By : The Travel Editor of Gorgia Weekly POST
Getting invited to a wedding at one of those mega mansions of Johns Creek or estates in Dunwoody, or Sandy Springs isn't a big deal. A reception might extend till the wee hours. It is the norm. It is young and modern and everything goes.
But if that reception and hospitality go on for days while been fed "Chicken Paprikash " and "Beef Goulash", it must by Hungary. Your mind travels to those old days when Zsa Zsa Gabor, the poster child of the old country, made her fortune by collecting diamonds and husbands.
▲Budapest - Roman,Greek and Turkish Architecture
▲Zsa Zsa Gabor, one of three sisters. A poster child of Hungary, collecting diamonds and husbands were her hobby.
Long isolated from the west by its geography, language and political upheavals, Hungary has settled into a comfortable station within today’s Europe.
The country of about 10 million people rests within central Europe, landlocked in the Carpathian Basin with Slovakia to its north, Romania to the east and Austria to the west. Croatia and Serbia share its southern border.
Its current borders were drawn following the First World War at the Treaty of Trianon. At one time, the country which loosely came into existence more than 1,000 years ago, extended north to the Baltic and Black seas and south to the Mediterranean.
Hungary has had a tumultuous existence, from the campaigns it waged and withstood in medieval times, to the war-torn decades of the 20th Century.
▲Adolph Zukor founded Paramount Pictures, paved the way for other film notables.
Yet today, it stands as a solid tourist destination, ranking as the 15th most visited country in the world. It draws more than 10 million visitors each year to see the world’s second largest thermal lake, Europe’s largest natural grassland and Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe.
Also popular among tourists is the county’s vast array of close to 100 castles or castle ruins. These stone bastions serve as a reminder of Hungary’s beleaguered past. It has survived more than most.
An invasion by the Mongols in 1241 killed half the country’s population. This event reinvigorated efforts to build fortresses throughout the region. The country reached its military peak in the mid-14th Century under the rule of Louis I.
Not long after, the country endured more than a century-long war with the Turks. It wasn’t until 1699 that a treaty with the Turks was signed.
In more recent times, the country was allied with Germany during both world wars, suffering intense devastation. At the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, the country lost more than two-thirds of its territory and more than half its population.
More devastating still, Hungary was absorbed into the Eastern Bloc following World War II, serving as one of a number of satellite nations for the Soviet Union. During the Soviet occupation, an estimated 2,000 people were executed and another 100,000 were arrested.
A nationwide uprising against communist rule in 1956 led to an invasion by some 15,000 Soviet troops. During the conflict, close to 20,000 people died and another 250,000 Hungarians fled the country during the brief months the borders were open.
Although the uprising was eventually quelled, Hungary would not lose its independent spirit.
In 1989, the Opposition Round Table Consultations, a group of government leaders sensing the winds of change in Soviet Russia, began talks to institute a market economy, multi-party rule and individual freedoms. By mid-year, Hungary began dismantling the fence along the Austrian border, thereby allowing the first rays of freedom through the Iron Curtain.
Since then, Hungary has embraced the free-market system, established itself as a western nation. The country joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
Amid this shift in vision, the country preserves its exotic nature.
Its Hungarian language, distantly related to Estonian and Finnish, is like no other in Europe and is spoken by 99 percent of the population.
The country’s uniqueness also extends to its cuisine. Paprika, ground red peppers, is a prominent part of many recipes, from goulash to chicken paprikash. And, a heavy sour cream called teifol, is used in many dishes.
▲Buda Castle,bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District, which is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings. The castle is a part of the Budapest World Heritage Site.
Most prominent of all, however, is the country’s capital of Budapest, home to one-fifth of the population.
With its grand skyline of gothic buildings and vast parks along the Danube River, Budapest has experienced a surge in commercial growth in the years since its breakaway from Soviet rule. New hotels, malls, restaurants and bars fill the city’s radial boulevards.
In the middle of the river lies Margaret Island, 240 acres of parks and medieval ruins that draw tourists from around the world. The island features the ruins of a Franciscan church and Dominican church and convent dating back to the 13th Century. The structures were destroyed in the 16th Century during the Ottoman wars.
Though unique among world cultures, Hungarian influence has reached across oceans.
Hungarian folk music has found its way into the works of celebrated native sons like Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly.
Other contributions have come from the waves of immigrants who have left the country to escape conflict or in search of a better life.
The first such wave occurred in 1849 after the quelling of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Thousands found their way to the United States to flee reprisals by Austria.
The second wave was more substantial, when close to three-quarters of a million Hungarians came to America in the four decades around the turn of the 20th Century. These were the huddled masses that flooded through Ellis Island without wealth and without job prospects in the New World.
Subsequent waves of Hungarians came as a result of the World Wars, the 1958 Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Block.
Hungarian Americans have contributed to the country’s growth and vitality in business and the arts through the centuries.
Names like Joseph Pulitzer, who served in the Union in America’s Civil War and later founded a publishing empire, and George Soros, who has helped nurture liberty in the old Soviet world with his philanthropic efforts.
The arts are no less populated by distinguished Hungarian-Americans.
Adolph Zukor, who founded Paramount Pictures, and Willaim Fox, who launched Twentieth Century Fox, both played significant roles in making Hollywood the world capital of the film industry. They paved the way for other film notables, such as director/producers Michael Curtiz and George Cukor and stars like Tony Curtis, Leslie Howard, the Gabor sisters, Bela Lugosi and Freddie Prinze.
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