Where East and West meet
Despite its status as one of Europe’s oldest continually-existing nations, this country of rolling plains and low mountains has one of the continent’s most tumultuous histories. Between its 9th century unification under Arpad the Magyar and the end of the Cold War in 1991, Hungary was attacked and occupied by a steady stream of foreign invaders—Mongol, Habsburg, Ottoman, Nazi and Soviet. Against all the odds, though, this ancient land has managed to retain much of its traditional identity, which visitors can experience first-hand as they sample local dishes such as goulash and dobos cake, bargain for handiworks or explore the country’s diverse architecture. Don’t miss Budapest, the nation’s picturesque capital on the Danube River, whose name derives from the 1873 unification of its western (Buda) and eastern (Pest) districts. Amid the hustle and bustle of this modern European capital, give a nod to history and visit any or all of its world-class attractions: Buda Castle, Parliament (complete with a display of the Crown Jewels) and St. Stephen’s Basilica, to name but a few. For a more relaxed option, take a soak in one of Hungary’s many thermal pools, which have been enticing foreigners—both friendly and hostile—since Roman times. Lake Heviz, whose gaseous waters are laced with a variety of naturally-occurring elements, is said to relieve the symptoms of everything from arthritis to traveler’s fatigue.