If you were to be born again, what country would you like to be born in?” A friend of mine once asked me.
At first, I thought it was a stupid question—cliché and stupid. However, when I think about it now, the question seems so logical. Imagine if you can actually choose your birth place, would you prefer to be born in New York where all the luxuries in life are within reach, in Africa where you can see the animals in their wild habitat, or in his original birth country. There are so many places to choose from and yet the choices seem so limited.
As for me, I’d choose to be born in Hungary, a land bordered by Austria and Slovenia in the west, Slovakia in the north, Romania in the east and the countries of Croatia and Yugoslavia in the south. The country was called Pannonia during the Roman Empire. Only in the 9th century did the country form as a unified nation under the leadership of Prince Árpád, a sacred ruler and the founder of Hungary. As a whole, Hungary is a very impressive country that has a lot to offer. Let’s appreciate the country more by roaming its streets and alleyways part by part.
Govern and Rule
Always the top pick for first time travellers, the Hungarian Parliament building is considered as the largest and tallest edifice in the country. Located in Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, the structure is sometimes called the Parliament of Budapest.
Inspired by Gothic and Renaissance Revival styles, the building’s structure was designed by Imre Steindl, a Hungarian architect who unfortunately went blind before the construction was completed. The parliament overlooks the Danube River and features 10 courtyards, 242 sculptures of Hungarian and Transylvanian leaders, a sixteen-sided central hall, 691 rooms and halls filled with frescoes and glass mosaics. The Holy Crown of Hungary is also on display, along with the statue of Imre Steindl, Prince Árpád, Stephen I and John Hunyadi.
Aside from exploring the building’s huge interiors, tourists can also find attractions surrounding the parliament. Among the many sites are the Kossuth Memorial, a public monument built in honor of former Hungarian Regent-President Lajos Kossuth, the statues of former noblemanFrancis II Rákóczi, and Hungarian poet Attila József. Standing prominently at Vértanuk or Martyrs’ Square is the statue of Imre Nagy.
A symbol of freedom for the locals, Imre Nagy is a two-time Prime Minister who was executed for treason during the Soviet invasion. His former grave was located in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. But in 1989, he was reburied in Budapest cemetery where thousands of people attended his re-interment.
Of Castles and Palaces
A visit in Hungary is not complete without a trip to two of its renowned castles. Also located in Budapest, Royal Palace and Vajdahunyad Castle capture the history of Hungary and house its archival records.
Also known as the Buda Castle, the Royal Palace was completed in 1265 under the rule of King Béla IV of Hungary. It is situated on the southern end of Castle Hill and was known throughout history as the royal residence of Hungarian kings and their wives. The castle was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Among the interminable attractions inside the castle are the 14th century chapel, the Gothic Hall, Albrecht and King’s Cellar, the ceremonial rooms of Zenta, Audience Antechamber, the Grand Throne Room, White Antechamber and the Coronation room, St. Stephen’s Chapel which was once known as Castle Church, and the Palatinal Crypt, where prominent individuals were buried.
While the Buda Castle is known for its magnificence, Vajdahunyad Castle also has its fair share of charm and glamor. Located in Budapest’s City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle was built during the years 1896 to 1908. Architect Ignác Alpár designed the edifice in a mixture of architectural styles from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
However, the castle’s main attractions include Miklós Ligeti’s Statue of Anonymous (a 12th century notary and chronicler of King Béla III of Hungary), as well as the statue of Béla Lugosi (the Hungarian-American actor known for his portrayal of Count Dracula). At present, the edifice houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
A Hero Within
Heroes are an eminent part of Hungary’s history. It is greatly evident in the Heroes Square, which depict the countrymen’s valiant and courageous nature. Along with this is the St. Istvan’s Basilica, built in commemoration of their first king, Stephen I of Hungary.
Located near the City Park at the Andrássy Avenue, Heroes Square is basically an area filled with sculptures of the country’s heroic individuals. It may be simple to look at, but the square holds great information about the country’s hardships and how the people have overcome them as the years passed by.
The colonnades show Stephen I of Hungary, Ladislaus I, Coloman, Andrew II, Béla IV, Charles I and Louis I on the left side, while statues of John Hunyadi, Matthias Cornivus, István Bocskay, Gabriel Bethlen, Imre Thököly, Francis II Rákóczi and Lajos Kossuth stand at the right. At the very center is the Millennium Monument, a cenotaph dedicated to the courageous heroes who sacrificed their lives for freedom and independence.
Unknown to many individuals, the first statues built in the left-hand colonnades are that of the Habsburg Dynasty. These statues are Ferdinand I, Leopold I, Charles III, Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph. The figures were replaced when they were ruined in World War II.
Another edifice erected in honor of a king is the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Completed in 1905, the neoclassical church is among the largest buildings in the country. Its main features include the two bell towers and the reliquary where Stephen’s right hand is displayed. The edifice also holds the Great St. Stephen Bell, the largest bell in Hungary, the Blessed Virgin Mary Bell, St. Henry II Bell, Blessed Gizella Bell, Saint Emeric Bell and the Saint Elizabeth from the House of Árpád Bell.
Many historians believe that the building was supposed to be named after Saint Leopold, the patron saint of Austria. However, a last minute decision was made resulting to the structure to be named after Stephen I of Hungary.
Through the City Park
Only in Hungary will someone find an unconventional city park filled with impressive structures and healing baths. The venue of the 1896 Millennium Celebration of Hungary, Varosliget is located at the capital city and stands to be the first public park in the world.
The city park’s former names are Ökör-dülö translated in the English language as “Oxmeadow”, Ochsenried and Batthyány-erdö or the Batthyány Forest. Only in the 19th century was the name Varosliget officially used.
In the area, tourists can also check out other attractions like the Varosliget Lake, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Art, Municipal Zoological and Botanical Gaden, Petöfi Csarnok, Közlekedési Múzeum or the Transport Museum, and Hungary’s most famous diner known as Gundel Restaurant.
The main attraction of the park is the Széchenyi thermal bath, famous for its medicinal hot springs that can help cure joint inflammations, orthopedic treatments and post-trauma therapies. It was constructed in 1913 through the leadership of architect Gyözö Czigler. It plays host to outdoor, adventure and thermal sitting pools that have water streaming and massaging water beam bands. Services also include saunas and massage areas.
Last but not the least, every visitor should not miss the chance to roam around the Kaposvár. Situated south of Lake Balaton, Kaposvár is one of the leading cities of Hungary, next only to Budapest.
Sites in the area contain the Rippl-Rónai Museum and villa (one of the biggest art gallery in Hungary and known as the residence of the painter József Rippl-Rónai), the Csiky Gergely Theatre, Dorottya House, Palace of Culture of Kaposvár, Ruins of Benedictine Monastery of Kaposszentjakab, and Lake Deseda.
Country of Valor
Rich heritage and veneration for their heroes—those are probably two of the reasons why I’d choose Hungary among all countries. Their love and respect for their people are greatly shown in their iconic statues and landmarks. Truly, living in Hungary would be a privilege not to mention favorable. It is a nation who knows how to appreciate courage and true dedication; no one could ever ask for more.
So for those who have lost touch of their inner heroes, I suggest booking a flight now to Hungary, a country valor and honor.