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July 20, 2010 / Helene Bienvenu, travel-writer

What ‘hungaricums’ and festivals are all about in Hungary! La Hongrie, royaume des ‘hungaricums’ et des festivals de toutes sortes…

Hungary is just full of festivals in the summer (not to say all year-long) and among them it’s easy to find pretty random ones! Especially in small towns and villages. I should really make a list of those I heard of, or experienced myself, Baja would be high on it! Kiskőrös too. Petőfi’s birthplace (disputed by Kiskunfelehegyhaza, a nearby town…) has its own festival. But it has nothing to do with the famous Hungarian poet and spiritual freedom fighter. It’s about Slovak strudels (don’t ask me what’s the difference between a Slovak strudel baked in Hungary and a Hungarian rétes, there is probably a slight difference…), after all Kiskőrös has – well better say, had coz somehow it’s fading away- a big Slovak population… Then comes Siklos paprika chicken fest and Békescsaba kolbasz (paprika sausage) festival… And there is a lot more to come when I have time.

So a festival in Hungary can be about anything really: some kind of palinka (fruity brandy), wines, music, dance, folk crafts, and FOOODD, of course! By food I mean that people usually take the ‘bogracs’ (big caldron) to the street and start cooking their local dish for hours… Hungarians like to revere their ancestors, and they still use this medevial-looking pot, the supposed tool that Hungarians used to cook goulash in (was is already goulash then?), on their way to the Carpathian basin some 1 100 years ago.

In other words, whatever the festival is officially about, there is always a lot of ‘hungaricums’ to enjoy on the spot. Hungarians are into those things they claim they are the only ones to have (ie ‘hungaricum’)! Most of them are indeed specific to the Hungarian culture, true enough. So here you go with some items: palinka, paprika (of course), magyar delicacies, lots of different folk dances and folk music, wines, wines, and wines, mind you, the the list can be quite long! Good places to make a lot of new HU friends I can tell you!

Anyway, so Baja is famous for its fish soup as the Danube river flows into the city (where it joins the Sugovica which is actually part of the Danube as well). Baja people will happily tell you that they have a dozens of fish shops in the city (for 37 000 inhabitants), which is quite unusual for a Hungarian city as Hungary has been a landlocked country since Trianon treaty (1920).

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