10 things you don't know about Hungary
There's more to Hungary than its capital, Budapest. Did you know, for example, that the Hungarian currency is the forint? The current exchange rate, in case you're wondering, is 358 to the pound. Or that the Hungarian language, known as Magyar, has only two related languages in Europe -- Finnish and Estonian?
It was only when we were putting together this week's Hungary Destination page (you can find it here) that we realised just how little we know about this intriguing country. In fact, we're quite ashamed to admit that we had to consult a map to discover exactly what else it has to offer -- for the record, quite a lot.
Here are 10 more little-known Hungarian facts:
- Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe. It was founded in 895, even before France and Germany became separate countries
- The Rubik's cube, the ballpoint pen and holography were all invented by Hungarians. Who knew?
- In the summer, the weather in Hungary can be scorching, so locals leave the cities in droves. Hungarians call it the "cucumber-growing season", because that's about the only activity of interest in the sweltering suburbs
- Forget goulash -- cabbage strudel is the dish du jour for Hungary folk. Made with cabbage rather than apples, and sautéed with sugar and raisins, it's a sweet dessert that's been passed down through families for generations
- This landlocked country is bordered by no less than seven others -- Slovakia to the north, Ukraine in the northeast, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania and Croatia to the south, and Austria to the west
- Clinking beer glasses in Budapest is considered to be scandalously insensitive. It all stems back to when the Austrians crushed a national uprising in 1848 and celebrated with an almighty "cheers!" as the Hungarian leaders went off to be executed. One hundred and sixty-five years later, it's still a sore subject
- Having said that, you're more likely to find Hungarians gossiping in various public baths than down the pub. With over 1500 thermal spas across the country, there are plenty of watery spots to choose from
- Hungarian cuisine has been influenced by the Italians, the Turkish, the Austrians and the Germans -- no wonder the food is a "feast for the eye", as Food and Travel Magazine proclaims
- Aspiring authors should head to Budapest. Touching the pen of the Anonymous statue in the City Park (of which Heroes' Square is the main entrance) is said to make you a better writer
- At a Hungarian wedding, don't be alarmed if the bride suddenly puts her shoes in the middle of the room. She's initiating what's known as the money dance, which is the chance for anyone who wishes to dance with her to do so -- but only after putting money in the shoes