Hungary Facts
Hungary Facts

63 Interesting Facts about Hungary

By Jill Bartholomew, Junior Writer
Published January 17, 2017
  • The name “Hungary” may very well come from the Medieval Latin Hungaria, which translates as “Land of the Huns.” Another source states that the name is derived from the Turkish words on ogur, meaning “ten arrows,” or “ten peoples.”[6]
  • About one-third of native Hungarians (about 5 million) live outside Hungary, mostly in Romania but also in the other countries adjacent to Hungary.[15]
  • The Hungarian word for barbecue is szalonnasütés, which means “bacon cooking,” because the traditional way to cook bacon in Hungary is to hold a piece over an open fire while it cooks.[4]
  • The term in Hungarian for hangover is macskajaj (cat’s wail), and Hungarians claim the best cure is a trip to one of the country’s many thermal bathhouses.[7]
  • The musical condom, which plays a tune while being unrolled, was invented by Ferenc Kovács and launched in Hungary in June 1966.[8]
  • Hungarians broke the Guinness World Record for simultaneous kissing when more than 6,400 couples locked lips outside Budapest’s parliament building in 2007.[11]
  • Random Hungary Facts
    Hungarians refer to themselves and their language as Magyar
  • Hungarians refer to themselves and their language as Magyar, which is the direct descendant of the language spoken by the Huns. There are only two languages related to it in Europe: Finnish (Suomi) and Estonian (Eesti keel).[6]
  • Hungary has the second highest rate of suicide in the world at 21 per 100,000 people per year.[14]
  • The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix was the first Formula One race to take place behind the Iron Curtain.[21]
  • The number “96” is important in Hungary. Arpad was chosen as first king of the Magyars and the beginning of the Hungarian state in A.D. 896. To celebrate Hungary’s millennial anniversary in 1896, the first metro was built in Budapest. By law, the highest buildings in Budapest can be no taller than 96 feet high, and the Hungarian national anthem takes 96 seconds to sing, if done at proper tempo.[23]
  • Budapest is home to the oldest metro line in continental Europe and is the second oldest in the world after London’s Tube.[13]
  • In Hungary, when people write their names or introduce themselves publically, they typically use their last name first.[6]
  • Financier George Soros was born in Hungary. He has given away some 45% of his net worth. In 2013, his charitable donations totaled US $734 million, according to Forbes.com, putting him No. 5 on their list of philanthropists, after Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg.[22]
  • In 1946, Hungary issued bank notes with a face value of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one quintillion) pengö—the world’s highest denomination ever.[9]
  • The first foreign fast food restaurant in Hungary, a McDonald's, opened in 1988.f[6]
  • The Hungarian parliament building in Budapest was built in 1896 to celebrate Hungary’s millennial birthday. No less than 88 lbs. (40 kg) of solid gold were used in its construction. It has 691 rooms and 12.5 miles (20 km) of stairs, and at 315 feet (96 m) high, it is tied with St. Stephen’s Basilica as the tallest building in Hungary. It is also the 3rd largest parliament building in the world, bested only by London’s Westminster and Romania’s parliament building.[18]
  • Interesting Fact about Hungary
    Hungary boasts elaborate public bathing practices that go back to Roman times
  • Hungary have public bathing practices that go back to Roman times. The country boasts around 1,500 spas, 450 of which are public.[6]
  • Hungary’s money used to be based on the decimal system. Currency was issued in the monetary unit called a forint, and notes were issued in denominations of Ft. 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000.[6]
  • Hungarians are the most heavily taxed people in the world at an average 38.3% of their annual income.[22]
  • Hungary has the lowest employment rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with only 55.4% of the population actively employed.[10]
  • Hungarian inventions include: the noiseless match (Jànos Irinyi), Rubik’s cube (Ernö Rubik), the krypton electric bulb (Imre Bródy), and the discovery of vitamins B6, riboflavin, and biotin (Paul Gyorgy). Several other notable inventions were made by Hungarians who fled the country before World War II, including holography (Dennis Gabor), the ballpoint pen (László Bíró), the theory of the hydrogen bomb (Edward Teller), and BASIC programming language (John Kemény and Thomas E. Kurtz).[1]
  • Hungarians often refer to themselves as Magyars, after their ancestors who settled the area 12 centuries ago when they migrated from central Asia. The Magyars are related to the Finns. Only a small portion of Hungarians today is actually of Magyar ancestry.[6]
  • As of 2007, thirteen Hungarians have won 13 Nobel Prizes, which is more than Japan, China, India, Australia, or Spain.[12]
  • Only five countries—U.S., Russia, U.K., France, and Italy—have won more Summer Olympic gold medals than Hungary. Hungary ranks 9th out of 211 participating nations, with a total of 448 medals. By population size, Hungary is second only to Finland in terms of overall medals won.[1]
  • Wine has been produced in Hungary since the 5th century A.D. In 1737, King Karoly named the Tokaj wine region a national wine area, making it the world’s first official wine region, almost 120 years before France’s Bordeaux.[13]
  • Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe. It was founded in A.D. 896, before France, Germany, or England.[6]
  • Interesting Hungary Facts
    Hungary was founded before France, Germany, or England

  • In Hungary, parents are required to name their child from a pre-approved list of names. If a mother or father wants to name their child a name not on the list, they have to submit an application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and hope it gets approved.[2]
  • The word “coach” derives from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs, where the multi-passenger wheeled vehicle first appeared around 1500.[8]
  • Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich is regarded as “the greatest swordsman who ever lived.” He won gold medals in 6 consecutive Olympics from 1932 to 1960.[8]
  • Hungary was the only country to hold a national referendum on whether or not to join NATO, which it did in 1999.[8]
  • At one time during first half of the 20th century, the incidence of tuberculosis was so high that all over the world the disease was called morbus Hungaricus. According to some figures, this disease—also called consumption—took between 40,000 and 50,000 lives in Hungary.[3]
  • St. Stephen’s Crown, Hungary’s national symbol, had to be removed from the country in 1944 to protect it from communist parties. It spent some 30 years in Fort Knox, Kentucky. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter returned it to Hungary. Whenever justice is dispensed in Hungarian, it is always done “in the name of Saint Stephen’s Crown.”[6]
  • Hungary does have a kind of cowboy, called czikós (horseherd). The cowboy tradition goes back to the Magyars, who may have come to Hungary from central Asia. The czikos can still be seen on Hungary’s vaste Puszta (Great Plain).[3]
  • Interesting Hungary History Fact
    King Stephen and his wife, Gisela of Bavaria
  • The most revered Hungarian may likely be King Stephen (Istvan) who welded the Magyars into a state and introduced Christianity. He was canonized soon after his death. Today, he is the national talisman of Hungary. His mummified right hand is a holy relic, and his crown and cross are national symbols.[19]
  • Hungarian has two words for red, vörös and piros.[24]
  • There is a legend in Budapest that says if you touch the pen of an anonymous statue which sits in a park near the Heroes Square, then you could become a great writer. The statue looks a little like the grim reaper, but is said to be the chronicler of Hungarian King Béla.[1]
  • Hungarians never clink their glasses, or bottles, of beer. According to legend, when 13 Hungarians generals were executed in Austria, during the Revolution of 1848, Austrians clinked their beer glasses after each execution. Therefore, Hungarians refuse to clink glasses as a way to honor the generals’ memory.[5]
  • Budapest is the home of Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe and second largest in the world, after one in New York City. It can seat up to 3,000 people.[6]
  • The world’s largest geothermal cave system is in Hungary. It is located underground Budapest. Europe’s largest underground lake also was recently found under Budapest’s Gellért Hill.[13]
  • Lake Balaton is the second largest lake in Europe and the largest in central Europe. It is known as the “Hungarian Sea.” It is 48 miles (77 km) long, 2 to 9 miles (3 to 14 km) wide, and covers an area of 232 square miles (601 sq km).[6]
  • Soccer is Hungary’s most popular sport, and Hungarians still refer to the match of the century in 1953 when Hungary beat England 6-3 at Wembley Stadium in England, marking the first time the English had ever lost to a continental team on home soil.[6]
  • Hungarian soccer star Ferenc Puskás still holds the world record for the number of goals scored in a World Cup final, scoring more than even Brazil’s legendary Pelé. Puskas earned the nicknames Left-Foot Magician, Little Cannon, and Galloping Major.[6]
  • Paprika is Hungary’s most popular spice and a symbol of its cuisine. It is made out of ground dried peppers, also called paprika, which refuse to grow anywhere other than Hungary. It was first used in the 16th century as a food preservative. It takes 3 lbs (1.4 kg) of dried Hungarian red peppers to make 1 lb (.5 kg) of ground paprika.[6]
  • Mangalitsa pigs are a unique breed of pig that resemble sheep as much as pigs and are a little known Hungarian breed. They are the result of a 19th century Austro-Hungarian experiment breeding wild boar with a pig bred especially for lard. Called the Kobe Beef of pork, they are prized for their well-marbled meat. There are 60,000 Mangalitsas worldwide, with 50,000 being in Hungary.[4]
  • Hungarians consume more than 1.10 lbs. (500 g) of paprika each year. The spice has more vitamin C than citrus fruits. Hungarians also call red peppers paprika, and there are more than 40 varieties grown in Hungary.[7]
  • Interesting Hungarian Paprika Facts
    Paprika is not only the Hungarian name for the spice, but also the pepper, and there are more than 40 varieties grown in Hungary today

  • Hollywood would not have gotten off to its golden start without the help of Hungarian emigres such as Adolf Zukor, the founder of Paramount Pictures, who produced the first feature film The Prisoner of Zenda in 1921; and Vilmos Fried, who changed his name to William Fox, and started Fox Studios. Arguably the greatest contribution Hungary made to Hollywood is Manó Kaminer, who changed his name to Michael Curtiz, and directed the film Casablanca (1942), arguably the greatest motion picture ever made.[19]
  • Escapologist Harry Houdini was born Erich Weisz in Budapest in 1874. Known for his death-defying feats, he reached the pinnacle of his career in 1912 with the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended by his feet and lowered upside-down in a locked glass cabinet filled with water. He had to hold his breath for more than 3 minutes in order to escape.[19]
  • Hungary has a long history of chess champions. The most recent is Judit Polgár, who at age 15, became a grandmaster in 1982. She is the highest rated female chess champion in the world. In 1992, she beat Anatoly Karpov in a speed-chess tournament, making her the only woman ever to defeat a reigning world champion.[19]
  • Hungary is the world’s second leading producer of foie gras (goose liver), after France.[20]
  • The body of Attila the Hun, “the Scourge of God,” was reputedly buried in a triple-layered coffin of gold, silver, and lead and then submerged in Hungary’s Tisza River at an unknown spot. He died in A.D. 453 from a nasal hemorrhage following a night of passion with his new wife, Kriemhild.[1]
  • Interesting Franz Liszt Fact
    Franz Liszt is a Hungarian hero
  • Hungary has a long tradition of classical music and was home to composers such as Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and Franz Liszt, who was born of a Hungarian father and Austrian mother and never learned to speak Hungarian fluently.[6]
  • Irish author Bram Stoker based his Dracula on an actual 15th century figure, Vlad the Impaler. He actually terrorized Wallachia, which was part of Hungary at the time, until King Matthias put him in jail. Dracula means Son of the Devil, or little Devil. Dracula was first made famous in film by Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi.[1]
  • The oversized snail-shaped egg noodles (Csiga) that Hungarians use in many recipes are thought to date back to the 9th century when fighters invented them when they needed to cook a quick meal.[13]
  • An eszpresso (espresso) in Hungary is not only the word for the coffee drink, but also a coffeehouse that sells alcoholic drinks and snacks.[7]
  • The Turks introduced coffee to Hungary in the 16th century, where it was nicknamed fekete leves (black soup).[7]
  • Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has existed as a settlement from the Bronze and Iron Age, but it didn’t become Budapest until 1873 when three separate cities, Pest, Buda, and Óbuda (Old Buda) were combined to make one city. Budapest is nicknamed “City of Baths.”[6]
  • The Magyars were so skilled at riding and shooting that a common Christian prayer in the Middle Ages was “Save us, o Lord, from the arrows of the Hungarians.”[7]
  • Hungarian-born financier George Soros had to hide from the Nazis as a child and posed as a Christian youth from Romania named Sandor Kiss. Soros was originally a Jew and named Gyögy Schwartz. His family changed their named to Soros for fear of anti-Semitism in Hungary during World War II. The name Soros in Magyar is a palindrome that means “designated successor.”[25]
  • Hungary was one of the first communist-era countries to oppose the Soviet regime during the Cold War, notably with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1989, Hungary was the first communist-bloc country to open its borders with Western Europe.[15]
  • Elvis Presley was named an official citizen of Budapest in 2011 and also has a landmark commemorating him. He was an unlikely hero for the Hungarian people during the 1956 Uprising, when he sang “Peace in the Valley” on U.S. national TV to bring attention to the Revolution. Elvis Presley Boulevard is a dirt road on the outskirts of Budapest.[16]
  • Interesting Hungarian Goulash Fact
    Goulash is the national dish of Hungary and is also a symbol of Hungary
  • Hungary’s national dish is gulyás (goulash). It is a stew made out of potatoes, beef, pork, and paprika. Many believe the dish dates back to the Magyar tribes who invented it out of necessity when they were raiding and plundering. Today, the dish always includes paprika, onions, and a meat—beef, pork, lamb, or even wild boar. When sour cream is added, it is called paprikás, or paprikash.[6]
  • George Soros is probably the wealthiest speaker of Esperanto in the world. Esperanto is an artificial language made up by L.L. Zamenhof in the 19th century. The Esperanto conference in Switzerland provided 17-year old Soros with a passport to escape Soviet Hungary in 1947.[25]
  • The Volkswagen Beetle was actually created by Hungarian-born engineer Béla Barényi in 1938. He was the inventor of 2,500 inventions in the automobile industry, including Passive Safety in 1951 which divided the car into three collision zones. Crash tests are still associated with his name.[16]
  • Important Dates[17][17][22]
    DateEvents
    A.D. 896The Magyars, led by Árpád, conquer Hungary.
    1000István I (King/Saint Stephen) becomes Hungary’s first king and converts country to Roman Catholicism.
    1222King Andrew II issues the Golden Bull, a constitutional document that limits the king’s power and establishes rights of the nobility.
    1241Mongols invade Hungary.
    1255Mongols withdraw from Hungary on the death of their leader Batu Khan.
    1301Three-hundred year old Árpád dynasty ends.
    1308-1342Charles Robert of the Italian branch of the Anjou Dynasty rules Hungary and brings peace to the country.
    1456János Hunyadi and his Hungarian forces defeat the Ottomans who had been advancing in Europe since the 1300s.
    1458-1490Matthias Corvinus rules Hungary and makes it a center of Italian Renaissance culture.
    1526Ottoman Turks defeat Hungarians in the Battle of Mohács and occupy central and eastern Hungary.
    1699Turks are driven from Budapest by Austrian Hapsburg King Leopold I; Hungary becomes a province of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire.
    1849Lajos Kossuth declares himself head of a revolutionary movement for a free and independent Hungary. After 4 months in power, Austrian and Russian forces defeat Hungary.
    1867Hungary becomes an autonomous partner in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
    1914Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is assassinated, starting World War I.
    1914-1918Austro-Hungarian forces fight with Germany in World War I and are defeated.
    1918Hungarians revolt and declare their country and independent republic from Austria. Count Mihály Károlyi become the first president.
    1920The Treaty of Trianon, part of the World War I peace settlement, takes away two-thirds of Hungary’s pre-war territory.
    1941Hungary enters World War II on the side of Germany, Italy, and Japan and declares war on the United States and Great Britain.
    1945Soviets liberate Budapest a full month before the end of World War II in May. Hungary signs armistice with Allies, forms a coalition government, and again declares itself a republic.
    1946The Liberty Bridge, the first to span the Danube River, opens in Budapest. Hungary experiences the world’s worst hyperinflation.
    1949Communists take complete control of Hungary and establish the People’s Republic of Hungary. Hungary joins the Warsaw Pact.
    1956October riots leave Budapest in flames. The country briefly leaves the Warsaw Pact, but János Kádár is installed as leader and the status quo is restored.
    1957Elvis Presley performs the spiritual “Peace in the Valley” on U. S. national television to express his “preoccupation with Hungary’s plight” after the uprising.
    1958Imre Nagy and other collaborators are executed by the Communist state for their roles in the uprising and buried in unmarked graves in Budapest’s New Municipal Cemetery.
    1978Crown of St. Stephen is returned to Hungary from Fort Knox, where it had been held since the end of World War II.
    1988János Kádár is forced to retired after three decades in power and dies in 1989.
    1989The Hungarian Communist Party renames itself the Hungarian Socialist Party. A New National Day, March 15, is observed in honor of the revolution against Austrian rule in 1918.
    1990The Hungarian Socialist Party is voted out of power. A new multiparty democratic government takes over and a new constitution is written.
    1991Last Soviet troops leave Hungary.
    1999Hungary joins NATO.
    2002Budapest is listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.
    2004Hungary joins the European Union.
    2011Hungary assumes presidency of the EU Council.
    2012Hungary’s new constitution deletes the world “Republic” from its official name.
References

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2Baby Names: Rules around the World.” My Heritage Blog. October 30, 2014. Accessed August 6, 2015.

3Bori, Istvan, Ed. The Essential Guide to Being Hungarian. North Adams, MA: New Europe Books, 2012.

4Braun, Adee. “Bringing Home the Woolly Bacon from Hungary.” NPR. August 3, 2013. Accessed August 6, 2015.

5Bridges, John and Bryan Curtis.  A Gentleman Abroad. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.

6Esbenshade, Richard S. Hungary (Cultures of the World). Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 1996.

7Fallon, Steve and Sally Shafer. Budapest (Lonely Planet). Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2015.

8Hartston, William. “Ten Things You Never Knew about…Hungary.” Sunday Express. 2015. Accessed August 3, 2015.

9Hey Big Spender.” The Economist. July 28, 2008. Accessed September 3, 2015.

10Hungarian Employment Rate Lowest in EU.” Budapest Business Journal. December 6, 2010. Accessed August 6, 2015.

11Hungarians Break World Record for Simultaneous Kiss.” Fox News. June 10, 2007. Accessed August 6. 2015.

12Hungary’s Nobel Prize Winners.” Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Accessed August 6, 2015.

13James, Ryan. Budapest and the Best of Hungary (Frommer’s Complete Guides). Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., Publications, 2012.

14June, Dwuan. “World Suicide Rates by Country.” The Washington Post. 2015. Accessed August 6, 2015.

15Longley, Darren (Norm). Hungary (Rough Guide Travel Guides). London, UK: The Rough Guides, 2010.

16Michaels, Sean. “Elvis Presley to Be Named Honorary Citizen of Budapest.” Guardian (UK). March 3, 2011. Accessed August 3, 2015.

17Molnár, Miklós and Anna Magyar. A Concise History of Hungary. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

18Olszanska, Barbara, Tadeusz Olszanski, and Craig Turp. Budapest (DK Eyewitness Travel). London, UK: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd., 2013.

19———.Hungary (DK Eyewitness Travel Guides). London, UK: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd., 2013.

20Seaman, David. “The Highest Taxes in the World.” MainStreet. March 10, 2010. Accessed September 6, 2010.

21Spurgeon, Brad. “Formula One and Europe, Crossroads in Budapest.” New York Times. July 24, 2015. Accessed September 6, 2015.

22Stalcup, Ann. Hungary (Enchantment of the World). New York, NY: Children’s Press, 2005.

23Steves, Rick and Cameron Hewitt. Eastern Europe. Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2015.

24Wohlgemuth, Jan and Michael Cysouw, Eds. Rare & Rarissima: Documenting the Fringes of Linguistic Diversity. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter GmbH and Company KG, 2010.

25Zeldes, Leah A. “George Soros Facts: 7 Things You Might Not Know about Billionaire.” Newsmax. May 14, 2015. Accessed August 3, 2015.

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