

The capital Budapest is a beautiful city with a lively nightlife. Known as the Paris of Eastern Europe because of its monuments, broad avenues and well-laid parks, the city is best explored on foot. The Castle District and the Royal Palace are frequented by travellers almost throughout the year, while the Óbuda area has some Roman ruins and the Kiscelli Museum. A cruise along the Danube is a wonderful option while you are in Budapest.

The Balaton Lake, situated around 100 km from Budapest, is the largest in Europe and has several high-rise hotels and beaches along its shore. An important city lying between the Danube and the Dráva rivers is Pécs, known for the paradoxically named Mosque Church built by the Turks.

Though summer is the tourist season, Hungary is best visited during spring and autumn when the climate is neither too hot nor too cold.


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