Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Today I would like to continue my series of stories about Eastern European countries and this one is about Hungary. Hungary is very close to my heart because I lived and studied there for 2 years.

When I was a little child I believed that Hungary was a place where my Grandma had her garden because the majority of products that were exported from Hungary to USSR in those days were fruits and vegetables, the canned ones in particular, for instance tomatos in their own juice, plum and cherry compot, pickles, peppers (paprika). This was heaven on Earth especially in winter!

When I went to Hungary to study I had a feeling of going back to my childhood. For one, paprika was everywhere, they add it to everything, for the exception of, may be, ice-cream :-) The climate in Hungary is such that allows to grow all these fruits and vegetables and I actually had an impression that Budapest had about 300 sunny days in a year! This same climate is fantastic for grapes and that is why Hungary is famous for its sweet desert wine - Tokaj. It can actually be so sweet (if it has 6 stars) that it has a honey-like texture and extreme sweetness.

With all this sweetness around, however, Hungary made a different impression on me than Czech Rep. It felt like it was a more sad country, people smiled less as if they were constantly depressed by something... There was no sign of that bubbling evergy and the only place where there were bubbles were the famous Hungarian thermal baths/spas.

This is indeed a unique experience: it is kind of a big water park but there are no slides, only pools, plenty of them, with different water temperatures, outdoors and indoors, just with water or with some salts and herbs added, steam rooms and saunas. Hungarians claim these will treat any of your diseases. That's one thing you MUST experience in Budapest. For more information, please, see the link:

I also would like to say a couple of words with an educatioal institution I was associated with: CEU- Central European University. I think what is unique about it is diversity: it attracts students from all over Central Europe, including all those tiny countries most people have never heard of. This is a great place to learn about the region.

Another thing that is unique about CEU is the Department of Gender Studies. I never heard about anything like this anywhere I went, may be you have? Up to this day I am puzzled about the essence of this program. I was doing my MBA at that time and didn't have an opportunity to go into details about that department but it felt like they were studying differences between men and women and also feminism. For one, the absolute majority of the class were ladies and only 1 or 2 men. Well, this is still an unsloved mystery for me and I invite you to try to "solve" it, if nothing else, it would be a great learning experience:

The last thing I would like to mention about my Hungarian experience is the fireworks. I was lucky to see tremendous fireworks in 1999 in Budapest, which celebrated, if I am not mistaken (and let the Hungarians forgive me) 1000 years of the foundation of Hungarian State. I have never ever in my life seen anything like this before in its length, might and beauty! And I have seen a number of good ones, like Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee fireworks in London, several Independence Day fireworks in USA, 300-th anniversary of the Russian Navy fireworks - all really good but Hungarians made it an excellent unforgetable show! If you are lucky enought to live till the 1500's anniversary of the Hungarian State or even better - 2000's :-)))) make sure you are in Budpest at the end of august - I promise you an experience of a lifetime!

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