Lots to see and spicy food to sample in Budapest, elsewhere

Sunday, March 16, 2003

It's a good time to visit Eastern Europe to sample the scenery and culture of Hungary, home of sweet wines, food spiced with paprika, scenic countryside and centuries of history.

Start your visit in the city of Budapest -- www.fsz.bme.hu/hungary/budapest/ -- and look up "Picture Gallery" for a brief introduction to the city's scenery. Read up on the city's history, beginning with an early Celtic settlement, and then take "A Little Tour" to get acquainted with the Castle District, the Inner City and more.

The city's Web site also has an essential "Practical Information" section with sketchy directories of places to stay, a list of museums (there's a link to the Web site for the Hungarian National Museum) and a guide to public transit.

Detailed information about the nation's art and major museums is available at Art in Medieval Hungary -- http://home.hu.inter.net/(tilde)jekely/ -- where you'll also find information on the Holy Crown of Hungary and other regalia. Then visit Fine Arts in Hungary -- www.kfki.hu/keptar/ -- for more discussion, pictures and links.

Learn more about Budapest from the "Budapest and Beyond" section of the National Tourist Office -- www.gotohungary.com/ -- which touts the city as having "an image more exotic and mysterious than any other Western capital," and outlines areas from the old Obuda section with Celtic and Roman ruins to the caves of Gellert Hill. That same part of the tourist office Web site will show you the attractions of other areas of Hungary, including Lake Balaton, and describe the nation's food and wine heritage.

Click on the tourist office's "Choose a Tour" for suggested itineraries, including castles, wineries and Hungary's centuries-old horse-raising traditions. If you want someone else to worry about the details and schedule, they also have references to tour companies. And according to "General Information," English is widely understood, and no visa is required with a U.S. or Canadian passport.

See what you're missing by taking a virtual tour of Hungary Photo Diary -- www.spin.si/robertb/hungary/ -- from a globe-trotting photographer named Robert Bremec.

Travelers on a really tight budget should look over Backpackers Youth Hostels Budapest -- www.backpackers.hu/ -- whose information isn't limited to hostels. Among other things, they provide guides for walking tours and "a glutton's guide to Hungarian cuisine."

Northwestern Hungary has a little of everything from medieval villages to baroque and Renaissance palaces, according to the regional information at CyberHungary -- www.cyberhungary.net/ -- and the area around Lake Balaton is a wine-producing region with dozens of resort hotels. And look under "Culture" for more on spas, castles with photos, wines and horses.

Head for the English section of "Hungary's official touristical homepage" -- www.hungarytourism.hu/ -- and look for "Hungaricums" or Hungarian specialities, for the lowdown on Bull's Blood wine, apricot brandy and paprika. "Food & Drink" has recipes for sour-cherry strudel and stuffed cabbage with dill.

Try the Hungarian Culture Homepage -- www.port.hu/kultura/index--a.htm -- for links to Web sites on monuments, museums, galleries, literature, religion, sciences and more. Be patient; some links are dead ends.

There's still more at the U.S. Library of Congress -- http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/hutoc.html -- including geography, history, people and the economy.

Editor's note: E-mail comments and tips to cyber trip@ap.org.

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