“No history, please!” – begged a lovely visitor from a faraway country.
True, she escaped from a guided “umbrella” tour where in most cases you are bombarded with dates and unpronounceable names of local heroes, not to mention Hungary’s long list of battles.
It poses a real challenge for a tour guide, however, to explain why those shoes are there on the Danube Bank, or why you bump into a statue at every square, or why the Basilica is named after Stephen, who happens to be a saint, but not the Saint Stephen most people are familiar with.
All our sympathy lies with unsuspecting travellers who are curious about Hungarian history, definitely a turbulent one. While ‘history’ rhymes with ‘story,’ the Hungarian word is TÖRTÉNELEM, derived from the verb TÖRTÉNNI (to happen).
And happenings there were a lot, starting from the Conquest which we amicably call HONFOGLALÁS (“taking the homeland”), followed by the raids on Western Europe lasting for at least 60 years in the 10th century, which we call even more poetically KALANDOZÁSOK (“the adventures of the Hungarians”), until we arrived at the first major change of regime, the conversion to Christianity, symbolized by the coronation of King Stephen (ISTVÁN) in the year 1000 (a number easy to remember).
Although August 20—the major national holiday—is the day of ISTVÁN’s canonization, on this day what we really celebrate is Hungarian statehood, in other words, the integration of our nomadic ancestors into Christian Europe.
The rest of the story is a long line of HAPPENINGS marking the struggle for survival, which we attempted to sum up in this handy infographic, above.
All we can promise newcomers to Budapest is to provide a menu of the highlights of Hungarian history, and you pick the ones you’d like to know more about, with the disclaimer that the less you know about the sufferings of the nation, the more cheerful your stay will be.
Feel welcome to browse our thematic tour offers at Fungarian.hu