A miscellany of merchandise on display at one of the many antique shops in Budapest
© AA Photo Library
Hungarian cuisine's best-known export, gulyás (goulash), is made with beef, onions, potatoes, paprika, tomatoes and garlic. Salami is a regular item, as is lecso, a mix of peppers, tomatoes, onions and bacon fried in pork fat. Pastries also are specialties, sold in the cukrászda (pastry shop). Try palacsinta, thin pancakes filled with chocolate or curd cheese.
Rural Hungarians produce and sell beautifully crafted items such as embroidered blouses and carved wood furniture. You can buy these in city stores, at national parks and from street sellers like the brightly costumed Transylvanian (Romanian) Hungarians.
Wine is another good Hungarian buy, sold by dealers in the main vineyards, such as Eger. Many give tastings in their barrel-lined cellars.
Go to street markets in the main towns and cities, such as the popular morning flea market on the southwest outskirts of Pécs. This is one of the biggest open-air markets in the country, selling antiques, crafts and food. On Sundays it also sells livestock, and the place is packed with country people.
Some of the most fascinating ethnic communities have inevitably become big tourist magnets. Hollókő is filled with visitors for the August Palóc Festival and for Easter - an important celebration everywhere, marked with processions, egg-painting and a ceremony involving splashing girls with water or perfume.
Summer festivals attract the crowds to Pécs and Sopron in June, and on St. Stephen's Day on August 20. There are fireworks, fairs and processions all over Hungary.
The state railroad, Hungarian Railways (MÁV), travels to most of the country. There are special tickets offering unlimited use of the network for seven or 10 days: contact MÁV ( Address: Andrássy út 35, Budapest Phone: 1 353 2722, fax 1 353 2187).
Accommodations are not limited to city hotels. The Danube bend, a spectacular deep gorge north of Budapest, is lined with attractive towns where many private homes offer rooms, often for negotiable rates. The resorts around Lake Balaton are another option.
For overnight stays on the Great Plain, try the Epona Hotel in Hortobágy National Park ( Address: H-4071 Hortobágy-Máta, Czinege utca 1 Phone: 52 369 020 or 52 369 092) or Pongrácz-Major Hotel near Kesckemét ( Address: H-6041 Kerekegyháza, Kunpuszta 76 Phone: 76 371 240 or 76 710 093).