Christmas in Hungary

In Hungary the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. In addition to the usual decorations, we also put fondant candies on and under the tree. According to the Hungarian tradition, the Christmas presents are brought by baby Jesus, although some families (who belong to other religions or atheists) follow the Santa Claus tradition, which was promoted also by the communist government that ruled until 1990.
Typical Hungarian Christmas dishes include: fish soup

or bouillon, stuffed cabbage,

roast turkey with stuffing, and the famous poppy seed or walnut rolls.

The poppy seed or walnut roll is a traditional Hungarian pastry, mostly eaten during the winter holidays. It is basically a sweet bread, known as beigli in Hungary. During the last few decades other variants (such as chestnut, plum jam, prune, or even cocoa) have become popular, too.

Poppy is widely consumed in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. The sugared, milled mature seeds are eaten with pasta, or they are boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry. In countries where eating poppy seed is not so common, people think that it can be dangerous or even lead to a positive drug-test.

Szaloncukor (literally: "parlour candy")

is a type of sweets, traditionally associated with Christmas in Hungary. It is usually made of fondant, covered by chocolate and wrapped in shiny coloured foil. It is often used as decoration on Christmas trees, hung on with strings or small metal hooks. Fondant candies originally came in a few flavours (vanilla and strawberry for example), but now there is a wide variety of different kinds of candies, including jelly, coconut, hazelnut and lots of other flavours.

I wish for everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS !


Hever Castle, Kent

In mid-October I traveled to England a few days. I spent most of the time with my children and grandchildren, but I managed to visit the 13th century Hever Castle, with my grandchild Zsolt. My son took us by car. The trip was half an hour from East Grinstead only.

Hever Castle, located in lovely countryside south-east of London, is perhaps one of the most enchanting moated castles in Britain. Not only is the castle attractive from the outside, it is simply gorgeous inside, and it is steeped in the kind of history that everybody loves to hear—about the sordid activities of Henry VIII, and of Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was beheaded.

The oldest part of the castle was built in 1270, and consisted of a massive gatehouse and walled Bailey surrounded by a moat (we could still see an excellent example of a portcullis when we went over the drawbridge). It wasn't until 1500 that the Boleyn family (then spelt Bollen) added a comfortable Tudor house inside the walls.

Anne Boleyn was born at Hever Castle in 1509, but she spent much of her childhood at court in France where her father, Sir Thomas Bollen, was an Ambassador. After the family's return to Hever, Anne was appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, and thus she attracted the attention of the king.

When Henry proposed to Anne she reminded him that he already had a wife, and refused to be his mistress. This was a huge challenge to Henry who went against both the Church and the Law to marry Anne. He first removed England from the jurisdiction of the Pope and established the Church of England, with himself as Head; he suppressed the monasteries, and started the Reformation.

In January 1533 Anne and Henry were married, six months before his divorce was actually finalized, and Anne was already pregnant with the baby that was to be the future Queen Elizabeth I. However, Anne had several miscarriages and a still-born son, and Henry was outraged because he wanted a son and heir. On May 2, 1536, Anne was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London on a trumped-up charge of High Treason and later executed, so Henry was free to remarry.

Henry then murdered Anne's brother, appropriated Hever Castle and later gave it to another wife, Anne of Cleves, who owned it for the next 17 years. At her death it was bought by the family who became the 1st Baronet of Hever Castle, but from 1749-1903 it fell into disrepair until it was bought by the American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor.

The Astor family is a classic story of "rags to riches". In 1783 a butcher's boy named Johann Jakob Astor emigrated from Germany to America where he became a successful trapper. He eventually set up a trading base at the mouth of the Columbia River in north west Oregon which was named Astoria in his honour.

However, he became disillusioned with America, developed a passionate love for Europe, and took his fortune (estimated at $100 million) and moved to England. In 1903 he acquired Hever Castle and began to restore it, and, happily for his efforts, in 1916 he was created Viscount Astor, the 1st Baron of Hever Castle.
However, a problem arose in that the castle itself was too small for William Astor to both live in and entertain, therefore he decided to build a Tudor-style village for his guests,

Each house is distinct, built of different materials, in different shapes, angles and styles, the result being a series of charming individual cottages, which we could see from each side of the castle, joined by corridors and service areas. Finally, Viscount Astor combed the world for objects of art to decorate and furnish his castle, and the result is a treasure house of collections set in elaborately-decorated rooms, in many of which the plaster work and woodwork is incredibly and intricately beautiful.

Yet Hever Castle is a warm, friendly kind of castle in which we could actually imagine living a stately home which can be visited time and again when, each time, you are likely to discover something new. He created many gloriously colourful gardens of many different styles, most notably the Italian Garden, which leads down to a laggia at the lake.

William Astor died in 1919 but, fortunately, his family continued with his restorative work and also contributed enormously to charity. In 1963, the 2nd Baron Astor of Hever decided to open the castle to the public, and at his death the 3rd and present Baron, John Jacob, continued to do so, although the Tudor village remains private for guests at the many special functions which take place in the castle.

Anne and her father are buried in St. Peter's Church in Hever Village outside the castle.

For history buffs: the Tudor Long Gallery in Hever Castle features scenes from the life and times of Anne Boleyn; and the Astors of Hever Exhibition illustrates the important part the Astor family played in the restoration of the castle and gardens.



Ich denke so, mein Weihnachtskaktus ist nicht geschaut auf den Kalender. Er hat schon so viele Blumen.
I think so, my Christmas cactus is not looked at the calendar. He has so many flowers.
Je pense que oui, mon cactus de Noël n'est pas regardé le calendrier. Il a autant de fleurs.


Subotica - Serbia

In October I went to Subotica one Saturday.

My workplace organized the trip. I don’t like to travel with a group. I like to organize it myself. In a group then we always need to wait for someone or there’s a programme that is not very interesting for me. I have never been to Subotica, so I was happy with this opportunity. I knew it too late, that this journey is mainly shopping in the market. We had only a few hours to visit the city, but it is worth seeing. There are some very beautiful art nouveau buildings and an atmospheric city centre.

We could see inside the town hall with a travel guide.

Surely I will to go once more to see everything better.


In Geneva again

I wrote in my blog long time ago. I was very busyin my work and I did a lot of travelling several times. In September I travelled for the second time to Geneva , this time with my friend. I had 4 days now. The weather was beautiful, not as in March. We went for a walk on the bank of the Lake Geneva,

at the old little villages near Geneva: Carouge,


and the nice suburb Chambésy

We walked through the border to France and we went up to the top of the Saleve mountain with a ski-lift. (cable-car)

We went to the St. Peter Church tower on foot. From here view there was wonderful.

After that we then walked in Geneva old town again. I managed to look at the Town Hall.


Balaton highlands

Last weekend we travelled to the Balaton highlands once more. We were unlucky, because the vintage festival was reorganize for the next weekend. Saturday morning we left Budapest by car. Our friends travelled by train. We met in Balatonszepezd.

Former fishing-village of 420 inhabitants built on hills along the shore and surrounded by hills and forests. Stewards lived in the village in the 13th century, later on it was the domain of local nobles, of Veszprém Episcopate and of Somogyvár Benedictine Abbey. The inhabitants suffered a lot from the Turkish invasion were completed with German colonists in the middle of the 18th century. Szepezd beach was established by Vince Víriusz on his own domain at the centenary who gained distinction at the time of phylloxera epidemic in the protection of vineyards and in domesticating new species. First Statutes of Bathing Association of Víriusz Domain is from 1933. Roman Catholic church (the only votive church of the area) was built in the 13th century in Roman style, upon the pledge of fishermen got into a storm. The small church is erected directly above the shore on a hill, for a long period of time its white tower had showed the way home to fishermen. The Reformed church and the Evangelic one both built at the end of the 18th century in late Baroque style are located opposite to each other in the centre of the village. A former mansion of dr. Gyula Sebestyén professor of ethnography built in Irish style in Szepezdfürdő, today it is a hotel. A huge sand-stone rock scribbled all over with Székely runic writing called Heathen Stone can be seen in the garden of the mansion. Temporary exhibitions in Szepezd Gallery (Árpád street) in summer. The Roman Catholic church is floodlighted. The traditional vintage procession and merry-making is held in the village in the middle of September.

We put down our luggage and we started beside the lake bank at Badacsony.

For hundreds of years poets, novelists and painters have been calling the Badacsony and its vicinity the most beautiful landscape in Hungary. One of the greatest achievements of the Hungarian nature conservation movement is that the basalt quarries opened here in 1903 have finally been closed down. The famous playwrighter Ferenc Herczeg made powerful efforts in the Upper House in the 1920s to have them closed. A press campaign was also launched, but the last quarries where only finally closed in 1964. Those on the Gulács and Tóti Hills were abandoned at the end of World War II and in the early 1950s. The Szentgyörgy and Csobánc Hills are more fortunate: their basalt was not found suitable for building purposes, so there are only small wounds on their flanks. The basalt mountains of the area are not only unique and picturesque geological relics, they are also the habitat of many rare plants and animals. In addition to the natural values it is worth to mention the vineyards dating back to the Roman times, the architectural relics of the hills and villages: ruins of castles, churches, palaces, as well as the relics of popular architecture.

The way was about 10 kms. We walked through the village Balatontomaj, saw
the Catholic Church Szent Imre and we went to the mooring.

There was a big crafts market here and on the lake bank there were many food stalls with fish meals, desserts, wine and fresh grape juice. We were bathing in the lake, after that we ate a delicious dinner. There was hot summer weather, about 30 degrees.
We went back to our accommodation by train.

On the following day we hiked in Káli basin. It is a very nice countryside. We walked
about 15 kms.

The most characteristic part of the Balaton Uplands was granted protection - perhaps at the last moment - when a protected landscape area in the Káli Basin was established in 1984 on an area of 9,111 hectares. Geological features of the area contribute to its outstanding natural values. Its geological structure is extraordinarily varied: we find Permian red sandstone mountains in the south, huge basalt mountains in the north, sandstone conglomerates in the west, limestone and dolomite in the east and in the middle of the basin. The basalt mountains stretch to the northern edge of the area in a broad plateau, to the valley of the Eger Creek. The bogs of the area are of outstanding botanical value. In the Sásd meadows west of Köveskál, we find the largest population of a rare subalpine primrose; this plant can only survive in cool and humid places. In 1992 nature conservation experts undertook habitat reconstruction by placing wooden locks here, to prevent the bogs from drying out. Since 1983 the directorate preserves the rich flora of the wetland of Tódi-kút in Kővágóörs by a water supply system operated by a wind mill. Floating sphagnum has survived from the Ice Age in two bogs of the basalt plateau of Fekete Mountain. There are several protected orchids, gentian and iris in the bog meadows of the mountain.

There were a lot of places with a beautiful view over the lake.

The end of the trip was in Nagyvázsony village.

The castle is the 15th century Kinizsi Castle, where Pál Kinizsi, King Matthias well-known general lived with his family. Next to the castle museum you can find a tourist hostel. In the neighbourhood of the castle the Post Museum and the Open-air Museum of Ethnography can be found. The former presents the development of telecommunication, the latter gives an insight into the life and running of the one-time flourishing trade guilds of Vázsony. The late baroque Zichy mansion and the ruins of the Paulite monastery are also worth visiting. Apart from the sights of the cultural heritage, Nagyvázsony offers wine tasting and the picturesque landscape awaits the lovers of horse riding, cycling, hiking, hunting and archery. Several cultural programmes are held in the town. In the summer season Castle festivity is held every day. The church concerts, the theatre performances, the knights tournament are popular programmes. Nagyvázsony is involved in the series of cultural programmes called the Valley of Arts.

Here we saw the castle and we went back by bus and train to Balatonszepezd.
On Monday there was a short walk only, because we needed to return Budapest in the afternoon. We saw the sights in Szigliget village.

The village of 1,000 inhabitants located in the neighbourhood of Badacsony was an island at the time when the level of water of Balaton was higher. Nowadays its area is a peninsula jutting out far into the lake. There are only a few places in Hungary presented with so much natural beauty as Szigliget. On its rocks you can see the more than 730-year-old castle built by the abbey of Pannonhalma in 1262. The houses of the village with thatched roofs are located downwards from the Castle, graded one under each other, in a semicircular order. New streets down in the valley hidden at the foot of Majális Hill, Kámon Stone, Soponya Top, ´Queen´s Skirt´ and Akasztó Hill, getting down to the lake-shore. A small village with a church had been developed under the Castle belonging to it as usual in the life of a border fortress. The Castle passed into royal proprietorship and then from 1521 for centuries it became the property of Tóti-Lengyel family. The Turkish tried to take the Castle on the top of the steep hill several times but they always failed, however, they burned down all the villages around it. At that time the Castle was the strongest point of the system of border fortresses at North-Balaton; it served the purpose of a harbour for the Hungarian "fleet". Upon the order of Emperor Leopold issued in 1702 the Castle was blown up. The characteristic structure of the village has been saved, the whole internal territory of the village is protected. The Tóti-Lengyel mansion under the Castle was built in baroque style, currently it operates as a restaurant.

From the village there was a very interesting study trail too.

If you take the circular study trail (marked with blue T signs) starting from the church of Szigliget, you can get to know the sights of one of the most beautiful settlements and its surroundings at Lake Balaton with the help of information boards in Hungarian and English. The trail was named after a rock-range revealing the signs of volcanism called Kamon-kő. The walkway runs through the lovely streets of the village enabling you to study the history of folk architecture, traditional viticulture and reed-farming, to look at the ruins of a church from the 13th century. The information boards in the forest present the development of the lake, the native flora and fauna, as well as the major stages of the geological past, the world of formerly active volcanoes. The study trail is 6 km long, the difference in level is 290 metres. This distance can be covered at a convenient pace in 2,5-3 hours including short breaks.

We had lunch at the foot of the castle and after that we went home.