To be honest, I knew almost nothing about Hungary before I came to CEU. I was planning to spend my free time on traveling in those famous cities of Europe like Vienna, Rome, Paris, etc. Because of our limited conception of Hungary in China, some of my Chinese friends even asked me whether I would visit “the Grand Budapest Hotel”, which comes from a popular film but is actually located in Germany.
When I arrived in Budapest, the astonishing scenery exceeded my imagination. I regretted that I did not plan my trip to Budapest ahead of schedule. Then on a weekend in autumn, I joined a cultural field trip of my department and traveled to the northwest cities of Hungary, including Sopron, the frontier city. This time I realized that the most attractive parts of Hungarian history are medieval ruins. After visiting friends in Vienna and Paris, I found that Hungarian cities are unique and exotic. I went to Miskolc, a quiet city in the northeast with secret beauty. These three excursions established my romantic imagination of Hungary and made me desire to explore more places in Hungary.
To incoming students, I would suggest not to miss any opportunity to travel around this country. The more you see, the more you become eager to know about it.
Buda of Budapest
If you live in the CEU Residence Center, you can register for the “City Tour” at the reception desk. It is for free and you can also get your transportation fee waived. The tour guide will briefly introduce you to most of the splendid attractions of Budapest, especially on the Buda side. There you get the Royal Palace, Fishermen’s Bastion, Budapest History Museum, Hungarian National Gallery, Castle Hill, etc. On the hill, you can overlook the scenery of the Danube River and the Pest side. After this tour, you'll already have a picture of a travel plan in your mind, and you will definitely love to go there for a walk again and again.
The medieval culture of Sopron
As a border town between Hungary and Austria, Sopron is famous for the Pan-European Picnic in the late twentieth century which indirectly resulted in the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, its most amazing legacy is the medieval culture, introducing guests to the ancient life of Hungarians. In the inner town, you can climb the Fire Tower, visit several medieval museums, enjoy the beautiful architecture of churches and synagogues, explore Roman ruins, and fall in love with those fantastic streets and lanes. Window shopping for travel souvenirs is a nice experience as well.
The secret beauty of Miskolc
Miskolc, my personal favorite, is one of the largest cities in Hungary. The first site to see is the Castle of Diósgyőr, which was built in the twelfth century. Inside the castle, you can drink a cup of coffee in a medieval pub, explore the mysterious room of alchemy, have fun by experiencing weapons and armors, and enter one of the largest halls of medieval Central Europe. Then you must visit the Ottó Herman Museum and learn the history of this wonderful city. If you are traveling in the summer, I would recommend you visit the Cave Bath, which is one of the many unique thermal baths in Hungary because it was built in a natural cave. Don’t miss it.
Next year I would love to visit more parts of Hungary with my friends: Lake Balaton, the largest lake of Continental Europe; Eger, which has the best Hungarian wine; and Mohács, which is famous for the Busó Carnival, the most impressive Hungarian festivals. How I wish I could have more free time!
By Wenqian Zhang, alumni scholarship recipient student in the Department of History.