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The Republic of Hungary is a landlocked country located in Central Europe. Most of Hungary lies within the Pannonian Basin and borders Austria to the northwest, Slovakia and the Ukraine to the north, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south and Slovenia to the southwest. It covers a territory of 93.036 sq km and has a population of 10 m people. In May 2004 Hungary became member of the European Union. Its capital and largest city is Budapest with about 1,7 m inhabitants.
Hungary experiences a relatively dry continental climate with cold winters and warm summers.
In 1873 Buda and Pest, situated on opposite sides of the Danube, merged into one city. Most of the city’s sights can be found along the banks of the river. The Art Nouveau style Gellért Thermal Baths are situated at the foot of Gellert Hill on the west bank. North of it there is the former Royal Palace, today housing the National Library, the National Gallery and the Budapest City Museum. Close by you find the neo-classical Sándor Palais, residence of the Hungarian President. Also on Castle Hill there are the Mathias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The Houses of Parliament, the Academy of Sciences, the Corvinus University, the National Theatre and the Palace of the Fine Arts are located along the east bank of the River Danube. Budapest is famous for its nine bridges across the River Danube, particularly the Chain Bridge, which is the oldest and most important of them.
A traditional and very unique part of the Hungarian landscape is the Puszta, a wide plain of grass and bushes. This sparse grassland was only suitable as pasture land. The Great Hungarian Plain, known as Alföld, along the River Tisza, however, included some floodplains and single groups of trees. In the 16th/17th century, during Ottoman rule, floodplains were drained and forests were cleared leading to soil salinity. Today’s typical landscape with wells, single farmsteads, extensive pasture farming and cultivation of tobacco, corn and sunflowers was established through intensive irrigation. The original Puszta landscape can only be found in the Hortobágy National Park east of Budapest.
The 79km long and 7,8km wide Lake Balaton, located in the hilly western part of the country, is not only the largest lake in Hungary but also the largest fresh-water lake of Central Europe. In summer the lake is very popular among families due to the low water-level and high water temperatures. Its beaches, spas, thermal springs and its closeness to the Austrian border (about 120 km) makes Lake Balaton, besides the City of Budapest, the most important tourism centre in Hungary.
Set in the heart of the Great Hungarian Plain, Lake Tisza is Hungary’s largest artificial lake. It was established in 1973 to control floods of the River Tisza. The 127 sq km and about 1,3 m deep lake is the biggest fishing water in Hungary and a very popular local recreation area for nature lovers and water sports enthusiasts. Its bays are perfect for bathing, jet-skiing, motor boat driving and lots more. Right from the beginning it has been an angler’s paradise because of its diversity of species and size of the fish. The northern part of the lake, the Bay of Tiszavalk can only be visited on guided tours. It is a protected bird sanctuary controlled by UNESCO. Only a few of the 16 islands on Lake Tisza can be visited as they are also part of a protected breeding ground for birds.
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