Photo: Bódis Krisztián / Budapest Images/www.facebook.com/budapestimages/
This beautiful little country of fewer than 10 million inhabitants is situated in Central Europe, also called the frontier country between Eastern and Western Europe. Since you are reading these lines, the previous sentence probably gave you no new information. You might know some things about Hungary, maybe more than an average person, but if you feel like being surprised and amazed, keep reading.
Every traveller knows at least one list of the most important facts about Hungary containing such things as pálinka, gulyás,bejgli, the Rubik’s Cube, or not to toast with beer when going out in Budapest. These are some of the most well-known facts and characteristics of our little gem of a country; however, by no means (at least in my opinion) are they the most surprising or astonishing ones. Today, we prepared you an article listing the lesser-known and probably not-at-all-known pieces of information with the objective of making you know more and hopefully to make your jaw drop. I will try not to brag too much, I swear ?
Let’s start with some numbers. For those who have been reading us for a while, it might not come as a surprise that Hungary was founded a very long time ago. More precisely, in the 9th century, in 895, as the Principality of Hungary, following the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin. The Principality became the earliest documented Hungarian state in the Carpathian Basin, making the country one of the oldest ones in the whole of Europe, founded even before France or Germany became separate entities. Staying in the past, around 1000, when the Hungarian State was founded by our very first king, Stephen I, the Kingdom was one of the largest states in Europe, even bigger than France. And this was before forming a monarchy with Austria. Amazed yet?
All along its more than 1000 years of history, Hungary has been the first in many things. When it comes to VAT, for instance, little Hungary imposes the highest Value Added Tax on its taxpayers in the European Union, 27% to be exact. Not the most delightful attribute, I know. This is not even our worst fact when it comes to numbers and money. Hungary holds an inflation record with its very short-lived old currency preceding the forint, called pengő. After the Second World War, its value decreased rapidly as there was a 41,900 trillion per cent inflation in the economy for 13 months. To make it more understandable, prices doubled every 12 hours.
To cheer you up a bit, let’s move on to something we hold a record in but is also much more pleasant. Hungary was the first communist bloc country to open its borders to Western Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Moreover, 3 years earlier, Hungary became the first country to host a Formula One race behind the Iron Curtain, the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix. Fortunately, this is a tradition that stayed with us. I probably do not even need to mention that our beloved Hungarian sea, Balaton, is the largest lake in Central Europe.
Now that we talked about one of our biggest merits and the things we come first in, let me mention how good we are in sports and sciences. Hungarian athletes have won at least one gold medal in literally every single Olympic Games the country had participated in; moreover, this little country of 10 million people, as opposed to huge European countries of 50 or 60 million inhabitants, has won the second-most gold medals in the Summer Olympic Games. Being banned from the 1920 Olympics and joining the Soviet-led boycott of the Summer Olympics in 1984, thus not participating in either of them, makes this fact even more astonishing. Since we mentioned how good we are at the Olympics, we need a sort of balance with the help of science and the Nobel Prize. As of today, 13 Hungarians have received a Nobel Prize in every category except peace. Let this be extra motivation for our future generations.
All these Nobel Prizes, famous inventions, and discoveries, like the Rubik’s Cube, the ballpoint pen, vitamin C, or the latest breakthrough of Katalin Karikó, do not come as such a huge surprise if you know that literacy of the total population is almost 99%. Our educational system helps a lot, of course, as basic education lasts 8 years, which is followed by a 3- to 5-year-long academic or vocational secondary school. Furthermore, the oldest university in the country, the University of Pécs, was founded back in the 14th century.
When visiting Hungary, have you ever encountered strange or weird names? Apart from the fact that they do not sound very natural to you because of your mother tongue, of course. Or because the Hungarian alphabet consists of 44 letters. But when the meaning of a name is explained, it does not seem very out of place. That is because, as opposed to many countries, you cannot name your child unless it is approved by the government. Every year, there is a pre-approved list issued containing safe names ready to be used. Of course, if none is suitable for you, you have the option to submit an application.
How much of these facts did you know before? Which one is your favourite? Would you add anything to the list? Let us know in a comment!