Hungary - A Glance At The Country
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Hungary consists of Hungary proper, with Transylvania (which had independent rule at one time), Croatia and Slavonia (which have been added), and the town of Fiume on tho shores of the Adriatic Sea.
The lowlands are exceedingly beautiful in the northeast and west, where the great mountain peaks rise into the clear blue sky or are hid-den by big white clouds, but no beauty can be compared to the young green waving corn or the ripe ears when swaying gently in the breeze. One sees miles and miles of corn, with only a tree here and there to mark the distances, and one can not help comparing the landscape to a green sea, for the wind makes long silky waves, which make the field appear to rise and fall like the ocean. In the heat of midday the mirage, or, as the Hungarians call it, "Delibab, " appears and shows wonderful rivers, villages, cool green woods—all floating in the air. Some-times one sees hundreds of white oxen and church towers, and, to make the picture still more confusing and wonderful, it is all seen upside down. This, the richest part of the country, is situated between the rivers Danube and Theiss, and runs right down to the borders of Servia. Two thirds of Hungary consist of mountainous districts, but one third has the richest soil in Europe.
Great rivers run through the heart of the country, giving it the fertility which is its great source of wealth.. The great lowlands, or "Alfold," as the Magyars call them, are surrounded by a chain of mountains whose heights are nearly equal to some Alpine districts. There are three principal mountain ranges-the Tatra, Matra, and Fatra—and four principal rivers—the Danube, Theiss, Drave, and Save. Hungary is called the land of the three mountains and four rivers, and the emblem of these form the chief feature in the coat-of-arms of the country.
The Carpathian range of mountains stretches from the northwest along the north and down the east, encircling the lowlands and sending forth rivers and streams to water the plains. These mountains are of a gigantic bulk and breadth; they are covered with fir and pine trees, and in the lower regions with oaks and many other kinds. The peaks of the high Tatra are about 9,000 feet high, and, of course, are bare of any vegetation, being snow-covered even in summer-time. On the well-sheltered sides of these mountains numerous baths are to be found, and they abound in mineral waters. Another curious feature are the deep lakes called "Tengerszem" (Eyes of the Sea). According to folklore they are connected with the sea, and wonderful beings live in them. However, it is so far true that they are really of astonishing depth. The summer up in the Northern Carpathians is very short, the nights always cold, and there is plenty of rain to water the rich vegetation of the forests. Often even in the summer there are snowstorms and a very low temperature.
The Northeastern Carpathians include a range of lower hills running down to the so-called Hegyalja, where the wonderful vine which produces the wine of Tokay is grown. The south-eastern range of the Carpathians divides the county of Maramaros from Erdely (Transylvania). The main part of this country is mountainous and rugged, but here also there is wonderful scenery. Everything is still very wild in these parts of the land, and tho mineral waters abound everywhere, the bathing-places are very primitive.
The only seaport the country possesses is Fiume, which was given to Hungary by Maria Theresa, who wanted to give Hungary the chance of developing into a commercial nation. Besides the deep but small mountain lakes, there are several large ones; among these the most important is the Balaton, which, . altho narrow, is about fifty miles long. Along its borders there are summer bathing-places, considered very healthy for children. Very good wine is produced here, as in most parts of Hungary which are hilly, but not situated too high up among the mountains. The lake of Balaton is renowned for a splendid kind of fresh-water fish, the Fogas. It is considered the best fish after trout—some even, prefer it--and it grows to a good size.
The chief river of Hungary is the Danube, and the whole of Hungary is included in its basin. It runs through the heart of the country, forming many islands; the greatest is called the Csallokoz, and has over a hundred villages on it. One of the prettiest and most cultivated of the islands is St. Margaret's Isle, near Budapest, which has latterly been joined to the mainland y a bridge. Some years ago only steamers conveyed the visitors to it; these still exist, but now carriages can drive on to the island too. It is a beautiful park, where the people of Budapest seek the shade of the splendid old trees. Hot sulfur springs are to be found on the island, and there is a bath for the use of visitors.
The Danube leaves Hungary at Orsova, and passes through the so-called Iron Gates. The scenery is very beautiful and wild in that part, and there are many points where it is exceedingly picturesque, especially between Vienna and Budapest. It is navigable for steamships, and so is the next largest river, the Theiss. This river begins its course in the Southeastern Carpathians, right up among the snow-peaks, amid wild and beautiful scenery, and it eventually empties its waters into the Danube at Titel. The three largest rivers of Hungary feed the Danube, and by that means reach the Black Sea.
Hungary lies under the so-called temperate zone, but there does not seem much temperance in the climate when we think of the terrible, almost Siberian winters that come often enough and the heat waves occasioning frequent droughts in the lowlands. The summer is short in the Carpathians; usually in the months of August and September the weather is the most settled. June and July are often rainy—sometimes snowstorms cause the barometer to fall tremendously. In the mountain districts there is a great difference between the temperature of the daytime and that of the night. All those who go to the Carpathians do well to take winter and Alpine clothing with them.
The winter in the mountains is perhaps the most exhilarating, as plenty of winter sport goes on. The air is very cold, but the sun has great strength in sheltered corners, enabling even delicate people to spend the winter there. In the lowlands the summer is exceedingly hot, but frequent storms, which cool the air for some days, make the heat bearable. Now and then there have been summers when in some parts of Hungary rain has not fallen for many weeks—even months. The winter, too, even in the more temperate parts, is often severe and long, there being often from eight to ten weeks of skating, altho the last few years have been abnormally mild. In the valleys of the Carpathians potatoes, barley, oats, and cabbages are grown, while in the warmer south wheat, maize, tobacco, turnips, and the vine are cultivated. Down y the Adriatic Sea the climate is much warmer, but Hungary, as already, mentioned, has only the town of -Fiume of her own to boast of. The visitors who look for a temperate winter and want to get away from the raw cold must go to the Austrian town of Abbazia, which is reached in half an hour y steamboat, and is called the Austrian Riviera. Those who visit Hungary should come in spring—about May—and spend some weeks in the capital, the lowlands and hilly districts, and go north to the mountains and bathing-places in the summer months.
Tokay produces some of the finest wine in the world, and the vintage time in that part of the country is most interesting and picturesque.