Tag Archives: Hungarians

Corruption in Hungary

Corruption is a harmful, but widespread phenomenon in Hungary, which is part of the everyday life and the politics. It affects the government’s relationship with the EU, the USA and Russia too. But why is it growing nowadays? What is the role of bribery in Hungary, a country led by the prime minister Viktor Orbán since 2010?

Corruption or “mutyi”- a term recently popularised by the Hungarian media – is no longer considered an outstanding phenomenon in Hungary. With a silent consent of the Hungarian society, bribery became a part of everyday life during the soft dictatorship of the Kádár-era; people still pay additional sums to receive better service in hospitals or faster administration in offices.

Képtalálat a következőre: „Corruption in Hungary”

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Neighborhoods: Exploring Budapest’s gritty 8th District

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A gritty Budapest neighborhood that’s been compared to parts of New York City is hoping to attract visitors with a new tour about its history and unique ethnic mix.

Known as Jozsefvaros (Joseph Town), Budapest’s central 8th district is not typically featured in guidebooks. The far side of the neighborhood has been called the Bronx or Harlem of Budapest, its ethnic mix dominated by Roma — as Gypsies are often called — but also featuring Turks, Chinese, Arabs, Africans and others in an ever-richer blend.

Gypsy musician Zoltan Farkas plays a violin in his workshop in Budapest’s gritty 8th district on May 18, 2015 in ...
Gypsy musician Zoltan Farkas plays a violin in his workshop in Budapest’s gritty 8th district on May 18, 2015

Aiming to break down prejudices and stereotypes, Roma volunteers from the Uccu Foundation provide tours not just for foreigners but also for Hungarians, especially students who may not know this part of the city.

“We just wanted to show the people how Roma people are living here, the everyday life,” said tour guide Andrea Ignacz, a student at the Central European University who also spoke of how some Hungarians avoid the area because “they are really afraid to come here.”

The 90-minute tour starts at the beginning of Nepszinhaz utca (street) and its stops include a visit with a Gypsy violinist, a pawn shop, an art gallery and the recently restored Matyas Square.

A memorial to Jewish residents killed in the Holocaust is an opportunity to discuss the Roma genocide during World War II and the fact that the European Parliament recently voted to name Aug. 2 as the European Roma Holocaust Day.

Also on the itinerary is the former warehouse of the Dreher beer factory, now a residential building with a magnificent mosaic high on its facade depicting an old-fashioned beer festival.

“The best thing about this tour is that it’s given by Roma to non-Roma,” said Kaity O’Reilly, a student from Richmond, Virginia. “I think it’s very important for a group to own their identity and spread their stories as their stories and not have someone who doesn’t have that history or that background try and show it.”

The neighborhood hopes to benefit from Budapest’s tourism boom. Hungary’s capital city is now regularly featured among top 10 places to visit in the region after years of playing second fiddle to Prague as the key destination in post-communist Central Europe. Budapest’s must-see attractions include the neo-Gothic Parliament, the Castle District, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Dohany Street Synagogue and Heroes’ Square area.

Like Budapest, which has two sides, hilly Buda and flat Pest, straddling the Danube River, Jozsefvaros has two distinct areas as well. The dividing line here is the Jozsef (Joseph) Ring Road. Closer to the Danube are the Palace Quarter and the grand, neo-Classical National Museum, while the section of the neighborhood where the tour takes place is on the “wrong side” of the tracks of the No. 4 and No. 6 trams — the “korut,” as the ring road is called.

The palaces found in Jozsefvaros are not yet fully renovated and the art galleries are just a couple of rooms big — but no less interesting than what you might find elsewhere in Budapest. And the area’s development has improved noticeably over the past decade, helped by the opening of a few stations on the M4, a new subway line that cuts across the district.

Independent of the Roma tour, Jozsefvaros has several other places worth seeing, including the abandoned but imposing Salgotarjani Street Jewish Cemetery, the market hall at Rakoczi Square, the Orczy-kert park with the nearby Natural History Museum and Fuveszkert (Botanical Gardens) and the Baroque Jozsefvaros Parish Church.

Restaurants and bars on that side of the district include the Csiga Cafe (Vasar utca 2), the vegetarian Macska Cafe and Gallery (Berkocsis utca 23, opens at 4 p.m.), the Mirage (Nap utca 23), Rosenstein Restaurant (Mosonyi utca 3) and the hip bar Hintallo Iszoda (Bacso Bela utca 15).


If You Go…

JOZSEFVAROS: Tours of Jozsefvaros, a Budapest neighborhood with a unique history and ethnic mix, are offered by the Uccu Foundation, uccualapitvany@gmail.com. Tours can be arranged in English. There is no fee but donations welcome.

Top 10 things to do in Hungary

FROM its famed thermal baths to its ‘city of lights’ to an abundance of history, Hungary is your new ‘must visit’ destination.

The Szechenyi Spa Baths in Budapest is one of the best places to relax in Europe

1. Hungarians know how to relax – perhaps linked to the country’s rich tradition of spa towns and regenerative treatments.There are around 150 thermal water baths across Hungary, with several located in Budapest.The Szechenyi Spa Baths in the capital is one of the best in Europe, with 15 indoor baths and three outdoor pools. (szechenyispabaths.com)

2. Just two hours from Budapest is the ‘geological curiosity’ that is Lake Heviz – the largest biologically active thermal lake in Europe.

Lake Heviz

The town of Heviz is surrounded by hills and enjoys an inviting year-round Mediterranean climate, while the lake also maintains a toasty temperature and is surrounded by a beautiful nature conservation area. (lakeheviz.com)


3. While Hungary might not be the first country that springs to mind when it comes to fine wine, the dessert wine produced in the Tokaj wine region is actually called the ‘wine of kings’.

The microclimate of these low-lying hills provides the ideal conditions to create world-class wine. (tokaj.hu)

4. The stunning city of Budapest is often referred to as ‘Paris on the Danube’.

Packed with cultural gems, one of the best is undoubtedly Buda Castle.

A World Heritage site, this spectacular palace was built during the 18th Century and is topped off by a 61-metre high central dome.

There’s also plenty of exciting renovation work currently going on in the city, including the proposed new museum district.

5. The spectacular ‘blue’ Danube has long been a mecca for river cruise enthusiasts, and this iconic waterway flows through Hungary from north to south, splitting Budapest in two.

The Danube Panorama itself is a World Heritage site, and the eight famous bridges of the capital offer stunning views of the river. (bridgesofbudapest.com)

6. Aggtelek National Park lies near Hungary’s border with Slovakia, with which country it shares the protected Caves of Aggtelek Karst.

Today more than a thousand caves are known about making it the largest cave system in Central Europe. (anp.nemzetipark.gov.hu)

7. The northeast spa town of Eger is one of the most popular in Hungary, and also home to the imposing Eger Castle.

Eger is also famed for its wine, medicinal waters and is considered a food-lover’s paradise.

Hungarian strudel called ‘retes’ comes highly recommended. (egrivar.hu)

8. Siófok sits on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, and is now considered to give Ibiza a run for its money in the summer party stakes.

It boasts a busy port, 17km long beach and an exciting mix of night life and adventure sports. (hungary-tourist-guide.com)

9. The Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden is located right in the heart of the city and will celebrate its 150th birthday in 2016 with plans to expand.

From its gorgeous butterfly garden to the ‘America Tropicana’ there’s a wealth of animals to see and plenty to do. (zoobudapest.com)

10. Hungary has survived many periods of oppression in the past, and there are now several moving memorials to this in Budapest.

The fascinating House of Terror museum is located in the former headquarters of both the Nazi and Communist regimes where hundreds died.

The moving Shoes on the Danube sculpture on the banks of the river is a tribute to the many Jews who died there. (terrorhaza.hu)

7 things you never knew about Hungary

1. Last names come first

In Hungary, when people write their names or introduce themselves, their last name comes first. They say “Nagy Gábor vagyok” or “I’m Nagy Gábor.” This doesn’t mean people call each other by their last name; it’s simply the formal way of introducing yourself or presenting a name publicly. If I were Gábor’s friend I would just call him Gábor. It’s worth mentioning that other than Hungarians, worldwide only some Asian people present their names in this fashion.

2. Take my name, all of it

Sticking with the topic of names, when a Hungarian woman gets married her entire name changes. So if Eva marries Nagy Gábor, she publicly becomes Nagy Gáborné or Mrs.Nagy Gabor/ wife of Nagy Gábor. Again, her friends and family will still call her Eva, but if she was interviewed on TV her name would appear as Nagy Gaborné. It’s important to note that this tradition isn’t as common nowadays, and married women can do as they please name-wise. So my wife Anita (if she chooses) can now be FitzGerald Colmné!

3. Hungarians are not Slavic

Aside from Austria and Romania, Hungary is surrounded by Slavic nations. So it comes as a surprise to many that Hungarians aren’t Slavic as well. The origins of Hungarians, or Magyars as they call themselves, is a topic of heated debate and fantastical theories abound. Most experts agree that the Magyar tribes originated somewhere between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains in present day Russia. Others schools of thought suggest that Hungarians have a Sumerian/Iranian origin.

Others still promote the idea of a far-east connection with Attila and his marauding Huns, as evidenced by ancient Magyar horsemanship and archery skills. There is also evidence that prior to settling in the Carpathian Basin (where Hungary is now) that the Magyars traded and aligned with Turks and Bulgars.

There certainly is a lot of controversy and some people take the Magyar origin topic VERY seriously. One thing I think we can all agree on: Hungarians are undoubtedly unique!

4. This is wine country

Tokaj, Hungary

One might be led to think that Hungarians have a deep history of beer swilling like the Germans and Czechs. One also might surmise that Hungarians are habitual vodka shooters like their northern neighbors. Now don’t get me wrong, Magyars love their beer and liquor, but historically this IS wine country.

There are 22 distinct wine regions and eight indigenous grape varieties in Hungary. Evidence of viticulture dates back to at least the 5th-century AD and only three European languages have words for wine that are not of Latin origin: Greek, Turkish and you guessed it, Hungarian.

The Tokaj wine region of northeastern Hungary, famous for its sweet Aszú and dry Furmint white wines, is the most well known. In 1737, Tokaj was delimited as a national wine area by King Karoly, making it the world’s first official wine region, almost 120 years before France’s Bordeaux.

Following WWII Hungary fell into the hands of the Soviets. And in similar fashion to everything else they did, the Communists chose quantity over quality and more or less ruined Hungary’s reputation as a producer of fine wine.

But many small-time winemakers kept their time-honored traditions alive during those dark times. And today, passionate vintners are reviving Hungary’s love for good wine and in turn foreigner’s love for Hungarian wine.

5. Hungarians love hot water

Thermal Bath in Budapest

Many are aware of Budapest’s famous Gellért and Széchenyi thermal baths, but not everyone knows that Hungary is actually overflowing with hot springs. The country boasts around 1,500 spas, 450 of which are public.

Lake Hévíz , in western Hungary, is the 2ndlargest thermal lake in the world and is located near Lake Balaton ( not thermal, but the largest lake in Central Europe). In addition, the Miskolc-Tapolca Cave Bath in northern Hungary is one of only two natural thermal cave baths in the world.

6. Hungarians boast brains and brawn


Relative to its population size of around 10 million, Hungary is a damn talented nation. It’s no secret that Hungarians have contributed greatly to modern science with a stunning number of inventions and breakthroughs, including the helicopter, the ballpoint pen, and the Rubik’s cube.

Some say that the Hungarian language’s structure is so unique that it allows for a completely different train of thought, and this is why Hungarians have been so scientifically influential; their minds work unlike the rest of ours.

Hungary isn’t just full of nerds and mad scientists though, with 476 Summer Olympic medals, this little country also has its fair share of athletic freaks.

The nation has the most medals of any country that hasn’t hosted the games and the Hungarian soccer team is the winningest in Olympic history. If we go by population size, Hungary is second only to Finland in most gold medals won!

7. Naming your kids requires government approval

Back to the name game: In Hungary, you are required to name your child from a pre-approved list of names. The list is extensive and continuously growing.

But if you are dead set on a name for junior that isn’t listed, you must submit your application to the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and hope it gets approved.

Hungarian Cubes: the houses of post-war communism photographed by Katharina Roters

German-Hungarian artist Katharina Roters has produced a series of photographs documenting the ornamental patterns added to standardised dwellings in Hungary as an expression of individuality 

The Hungarian Cube is a regimented type of home dating back to the 1920s, which can be found in many of the country’s towns and suburbs. The buildings have become closely identified with post-war communism, and were often decorated by residents, creating an inadvertent protest against standardisation.

Roters was initially attracted to the geometric patterns, but came to realise that  the “Kadar cube” – nicknamed after communist president János Kádár – triggers “a mixture of disregard and hostility” that has led to many of the houses being torn down.

The artist has now collated the series into a book entitled Hungarian Cubes, which she hopes will serve as a historical record of the “almost absurd beauty” of the phenomenon.

In 2003 I moved from a major German city to a small Hungarian village. I took my first photos of the local people’s houses, on account of their almost absurd beauty. What particularly drew my attention were the simple geometric patterns, which on occasion look like abstract paintings.

I found myself increasingly fascinated by the incredibly irresistible quality of this ornamental phenomenon. In the digital post-processing, I eliminated all superfluous elements from the analogue photographs – power cables, tree branches, satellite dishes etc. Only in this way do these ornaments, transformed into pure signs, form their specific typology.

Hungarian Cubes – Invisible Houses by Katharina Roters

My outsider’s view enabled me to see these houses and their ornamentation without the ballast of intellectual and emotional significance attributed by the indigenous insider’s view.

In the eyes of the rural population, these houses are simply no longer up-to-date and are therefore – in keeping with their residents’ financial means – either being completely torn down or at least renovated, insulated and consequently newly plastered. These witnesses to a way of life are slowly but surely disappearing.

My outsider’s view enabled me to see these houses without the ballast of intellectual and emotional significance

In the course of my work with regard to this phenomenon within the Hungarian cultural context,

I continually came across a kind of floating gap. Seen from the internal perspective, both the present and the most recent past seem to be engaged in a search for origins, while the period of goulash communism represents the blind spot of Hungarians’ own collaborative past, which is the reason why the contemporary elite is also oscillating between the pre- and post-socialist periods.

Hungarian Cubes – Invisible Houses by Katharina Roters

This is also in all likelihood why – with few exceptions – the “Kadar cube” triggers a mixture of disregard and hostility, and why until now there has been no comprehensive, visual, systematic treatment of this phenomenon.

These “Kadar cubes”, which have dominated practically all of traditional construction culture, seem to symbolise not only their epoch, but also how this epoch was viewed.

They are the “botched workers and peasants bastard” that defaces the landscape like a gaping wound, and their ornamental attributes are dismissed as nothing but superficial, “slapdash, kitsch potpourri”.

Hungarian Cubes – Invisible Houses by Katharina Roters

However, despite all of this, it gave rise to something that the serial production of the state socialist housing programme – administered by the elite mentioned above – was not in a position to deliver: a unique, specific language of form.

The period of goulash communism represents the blind spot of Hungarians’ own collaborative past

A radically altered cultural matrix pushed a newly formed rural social stratum into a hybrid pre-urban/post-folkloristic way of life: that of re-nomadised commuters under their tent roofs.


These commuters required new options for individual and collective identification, and thus created practices of their own. In these uniformly built houses, the traces left by habitation inscribe themselves and reflect their inhabitants’ ideals of house and home.

The commuters’ delight in ornamentation thus reveals itself as a type of ritualised formula, pointing a way out of the vacuum of alienation. It is the magical and animistic significance of the ornamental that served both the sense of individual identity and as a means of socialisation for these newly formed working people.

Hungarian Cubes – Invisible Houses by Katharina Roters

Furthermore, this spontaneous ornamental practice is a gesture coming from below, which might almost be termed avant-garde.

This initiative took off and was made possible in the first place by the interplay of this most comical of barracks in the socialist camp of the private-sector construction industry tolerated in the shortage economy, and the counter-collective of the traditional “kalaka”, which eluded state control.This practice is an unconscious subversion, running counter to indoctrinated collective visual conformity. Hungarian Cubes showcases a virtual village, as a place of remembrance for this epoch.

Hungary to build barrier to keep out migrants– Serbia ‘Shocked’

Migrants are detained by Hungarian police officers near Roszke, south of Szeged in Hungary, 21 May 2015.

Hungary says that it will build a fence along its border with Serbia to keep out migrants.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that officials had been told to prepare a plan for a barrier along the frontier, stretching 175km (109 miles).

He added that Hungary could not afford to wait for the EU to find a solution to immigration.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of migrants and asylum seekers entering Hungary.

The government said about 54,000 migrants entered the country so far this year, compared to 43,000 people in 2014.

‘Physical closure’

Police registered 10,000 people illegally going over the border in January alone.

However, tens of thousands of Hungarians have also been leaving the country.

Mr Szijjarto (left) said that the fence will be four metres high and will stretch across the border with Serbia

“Immigration is one of the most serious problems facing the European Union today,” Mr Szijjarto told a press conference on Wednesday.

“We are talking about a stretch of border 175 km long, whose physical closure can happen with a four-metre high fence. The interior minister received an instruction to prepare that.”

Mr Szijjarto said that the fence will not contravene any of Hungary’s international obligations and that the plan will be prepared by next week.

Critics say that that the announcement is the latest anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Hungarian government.

Many of the anti-immigration posters have been defaced

A recent government billboard campaign with messages such as “If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians!” has caused controversy – and prompted the UN to prepare its own billboards highlighting refugees who have successfully integrated into Hungarian society.

The poster campaign is part of the government’s efforts to win public support for tough new immigration laws that are expected soon.

Hungarian officials have said that the billboards were part of a voter survey on immigration that was sent to eight million Hungarians.

The immigration questionnaire asked people whether they agreed that immigrants endangered their livelihoods and spread terrorism.


Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he is “surprised and shocked” by the Hungarian government’s plan to close the border with Serbia and erect a fence along the shared border to keep out illegal migrants.

“I am surprised and shocked. We will discuss this decision with our Hungarian colleagues,” Vucic told Serbian state TV during a visit to Oslo.

Earlier on June 17, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the government instructed the Interior Ministry to “begin preparation work for a 4-meter-high fence along the length” of the 175-kilometer border.

“Immigration is one of the most serious problem facing the European Union today,” Szijjarto told journalists. “The EU’s countries seek a solution, but Hungary cannot afford to wait any longer.”

The number of migrants and asylum seekers entering Hungary, mostly across the southern border with Serbia, has sky-rocketed since the second half of 2014.

Officials said that so far this year, some 54,000 migrants had entered Hungary, up from 43,000 in 2014 and 2,150 in 2012.

Hungary’s poster war on immigration

State-funded billboard in Budapest reads: "If you come to Hungary, do not take Hungarians'" jobs

“If you come to Hungary,” reads a giant roadside billboard, “don’t take the jobs of Hungarians!”

The billboards have been ordered by the government, at taxpayers’ expense, and are going up all over the country.

Liberal and left-wing opposition parties are so incensed by a message they believe whips up xenophobia, that activists have started defacing every poster they find.

Anti-immigration poster defaced with smiley in Budapest

The original text of this poster, next to the Obuda cemetery in Budapest, reads: “If you come to Hungary, you have to keep our laws.”

“Our laws” has been painted over, and the words “National Consultation on Migration and Terrorism” have been altered to read: “National Insult on Migration and Terrorism”.

Anti-immigration poster defaced with the slogan: "See it not only look at it"

Another billboard has been defaced even more drastically, with the slogan: “See (what’s going on), don’t just stare!”.

The billboard campaign is part of a government effort to win public support for tough new laws, expected after the summer break, aimed at limiting migration to Hungary.

These changes may include the erection of a border fence along Hungary’s southern border, and returning asylum seekers to Serbia.

Now critics of the government’s moves have found an ally, in the form of the regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.


To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, the UNHCR has prepared its own set of giant billboards, highlighting refugees who have successfully integrated into Hungarian society.

This poster features Zeeshan, a Pakistani man who plays in the enthusiastic, but little known, national cricket team.

“I want to play well for this country,” his message reads.

UNHCR poster

Another UN poster features Sophie, originally from Togo, and now a nanny in a Hungarian kindergarten.

“The children are full of trust. They have no prejudices,” her caption reads.

UNHCR poster

“We want to live here, and that’s why we opened our restaurant,” announces Begum Ali, who runs a small Bangladeshi family restaurant near Budapest’s East Station.

The UN describes its posters as an “interesting dialogue with the Hungarian government’s anti-immigrant billboard campaign”.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government points out that its billboards were part of a voter survey on immigration sent to eight million Hungarians.

While there has been a marked increase in the number of migrants arriving in Hungary, tens of thousands of Hungarians have been leaving the country, too.

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