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Top 10 Things People From Hungary Want You to Know

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
It’s a must-visit Eastern European gem. For this list, we’re looking at interesting facts about this nation which many foreigners may not know. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Things People From Hungary Want You to Know.

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It’s a must-visit Eastern European gem. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 things people from Hungary want you to know.

For this list, we’re looking at interesting facts about this nation which many foreigners may not know.

#10: Budapest Has Repurposed Ruins Into Pubs

Rather than demolish ruined old buildings, in Budapest, people build within the ruins themselves. These ruins are old parts of the historic Jewish Quarter, which was left derelict after many thousands of Jewish people were deported and murdered during the Second World War. Empty for decades, people eventually decided to repurpose them into venues. But if you go drinking there, be warned, in Hungary it’s frowned upon to clink your beer glasses because of an old tradition where, after losing the 1848 War of Independence against Austria, the Austrians executed Hungary’s top generals and clinked their glasses in celebration. Until 1999, it was actually banned . . . though wine and spirits are fine.

#9: They Have a Special Name for Their Unique Offerings

Most countries will have items which are quintessentially important to the national identity, but these are even more important in Hungary, where they have the nickname “Hungaricums.” These are unique and high-quality items which characterize Hungary. Paprika is an important Hungaricum and is used widely in national dishes like goulash; and even foie gras, or goose liver, comes from Hungary. There are also a variety of alcoholic drinks, like Pálinka, which is made of fruit and water; Unicum, a bitter liqueur traditionally used to aid digestion; and Tokaji, a famed wine from the Tokaj region made from noble rot grapes, which is what gives it its famous, sweet taste.

#8: It's Home to the Largest Synagogue in Europe

Despite Hungary now having a Jewish population of only 1%, compared to a thriving Christian population of roughly 50%, Budapest still boasts the largest synagogue in Europe, and the third largest synagogue in the entire world. It’s over 150 years old and seats nearly 3000 people. Architecturally, its built in the Moorish style of medieval North Africa and Spain, but also has strong Gothic and Byzantine features. The synagogue has even survived being bombed in 1939 and the entire Nazi occupation of Hungary, and now houses the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park and Hungarian Jewish Museum.

#7: The Language Is . . . Tricky

Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn in the entire world, and it’s even been said that English has more in common with Russian – another notoriously difficult language – than it does with Hungarian. This is, in part, because the Hungarian alphabet has 44 letters, which is 18 more letters than standard English and 11 more letters than the Russian alphabet. It’s also got a difficult case system, with people unable to agree on how many cases Hungarian has – anywhere from 18 to 35. For comparison, English only uses three cases, and German four. Even other hard languages like Russian and Latin both only have six.

#6: Hungary Has Won a Large Number of Olympic Medals

There’s no shortage of high-level athletes in Hungary, and accordingly, no shortage of Olympic medals. In fact, as of 2019, Hungary boasts 498 Olympic medals, a number sure to increase by the time the games move to Tokyo in 2020. Hungarian competitors consistently do well in events like fencing and gymnastics, as well as a range of aquatic events like swimming, water polo, and even kayaking. The country has also competed in the games since the very first modern one, in 1896, and have only missed the 1920 and 1984 competitions.

#5: The Country Has Over 1000 Natural Springs and the World's Largest Thermal Lake

Hungary is a (literal) hotbed of geothermal activity, possessing the world’s largest thermal lake which is available to bathe in, Lake Hévíz, as well as over 1000 natural hot springs. Hévíz is over 500,000 square feet in area and boasts many interesting plants and animals because of its unique chemical composition, including some species of algae so rare they’re only found there. Finally, there’s the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the largest thermal bathing complex in Europe and the most popular in Budapest; there’s a belief that these baths can help with many chronic illnesses, like joint inflammation and degenerative orthopaedic conditions.

#4: They Keep a Mummified Memento From Their First King in Saint Stephen’s Basilica

Hungary’s first official king was Stephen I, later Saint Stephen, coronated in 1000 AD; and if you visit Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, you can still see the mummified remains of his holy right hand. He died in 1038 and was buried, but his body was later moved and exhumed, at which point the hand was removed and taken to the basilica, where it was put under constant guard. Unfortunately, one guard stole it and hid it in his estate in Romania. The hand travelled across all of Eastern Europe for centuries, until, in the 18th Century, Queen Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire bought it, and gave it back to Hungary, where it remains to this day.

#3: The Country Is Landlocked but You Can Still Have a Beach Vacay at the “Hungarian Sea”

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, at a whopping 236 square miles in size, boasting the appropriate nickname “Magyar tenger,” or “Hungarian Sea.” It’s not too far away from Budapest, making it an ideal tourist destination and vacation spot for Hungarian natives looking to escape the soaring summer temperatures. It even has its own music festival, the Balaton Sound festival, which is held every year. Oddly, the presence of such a large lake also means it rains more often in the area than in the rest of the country.

#2: It’s One of Europe’s Oldest Countries

Hungary was officially founded in 896 AD, making it older than many other European countries. In comparison, England wasn’t an official country until after William I took the throne after the Battle of Hastings and Germany wasn’t unified until 1871! While San Marino is Europe’s oldest country, founded in 301 BC, Hungary still has a 1200-year-long history, beginning with the Principality of Hungary. The Principality is the earliest documented Hungarian state, led by the Hungarian Grand Prince. It was then in the year 1000 that Stephen I became the first king of the region as a whole.

#1: A Ton of Nobel Prize Winners and Inventors Have Been Hungarian

It’s not just Olympians that Hungary has to spare, many Hungarians have won a variety of Nobel Prizes. In fact, Hungary has one of the highest rankings of Nobel Prize laureates per capita, boasting 13 winners of at least partial Hungarian origin between 1905 all the way to 2004. Many of the winners have been in science and medicine fields, with Imre Kertész being the main arts winner, taking the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002 after writing novels about his time spent in Auschwitz while persecuted by the Nazis.


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