The Hungarian Language

As I look at my past posts, I realise that there is one glaring omission: the Hungarian language! And so, I'd like to correct this now with some basic Hungarian words and phrases.

While I did buy the usual 'Learn Hungarian' phrasebooks before I arrived in Hungary, the Hungarian language is (apart from very few words) completely unrelated to other European languages (ok, yes, there are some links to Finnish if that helps). But just because it's not related to other languages, don't get discouraged - with a little practice, you can soon be ordering things in shops and asking where the toilet is :-)

Btw, Hungarians are quite proud of how difficult their language is, but they LOVE it when people make the effort to speak Hungarian (ok, ok, I can't guarantee that everyone will love it, but most people will :-)

Anyway, here are some essential words and phrases. I've attempted to add the everyday phonetic version in square brackets [], but it's best to hear it, so I've included a few links to some good YouTube videos below too.

Essential Words

Yes = Igen [ihh-gen]
No = Nem [nem]
Thank you = Köszönöm (or köszi for short) [cus-uh-num, cussy] (like the cus in abacus)
Sorry = Boscánat (or bocsi for short) [botch-aa-not, botchy]
Excuse me = Elneszest [el-neh-zesht]
Cheers = Egesegedre [egg-eh-shay-ged-reh]

Essential Phrases

Good day = Jó napot [yo nah-pot]
Good evening = Jó éstét [yo esh-tayt]
Hello = Szia [see-ya]
Thank you very much = Köszönöm szépen [cus-uh-num say-pen]
I'm sorry = Sajnálom [shy-nal-om]
I don't speak Hungarian = Nem beszélek magyarul [nem be-say-lek ma-jar-rule]
I only speak a little Hungarian = Beszélek csak egy kicsit magyarul [be-say-lek edge kitch-it ma-jar-rule]
Do you speak English? = Beszélsz angolul? [be-sayl-z an-gol-ool?]
I would like ... = Kerek ... [kay-rek]
Where is the toilet? = Hol van a WC? [hol von ah VC?]
I'm ... = ... vagyok [vadg-ok]


1 = egy [see the video below for the pronunciation :-)]
2 = kettö (or két for short)
3 = három
4 = négy
5 = öt
6 = hat
7 = hét
8 = nyolc
9 = kilenc
10 = tíz

There are of course hundreds of words and phrases you could learn, and if you're staying for more than a few weeks, then I would recommend studying them a bit.

If you're staying for a long time, then I should add that I took a month long intensive course in Hungarian at Ulysses Language School (, and I can absolutely recommend that. It cost about €250-300 but it was everyday and by the end of the course I found that I really could understand so much more.

Anyway, people, have fun with speaking Hungarian, and don't worry if you get it wrong - just trying will score lots of points with the locals :-)

Those Hungarian Language YouTube Videos

Football: Hungary vs. Liechtenstein

On Friday I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see Hungary play a friendly match again Liechtenstein at the Puskás Ferenc Stadion. Now I admit it, I like football, and so I couldn't pass up the chance to see Hungary play, even though it was only a friendly. My Mum and her husband were visiting, but I couldn't not experience watching Hungary play in Hungary, so I dragged them along too—actually, I didn't have to do too much dragging, since they enjoy football too.

So we took the metro from Astoria up to the stadium and, not know exactly where the stadium was, we decided to follow the large crowds of people—I guessed that they were going there too, and luckily it turned out that they were. One of the reassuring commonalities between football matches in all countries is that there will always be hordes of fans drinking cans of beer on the way to the match, as well as industrious entrepreneurs selling beer in their makeshift shops, which consist of a fold-up chair and about 10 cases of supermarket beer.

After getting searched for knifes and other weapons we were eventually let into the stadium grounds, and quickly made our way to the stands. How should I describe the stadium ...? Well, in the words of my father-in-law "It's not Wembley". That's true. It wasn't a newly constructed, multi-million dollar stadium. On the contrary, while the pitch was obviously well cared for and maintained, the stadium itself looked as if no one had invested in it since it was opened in the early 1950s. But still, the stadium was at least half-full and so there was lots of chanting, which mainly consisted of some sort of shouting contest between the stands, where one would shout "Hungaria and the other reply "Magyarok", i.e. Hungary, Hungary. It all created what was actually a nice atmosphere.

Now, we have to remember that Hungary was playing Liectenstein, a country with about as many inhabitants as my hometown in England ... so less than 40,000. The players are therefore part-timers, who probably have day jobs as bank clerks, plumbers and insurance salesmen, so most of the match consisted of Hungary attacking. All in all it was an entertaining match—I won't give a detailed analysis of the entire match, suffice to say that Hungary spent most of the match attacking. So, perhaps it was to be expected that they won 5-0. But that was good, everyone was happy and singing, and they all left the ground in a good mood. I was pleased as well, not only because Hungary won, but also for the chance to see Hungary play, which incidentally is exactly 100% more times than I've seen the English national side play!

Sightseeing: Heroes Square

Since I have quite a lot of family and friends visiting over the next couple of months, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to play "tour guide" and learn about some of the sights of Budapest. And so, in no particular order, I'm going to start with Heroes Square, or Hősök tere as it's known in Hungarian.

Heroes Square is on the Pest side of the river, and at the end of the lovely tree-lined Andrassy Avenue (oh dear, this is already starting to sound like a tourist brochure - I apologise in advance). It's also on the number 1 metro line (the yellow line), and rather unsurprisingly you just have to get off at Hősök tere.

As you can see from the picture, it's a big column along with lots of statues - yeah, okay, that description doesn't really do it justice. It's actually a really nice place, a large square with the Museum of Fine Arts on one side and the Palace of Art on the other - both beautiful buildings in their own right.

The main monument was finished in 1900 and is called the Millenium Monument. It was apparently constructed when Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The statues at the base of the main column are the 7 tribal leaders who originally formed Hungary, while the statues in the semi-circle part of the monument represents various saints and important figures in Hungarian history. The first one is Szent Istvan (Saint Stephen), the first king of Hungary, the rest ... well, I'll leave that to you to find out :-)

Just one more thing ... around the square there are also some other places worth visiting ... there's Széchenyi Spa Bath, Vajdahunyad Castle, an ice skating rink, all in the city park behind Heroes Square. Here's a link to some more information about them on Wikipedia.  

Ok, that's my tourist-brochure bit of the day :-)

The "Ruin" Bars

One of the many cosy corners
 at Szimpla
After having been here a couple of months now I've been to a few of the bars in the city centre - certainly not all of them, because there are literally hundreds ... from small, 1-room bars crammed in-between shops, cafés where you can sit outside and people watch, open-air bars (which I assume are closed in the Winter), to the posh (and not so posh) multi-floor discos.

Anyway, of all of these bars my favourite are the "ruin bars" as they're known, mainly because of the atmosphere - relaxed, friendly, and there's always a buzz about them. They're called ruin bars because they're set in the courtyards of large, half-derelict buildings in the VI and VII districts. The biggest ones that I've found so far are Szimpla and Instant, with lots of different levels and rooms and styles. Okay, maybe the styles aren't all that different - the furniture is a mix of old chairs, sofas, benches all thrown together around an old table. Szimpla is a more relaxed place, where the music isn't so loud, and you can even rent a water-pipe if you want. If you want to dance then I'd recommend Instant, since there are dance floors playing different styles of music hidden away in the building.

You can get lots of different drinks (soft drinks, beer, cocktails, shots), which are all relatively cheap (about 2 euros for a beer). And even though it's a little expensive, you should try at least one of the many different flavours of pálinka - a traditional fruit flavoured brandy - sour cherry was my favourite, at least, from what I remember it was :-)