Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it makes my life much more interesting. Curious George gets into trouble checking things out, but Curious Alice get more enjoyment out of life by looking into things. Digging for information is particularly fun when planning a trip to a new place. With a trip to Budapest scheduled for the fall, I am hungry for information on Hungary right now.
If you took geography while in school, at this point you are shaking your head. What could possibly be interesting about getting the facts and figures about a geographical location? So Budapest is, yawn, the capital of Hungary. If Alice gets excited about that information, she’s the real life of any party, you are sarcastically thinking.
I agree. What we learned in geography in school about far off places was pretty dull and lame. But with a shift of focus on the subjects considered, learning about new places is pretty cool.
Take Hungary for example. In preparing for my upcoming trip, I am writing down a new fact each day. But these aren’t just any facts. These are fun facts. Let’s consider what I’ve learned and see if you view geography in a different light.
VAMPIRES!!! Got your attention? Anyone who knows anything about vampires knows that Dracula was from Transylvania. Transylvania is a historical region in today’s central Romania. But Transylvania was formerly part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Romania borders Hungary on the east, so it’s entirely possible that vampires reside in Hungary or at least visit Hungary from neighboring Romania. Good thing to keep in mind if I am checking out the nightlife in Budapest.
GYPSIES!!! The Roma (Gypsies) are an officially recognized minority in Hungary. In fact, they are the largest minority in the country and make up about 5% of the population. Several hundred thousand Roma reside in the country. The Roma are renowned musicians, but their music hardly uses instruments at all. Thus, Cher’s #1 hit “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” is not a traditional Gypsy song and unlikely to be heard being performed by Hungarian Roma.
BAR ETIQUETTE!!! Yes, that phrase sounds like an oxymoron as the social graces are typically not a top priority in a bar. But there’s at least one social rule to be sure and observe while in Hungary. NEVER clink glasses full of beer. The alleged historical reason for this prohibition is that the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in 1849 with a few mugs of beer that were clinked together. Should you ignore this bar etiquette, rude stares or a bar fight might be on tap for you. Not a problem for me–I don’t drink beer.
DRINKING BULL’S BLOOD!!! Since I don’t consume beer, perhaps I should order Bull’s Blood instead. Don’t worry. No livestock would be slaughtered to fill my order. Surprisingly, Hungary is a large wine producing country with 22 official wine regions. Bull’s Blood of Eger is a famous red wine produced in Hungary’s Eger region. The wine gets its name from something that happened in Eger in the 16th century. Hungarian troops, who were defending the town of Eger from a Turkish siege, were fed local food and wine. That wine included the red wine produced from nearby vineyards. Rumor had it that the dark red wine had been fortified with bulls’ blood to give strength to the small band of Hungarian soldiers facing a much larger Turkish army; this provision saved Eger from sacking at that time. No bull!
YOU’RE IN HOT WATER!!! Budapest is only one of two capital cities in the world which has thermal springs. Hungary’s capital boasts approximately 80 geothermal springs. The Szenchenyi thermal spa bath complex with 18 pools (3 indoor and 15 outdoor) is the biggest in Europe. Thermal baths differ from normal baths or swimming pools in that hot water is drawn up deep from the earth’s surface where temperatures are higher. Think of them as a natural hot tub. That’s the kind of hot water that I want to be in!
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING COUNTRY!!! Hungary has literally shrunk since its inception. Its current borders were set in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon following World War I. As the result of that treaty, Hungary lost 71% of its territory, 58% of its population and 32% of ethic Hungarians. Clearly the losers took a figurative bath causing territorial shrinking.
HOT AND COLD!!! No matter how you like your soup, you can get it in Hungary. Some like it hot. One of the hottest dishes on the European continent is a Hungarian soup called Halaszle, a spicy paprika-based river fish soup. Some like it cold. At the other extreme is a summer delicacy, chilled sour cherry soup (megyleves), made from the fruit of the sour cherry tree which is found in abundance in Hungary. Eating megyleves would be the cherry on top of your dining sundae.
SEEING RED!!! Hungary is a major source of commonly used paprika, a ground spice. This red powder seasons many Hungarian dishes, including Hungarian goulash, a soup of meat and vegetables. Paprika comes from a word meaning “pepper” and is a symbol of Hungarian cooking. Nevertheless, Hungarians cannot take credit for initially cultivating the plant from which the spice comes. The Turks grew that plant in 1529 in Buda (a city later combined with the city of Pest to form Budapest), and are likely seeing red at paprika’s association with Hungarians.
See how much fun you have had learning about Hungary by reading this post? Geography can indeed be entertaining and educational at the same time. You’ll be hungry for information on Hungary and other places as well if it the facts are presented in an appealing and palatable manner. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it was a boring lecture on dry geographical facts and figures that killed the cat’s curiosity.
Just WONDER-ing: How much do you remember from taking geography in school? Do you think you will remember some of the fun Hungary facts from this post? What fun facts would you want to know about a place where you intend to travel?