IPA London North Social Secretary Kiran Gharial recently visited Hungary. Here is his story.
In early September 2016 I attended IPA Hungary’s 25th anniversary celebrations. I arrived in Budapest on the afternoon of Monday the 5th and was met at Liszt Ferenc Airport by fellow IPA member Sojal who kindly led me to the awaiting mini-bus for the half hour drive to 3 star hotel Benczur to check-in for registration and accommodation.
Upon registration I was greeted by further IPA members including Gabriel, Gellert, Maria and Timea where I was presented with a traditional Hungarian wine bottle and a sculptured candle-holder as a gift. With registration complete, I managed to get a few hours rest before attending the evening welcoming party for the hundred (or so) guests, which included an inviting speech by the IPA Hungarian President, Tamas Simon, followed by a traditional Hungarian dinner and dance session. A wonderful start to the event!
On Tuesday morning we travelled to Hortobagy. This is the largest protected area and natural grassland in Central Europe with cattle, sheep, oxen and horses tended by herdsmen, and it provides habitat for various different species. This is also an 800 km national park in Eastern Hungary in the puszta, rich with folklore and cultural history. The park was designated as a national park in 1973 and elected among the World Heritage sites in 1999.
Next, we travelled to Eger – home to the Castle of Eger which is an important part of the 16th century fortifications of Hungary torn into three parts at the time. Its most important episode in history came in 1552, when the defenders led by Istvan Dobo successfully beat back the overwhelming Ottoman army. The victory, also captured in literature, is an important event in Hungarian memory and heroism. Thanks to the history of the castle and the exhibitors of the castle museum it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Hungary.
This was followed by a visit to the world famous Hungarian wine region of Eger for a visit to Juhasz winery which included a guided tour and some splendid wine tasting followed by a traditional tavern dinner within the venues wine cellars.
On Wednesday morning we travelled to the pottery factory of Herend, which was founded in 1826. It carries out experiments on making porcelain and developed the first true porcelain pieces in a very short time. At first the porcelain made in Herend included some replacement pieces and replicas of porcelain made in the famous German Meissen factory, soon however, a very unique line emerged making Herend famous all over the world. The factory, still specializing in luxury hand-painted porcelain, is located close to the city of Veszprem and near Lake Balaton. This was a great opportunity for a guided tour of the site and to learn that many celebrities and art connoisseurs along with kings, queens and aristocrats of the 19th & 20th centuries had been customers of Herend porcelain.
In the afternoon we visited Lake Balaton which the locals call Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake, the Hungarian sea. It became Hungarians number one vacation resort after the Trianon Treaty following World War 1 when large areas of Hungary, including some seashore along the Adriatic Sea, were taken away.
Today all members of the family will find something to do at Lake Balaton whether it’s bathing, sailing, horse riding, playing golf or wine-tasting. Next we embarked on a cruising boat trip along lake Balaton, giving us a chance to relax, take in the sights and enjoy the wonderful scenery of the region.
On Thursday morning we visited Zwack Unicum Museum and the Zwack factory. Zwack is a Budapest, Hungary based company that makes liqueurs and spirits. The company produces an 80 proof (40% alcohol) herbal liqueur known as Unicum from a secret blend of more than forty different herbs and spices. Unicum is known as one of the national drinks of Hungary. Zwack has been listed on the Budapest Stock Exchange since 1993.
In the evening, we were entertained to the lights of Budapest from a river boat cruise along the river Danube. As well as being treated to a fantastic dinner of sizzling traditional Hungarian dishes, there was the opportunity to let your hair down and go dancing to a duet singing and playing some classic, golden tunes.
Friday was the day of the official celebration of IPA Hungary’s 25th anniversary, at the Hotel. Participation at the ceremony was either in uniform or IPA dress. I made sure that my tunic was looking good for the event and was one of the few attendees that had brought full uniform along to the occasion. Looking back, I am now glad that I did as I had plenty of compliments from the other participants.
It was, indeed, an exciting ceremony with two Orchestral bands playing a variety of music as well as one of Hungary’s finest violinists playing some classic tunes. In the evening we spent our time getting acquainted with Budapest by means of sightseeing tours arranged by bus and on foot including the building of the Hungarian Parliament – a magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture and is just over 100 years old. Construction began in 1885 and the building was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary in 1896 and fully completed in 1902. It is the third largest Parliament building in the world. We were fortunate enough to have a guided tour which covered the main entrance stairs and hall, the lobbies, the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Afterwards, we travelled to an isolated hilltop restaurant in the middle of nowhere (literally) which overlooked the river Danube and the lights of Budapest from the Buda mountains. It was here that we were entertained to Hungarian Folklore and traditional dances, enjoying modern wines & traditional dishes. The view from the restaurant balcony across the river Danube, late evening, was absolutely stunning.
Saturday following breakfast it was time to say goodbye and farewell to new made friends and acquaintances. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gabriel, Maria, Gellert, Timea, Sojal and Tamas for their kind generosity & hospitality as well as to congratulate IPA section Hungary on the success of their 25th anniversary celebrations.
Travel opportunities are one of the many benefits of IPA membership. If you are not a member of the IPA and would like to join or would like information about the IPA please visit http://www.ipa-uk.org