Hungary And The Hungarians
( Originally Published 1924 )
I HAVE always suffered from "Wanderlust" and have crossed the Atlantic Ocean twenty-four times and the continent of North America six times. I spent four weeks at sea going from Halifax to Capetown during the South African War and three months going and returning from the Orient. I have travelled in all the countries of Europe except Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Greece and Turkey.
Travel is a great joy to meŚnew peoples, new lands, new ideas or ancient civilizations interest me intensely.
Bacon says "Travel in the younger sort is a part of education; in the older sort, a part of experience." Dr, Samuel Johnson wrote "The use of travelling is to regulate by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are."
The study of languages has always been a pleasure, for I learn them easily. During my student days in France and Germany I learned to speak French and German fluently, and I can, or could, read Spanish, Italian and Dutch, but, for want of practice, I am losing them. Had I established my practice in some large American city my linguistic accomplishments would have been a real asset.
In 1909 an International Medical Congress was held in Budapest, Hungary. I was appointed official representative of the Canadian Government and sailed for Europe with my wife early in June, picking up my daughter, who was at school at Lausanne, on our way to Vienna.
We found on our arrival at Budapest that reservations had been made for us at the Hotel Jaeger Horn, which was filled with delegates.
The meeting of the congress was remarkable, being attended by representative medical men from most of the nations of the world.
We were cordially and officially received by the government of Hungary, through their spokesman, Count Apponyi, Minister of Education (who recently visited Canada).
Among the interesting events of the congress was a Masonic reception, to which we went secretly, followed by Government spies. I regret that I am unable to relate what took place at this remarkable affair. Suffice it to say that Continental is not like Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry, for it has a political bias. I was chosen to speak for the English-speaking brethren and delivered a fiery address on Liberty, based on my reading of history.
The reception at the Royal and Imperial Court of the delegates by the Archduke Francis, on behalf of the Emperor, was eurious and interesting.
At seven o'clock in the evening we presented ourselves at the palace and mounted the magnificent state stairway, carpeted in red and lined on each side by gigantic Hungarian Royal Guards, clothed in scarlet uniforms, which fitted tightly like underclothes. On their heads were conical steel helmets, from the point of which protruded a red feather at least two feet long. They were armed with great antique halberts. It was a scene of barbaric splendor.
We were ushered into the great audience hall, around which stood scores of royal servants in modern court uniforms. A very polite officer of the court having requested the official representatives to move into another gorgeous hall, we were lined up, for there were no seats, and at length His Royal and Imperial - Highness, having dined comfortably, made his appearance. He began at the end of the line, which was arranged alphabetically by nations, Allemagne (Germany) being first, spoke to and shook hands with each delegate. By the time he had passed " Grand Bretagne" (Great Britain) it was 9.30 and having stood for two and a half hours, with no dinner, we broke away for the dining-room, thus absolutely smashing all rules of court etiquette. We expected to get a substantial meal, instead of which we found fish sandwiches and champagne, hundreds of bottles of which lined the buffet.
We ate the sandwiches greedily and drank the wine in tumblers. It was not long before it began to make its influence felt. The sedate and scientific gathering became hilarious and noises not usual in Hmperial palaces made the chandeliers rattle. Some of our members began playing pranks on the solemn lackeys and were hugging the footmen like long-lost brothers. Eventually the learned doctors zigzagged their way down the steep road which led to the bridge across the Danube and reached their lodgings with the aid of friendly policemen and citizens.
I have attended several of these huge international gatherings and looking back I would say that I doubt if much scientific benefit is derived from them. There are so many sections scattered about in different buildings and so many social engagements to distract the attention. The proceedings of the Congress are published later and can be referred to, but seldom are. But the doctors have a rare good time.
Another notable event was the dinner given by the medical officers of the Austro-Hungarian Army to the visiting medical officers at the Nobles' Club. This gorgeous entertainment was attended by hundreds of officers in full uniform. How little did we think when we drank toasts with the Austrians and Germans that in five short years we would be at war with them ! Yet in my subsequent tour through Germany I found that the militaristic and commercial had taken the place of the sentimental and idealistic spirit which formerly animated that people and in a paper which I read before the Canadian Military Institute in 1910, I foretold that a great war was not far distant, in which we might become involved. My forecast was received with polite smiles. Like Lord Roberts, I was considered to be a " scare monger."
Budapest is composed of two cities, divided by the Danube, and is a very ancient place, although there are not many signs of antiquity now, for it is intensely modern and indeed more advanced in some respects than the cities of North America.
It has a municipal council of 400, half of whom are chosen by the most highly assessed citizens the other half by popular vote. The streets are kept beautifully clean by being divided into beats. Each worker keeps from 1,500 to 4,000 square yards clean, depending on the amount of traffic. Snow is cleaned off in the same way and dumped in the Danube.
Budapest has a municipal bread factory which produces about 60,000 pounds of bread daily. The food supply is carefully inspected, as is the milk and drinking water.
The city has a unique newspaper, the " Telephon Hirmonde," which telephones its news instead of printing Ľ it. Instruments with loud-speaker attachments hang on the walls of cafes and announce the news of the day, thus antedating broadcasting by radio.
Budapest is the greatest bathing resort on earth. It has calcium and magnesium, carbonic, bitter, mud, and hot springs within its boundaries. Apenta and Hunyadi Janos waters are, or were before the war, exported to all parts of the world.
Hungary has various races which go to make up the nation. The Magyar is no savage, but a serious man who is making his mark in the world's progress. He is of medium stature, with a short head, broad face inclined to oval, short nose, small eyes and ears and a finely-cut mouth. He has strong, vigorous hair with a large open forehead and a large chest denoting endurance and strength. He is active and often elegant, is inclined to melancholy, but capable of great energy when excited. Patriotism is his fetish. He is a descendant of the Scythians. The Slovaks are a dour, hardy race and inhabit northern Hungary. They are descended from the Moravians. There are about 350,000 unkempt and unwashed Gipsies in Hungary. They are picturesque nomads and for personal uncleanliness they cannot be beaten.
They are supposed to have wandered out of Asia in the fifteenth century and to some extent in language bear a striking resemblance to some of the races of India. The late Archduke Joseph made a complete study of them and spent much time attempting to civilize them, but without success.
They live by begging and stealing, trading horses and cattle, but every effort to settle them on the land has failed. We are all familiar with their wild music, the Csardas, for instance, which has a hypnotic quality which none other equals.
Hungary has produced some great musicians, such as Rimenyi, Brahms and Liszt, of whom it may be said with Longfellow:
"And when he played, the atmosphere
Was filled with magic, and the ear
Caught the echoes of that harp of gold
Whose music had so wierd a sound.
"The hunted stag forgot to bound,
The leaping rivulet backward rolled,
The birds came down from bush and tree,
The dead came from beneath the sea,
The maiden to the harper's knee."
Hungary has become a republic since the breakup of Austria, and strange to say that is not illegal because the Golden Bull of 1686 gives the estates of the realm the right of resistance should the king infringe the liberties of the people. The office of king is semi-elective, though vested in the Hapsburgs, but the people have the right to change the succession ; therefore, when Carl presented himself for election, they rejected him. The election and coronation of a king takes place on the express condition that the constitution should remain unimpaired and further that he must be crowned within six months after his election. I do not know of any other nation which possesses this peculiar constitution. I have little doubt that eventually they will return to a monarchical form of government. The country is governed by a parliament which sits in one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the world. ft is a tempestuous body, as might be inferred from the temperamental character of the people; hence cabinets rise and fall like the waves of the sea.