IT was after dinner. We were sitting round the fireplace over which there was a Reynolds portrait of one of my host’s ancestors. There were some twenty of us in the room, most of them English, but there were also some Americans, a Swede and a French married couple. Of the company I only knew our host, whose charming personality was an important contributor towards my great love for the spirit and traditions of the English home and for the Englishman in general.
During dinner I sat next to Miss Betty Glinton. The only thing I knew about her was her name, which I read on the little place-card in front of her. Additionally—and as a matter of course I had also observed that she had lovely hands, a transparent complexion, dark red hair and most interesting green eyes. I would not venture to say that her face was radiating a great beauty, but it reflected intelligence, a little irony and a good humour. I guessed that she was over thirty, though I felt that this impression of mine would not by any means meet with her approval.
After dinner we continued our argument, whose subject seemed to both of us so much more important than the Treaty of Locarno. She said that the Irish Terrier was the very finest dog on earth, and I tried to convince her that the Hungarian Puli leaves all dogs behind in all respects. Later on I discovered that both of us were addicts to fishing. She resented it when she heard that I had a preference for Florida and Mexico to the waters of England and France.
“What is your nationality?” she asked with a gentle hint at my English, which is by no means perfect.
“What d’you think?”
Miss Glinton was glad to be involved in a new kind of social game and her eyes began to examine my whole physical appearance. I felt a trifle ill at ease as I had never regarded myself a beauty. She looked at my reddish hair for quite a long time, and discovered that it is discreetly though but quite definitely making its way towards gradual disappearance.
“Dutch,” she said finally, in a voice that suffers no contradictions.
“Sorry. My parents had otherwise decided.”
She looked at my tie and my shoes.
“I swear that I am not one.”
Her glance swept over me again and as a result she decided that I must be Swiss. Then she said that I was French. Later on she thought I was a Pole, and in a surprisingly short time she gave a list of all European nations. Finally she gave it up. Her eyebrows arched:
“Can’t you share your terrible secret with me?”
“It isn’t a secret. I am a Hungarian.”
Miss Glinton began to protest with such a righteous indignation as if she had caught me cheating at cards.
“Excuse me, I did say that!”
“You did not.”
Our argument became so fiery that several people in the room became conscious of it.
Miss Glinton whispered:
“But I did say it. I said you were an Austrian, didn’t I?”
“Oh, well. I might as well say in turn that you are Portuguese.”
“Why? Surely Austrians and Hungarians are the same. Don’t you speak German in Budapest?”
I seized her arm:
“For God’s sake, Miss Glinton, don’t make that statement again and aloud. It is the greatest mistake, which originates from the fact that the Austrians and Hungarians had formed a monarchy for several centuries, under the same dynasty: the Habsburgs. But that does not mean that the Hungarians belong to the Germanic race or that the Hungarian language is a German dialect. We Hungarians are the most lonely people in Europe.”
Miss Glinton looked at me with surprise:
“Then who are you Hungarians after all?”
“We are the Young-Man-Of-Twenty-One in Europe.”
“What do you mean?”
“We had lived twenty thousand years in Asia and a thousand years in Europe. Twenty plus one is twenty-one. And a young man of twenty-one, who has left his parents’ roof at twenty, cannot change himself completely in a single year. That is why we have still retained a good many Eastern traits. If you come to Hungary you would see a good deal of Asia in the native dresses of some of our villages.”
“But why did you leave Asia if you had enjoyed staying under ‘your parents’ roof’ for twenty thousand years?”
“You had better ask those historians who try to find the possible reasons for those great and almost universal migrations of the century after Christ. I should say that grazing land had become desiccated through some atmospheric change in those great steppes of Asia, and those primitive people were forced to come towards the west in search of pasture land. They came like herds of hungry wolves. Have you heard of Attila? He was the king of the Huns and he died on his wedding night because he drank too much. You never heard of him. That does not matter as I am sure they will make a film of him in a few years’ time. Well, Attila took Europe by storm, followed by a huge nomadic tribe. You can well imagine that Europeans did not very much like him, or his tribe for that matter. They called him ‘Whip of God.’”
“If you don’t mind my telling you, I can’t see much resemblance between you and Attila. …”
“Most unfortunately Attila was not among my ancestors. We Hungarians only arrived in Europe some five hundred years after him. We were a nation of fishermen and hunters, and in the great turmoil of Asia we became mingled with an ancient Turkish tribe. Through them we made our acquaintance with agriculture and the horse. It was a superior race: tall and erect, with a fine aquiline nose. Rather Eastern in looks. Looking at some of the Hungarian aristocrats you can still find the ancestral traits in their features. After a thousand years.”
“Are Hungarian men good-looking generally?”
“Well, just look at me!”
“And how can you distinguish the Hungarian type?”
“That would now be almost impossible. The original Eastern race has gone through many admixtures of blood. During the last thousand years a good deal of Slavonic and German blood came into us. In the tombs of the time of the Conquest they have found skeletons of Norman origin. It would be too easy to prove that I am related to you too. This mixture of blood makes the Hungarian race so interesting and talented. St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary, converted them to Christianity, and when …”
“For God’s sake! You want to go through the whole Hungarian history?”
“Aren’t you interested?”
“I am. But I am afraid I am very ignorant of history. I could not even tell you when James II reigned over this very country.”
“But you must know something about us. For a thousand years on the threshold of the West we were defending Western civilisation with our own body. While you were busy building towns and churches we had been fighting the Tartars and the Turks.”
“You mean to say that England, too, owes her presentday power to Hungarians.”
“I wouldn’t go so far. But it is a fact that for centuries we were the watchdogs of the whole of Europe. I am afraid I can’t be more modest than that. It was only a few years back that we were bitten again by the Asiatic Wolf. You obviously read about it sitting by your fire!”
“What do you mean?”
“After the War we were the only European country where Asiatic Bolshevism could succeed in forming a serious government. Though their regime only lasted a few months, I would not wish you such a chaos.”
“Oh, let’s not talk about politics. I dislike it.”
“It was you who began.”
“Yes, you. I began to talk about fishing and you asked what my nationality was. The politics of the whole world seems to be turning round similar questions. When will you come to Budapest, by the way?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. To tell you the truth I don’t very much want to, either.”
“You are the first British subject I’ve met who does not share His Majesty’s opinion.”
“Because Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales, came to visit Hungary twice in the same year, and liked his séjour. Well, let’s talk about something else. What d’you think of the great strides the film-industry is making in England?”
“Oh, you fiery patriot. I do happen to know that Hungarian talent has a great share in it. …”
A few weeks later I received a letter from Miss Glinton. She asked me how to get to Budapest easiest, as she was going to Venice, and would have liked to come to Budapest en route. I answered at once:
Dear Miss Glinton,—I strongly dissuade you from coming to Budapest. The town will bore you to tears. You like to throw away money with both hands and here most unfortunately there is little chance for that. Bearing London prices in mind, in the most expensive Budapest hotel, the one where the Prince of Wales stayed, a room won’t cost you as much as 10s. a day. You can get it for 6s. in first-class hotels. At the Budapest office of the Hungarian Travel Association you can buy a book of tickets for £15, with which you can stay three weeks at the best thermal hotels. Apart from your room, you can use all the medicinal baths, you will be taken around the town in charabancs and could see Budapest. You get cheap tickets for the theatres and concerts, pay nothing for your visa, get 50 per cent. reduction on the Hungarian railways. And that £15 includes service, light and heating, tips and, of course, all your meals. In case you are on a diet you can get special food and pay nothing extra. From this you can see that Hungarians are the most reckless people on earth. As regards travelling, the quickest way is to fly. It takes you about eight hours to fly from London to Budapest, and costs you £17. Last time you saw me in London I came by one of the machines of the Imperial Airways. Four engines and perfect comfort. Their pilots are frightful cheats. I mean we always arrived before the scheduled time. The journey was simply magnificent. From Cologne to London we flew over the clouds, as if flying over huge dazzling snowfields glittering in the sunshine. With my watch and time-table in hand, I estimated we must have been somewhere over Ostend, when the machine began to descend. It broke through the veil of clouds and to my great astonishment I saw Croydon underneath. Again the pilot stole thirty minutes from the scheduled time. In the future I shall not make one single step without an air-plane. Not even when I want to go from one room to the other. The train journey is a little cheaper. Third class costs you £6, and second class is not quite £10. If you are tired of the train journey you could take the motor-bus or the boat at Vienna. The latter I strongly recommend. The boat from Vienna won’t cost you more than 6s., and the journey on the “Blue Danube” is really lovely. I can tell you (but don’t let it go further, will you) that the Danube is blue only on picture postcards and in the Viennese valses; in reality it is exactly like any other large river. If the sky is cloudy it is grey; but in sunshine it looks sometimes like liquid gold. As the boat is reaching Budapest and the outline of the hills and the huge bridges unfold themselves, you will see a sight for which all through your life you will bless the day when you made the acquaintance of such an important man as my humble self.
By the way, will you bring evening frocks with you as Hungarians are very keen on going out in the evening. Budapest is as full of the buzz of gipsy music as the flowers of the elder tree with the music of the bees in the spring. And here you can get some of the best wines of the world for 2s. or 3s. a bottle. Unfortunately, I am not a vineyard owner and so I am quite impartial in recommending them to your attention. Leave your money at home and bring your good humour.
A few days later Miss Glinton replied that she was more interested in water than wine. She heard that Budapest has excellent waters. Her mother has been suffering for some time from rheumatism, and she would be glad if I could give her detailed information about thermal baths. So I wrote her the following:
A few years ago a famous French author, a friend of mine, had come to Budapest and asked me to show him round the town. Within the first hour or so we had both come to the shattering conclusion that I knew next to nothing about my home town. Finally, he took me by the arm and began to explain in a faintly lecturing mood:
“Now, listen, Zilahy. Budapest is the largest watering place in the whole world, with a ‘season’ throughout the year. Eighty medicinal springs, nine hot springs and two hundred aperient springs have been explored so far.”
“How d’you know that?”
“I have just read it in this guide-book while you went to ask the policeman where the Folklore Museum was. Fancy you not knowing that. Well, I think it would be better if I’d shown you round in your own town. I am, for the first time, in Budapest, while you are merely ‘living’ here.”
“I shall be much obliged to you. Next time I shall in turn show you round in your native Paris.”
My French friend had given me the following information about the thermal baths of Budapest, which herewith I duly pass on to you:
At the foot of the St. Gellért Hill—on the Buda side—is the St. Gellért Hotel, one of the most up-to-date hotels of the town. It has a medical bath, a “foam-bath” which is open all the year round, and an open-air, artificial wave-bath (a large and extremely smart swimming pool). The rooms in the hotel are heated by natural hot water. The St. Gellért is the most perfect thermal-hotel in the whole world. It has no less than thirteen hot springs. The water contains calcium, hydrocarbonate, magnesia and various radio-active salts. (What d’you think of the extent of my scientific knowledge?)
The springs supply no less than 2,000,000 litres of water per day. The temperature of the water is … (sorry, I forget that).
The greatest value of the Gellért is its radio-active mud known as “Geko.” It is a wonderful cure against rheumatism, ischias, sciatica, and other similar ailments.
Another similarly large thermal hotel of Budapest is the Szent Lukács (St. Luke) Bath. It is built also on the Buda side. Its water contains sulphur and lime. Here are the springs of the famous Hungarian “Crystal Water.” You can bathe in the water of the hot springs here all through the winter in the open air. Adjoining the bath is one of the most up-to-date hotels of Budapest, with a recently opened rheuma-sanatorium. The mud at the St. Lukács Bath is so hot that you could easily boil an egg in it. It is a wonderful cure against the rheumatic pains in the bones, muscles and the nerves. I mean the mud.
The ideal medical baths, however, are on the Margit Sziget (St. Margaret’s Island). The island is named after a Hungarian princess who resigned all pleasures life on earth could afford, and took refuge in the picturesque nunnery on the island. You could still see its lovely old ruins. To-day the island is a magnificent park with century-old trees and an area of 160 hectares. It really is a little paradise in the centre of the town, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that the invalid gets better from the sheer beauty of it. It is a little town in itself. It has hotels, medical baths, open-air and closed swimming pools, restaurants, night clubs, sanatoria, cafés, rowing clubs. Its climate is perfect all the year round. In the heat of the summer it is cooled by the Danube and the permanent springs of the park. In the winter it is quiet under the white sheet of snow, in spring its atmosphere is full of the scent of 20,000 roses, and the autumn is unforgettable among the yellow leaves. We call it the “Pearl of the Danube.” Its most important springs contain sulphur, which is a good cure for rheumatism.
Opposite the island, on the Buda side, there is the oldest bath of the town: the Császárfürdö. It was already known to the Romans. Its water is also rich in lime and sulphur, like most of the baths in Budapest. It has a huge swimming pool, the scene of the swimming championships in the summer. The famous Hungarian water-polo team started from that pool on its way towards Olympic championship. The bath is fed by eight springs supplying about 2,000,000 litres of water per day. So you needn’t worry about water shortage.
In the other end of the town, in the large Town Park, is the Széchenyi bath. It hasn’t a hotel. Its springs are as deep as 3,000 feet. That is the hottest natural spring in Europe. Also excellent against rheumatism.
You might think the repertoire is exhausted. Far from it. The Hungarian plain-land, including Budapest, was a sea bottom in the prehistoric past, and all over it in the depths the dead sea is still steaming and hissing. A little higher under the romantic rocks of the Gellért Hill, there still are two baths which were built four hundred years ago by the Turks. The Turks came uninvited to Hungary and stayed on for more than a hundred and fifty years. When they finally left they had forgotten to settle the bill. Under the arches of the Rudas Bath a few centuries back corpulent Turkish pashas were enjoying a dip. A few minutes from it is the St. Imre Bath built for himself by Mátyás, the great King of Hungary. Then there is the Erzsébet Bath surrounded by a park of 15 hectares. It is supplied by nineteen springs, and its waters contain aperient and glauber salts which are a good cure for women’s diseases. By the bath there is an open-air salt bath, which is excellent for liver and bilious complaints. You could also do air-bathing or sun-bathing there.
The aperient water springs of Budapest are world famous. The Hunyadi János springs, for example, supply 100,000 litres a day. Budapest is a good place for drink cures. You have a large choice among these important waters.
Firstly, there are waters containing sulphur and lime; secondly, those containing radio-active properties; and finally, the aperient waters. At the hotel anyone can tell you where to find them.
A few minutes from the town, and about 1,300 feet high, is the Svábhegyi Sanatorium, one of the most beautiful and most up-to-date sanatoria and hotels in Europe. It is an excellent place for cures for Basedow’s disease, asthma, anaemia, heart disease, and nervous exhaustion. It has a strand in its park. From its terrace you can see such a magnificent view as only the Bello Sguardo in Florence, or the Golden Horn in Constantinople, can give you. Near the hotel is the largest golf course in Budapest.
Well, tell me another town in Europe which could possibly offer so many medical baths and waters, strands, and flowers, and so much air, sunshine, and music as Budapest. And don’t forget that you can enjoy all that for £15 for three full weeks. And more! I wouldn’t risk saying that Budapest makes the best motor-cars or the best cloth, but it is certain that here you find the best medical specialists of the whole world against all diseases the flesh is heir to.
Will you please let me know if you should need any other information? I shall then write at once to one of my friends abroad and obtain the necessary information.
There came no answer to my letter.
After some three weeks I began to fret that my powers towards encouraging foreign tourist traffic must have been at fault. I must confess that it hurt my vanity quite a good deal. Should Miss Glinton arrive in Budapest I would perhaps have hidden myself, but since she did not come, and did not even answer my letter, it began to excite my curiosity. Now I felt I had a quest to entice Betty to Budapest and I made up my mind to approach the business from another side. I remembered that during dinner she showed a great interest in pictures. So I wrote yet another letter.
I am so glad you did not answer my letter. From this fact I gather that your mother no longer suffers from rheumatism and is in no need of visiting the baths of Budapest. It has just occurred to me that last time you asked me if there were any Goya pictures in Budapest, because you love Goya. I could not give you a definite answer there and then, but now I have looked it up and in order to show what a reliable person I am, I send you a detailed account of all museums in Budapest.
Our Museum of Fine Arts is among the first in Europe. In its rooms you can find some of the best pictures of the Italian Renaissance, and of the Spanish and the Dutch schools, together with the loveliest Hungarian pictures. The statuary and the graphical section is also quite good. By this I don’t wish to say that it is a grander place than the Uffizi, but should you wish to take refuge among the beauties of art for a few hours, you could also do that in Budapest. In the same museum you can find the “Girl Carrying Water” and the portrait of “Señora Cean Bermudez,” by Goya. There is “Magdalen” by El Greco, a lovely portrait by Giorgione, and a few famous Rembrandts. In the Hungarian section you could see the large and magnificent canvasses of Mihály Munkácsy, the greatest of Hungarian painters. The nucleus of the collection was formed by the Bishop Arnold Ipolyi, one of the Esterházy Princes, and by Count János Pálfy.
In another building opposite, you can see the pictures of living Hungarian artists. In the same building the Hungarian Society for Fine Arts has its permanent exhibitions. You must see that, for it gives a good opportunity for foreign visitors to buy the best of modern Hungarian pictures and also good products of industrial art and folk arts.
You must visit the Eastern Asiatic Museum, which is also in the Andrássy Avenue. Its founder, the late Ferencz Hopp, made it a real treasure house of wonderful Chinese, Japanese and Indian statues, carvings, miniatures, ceramics, silks and woodcuts.
In the next street you will see a house built in the Hungarian style, which is devoted to the memory of Sándor Petöfi, the greatest Hungarian lyrical poet. I can well imagine how boring a house can prove to be for you, full of the relics, books, manuscripts and pictures of a poet of whom you never heard in your life and presumably never even read a single line by him. But you must believe me, you cannot enter its walls without emotion. The poet Petöfi was twenty-seven when he fell on the battlefield in our war of liberty against Austria. They never found his grave, and since 1849 the legend persisted for many years that the poet was still alive and became an outlaw. He was the poet of love and liberty. His words were as simple as those of the people, but they were flaming and full of music. To become the greatest poet of a nation at twenty-seven and to be killed in a war for liberty is a case without example in world literature.
On the first floor of the same house there are the relics of Maurus Jokai. He was a contemporary of Petöfi, but by the grace of God he could enter as a very old man the twentieth century. He could just cast a glance through the door of our century, then he closed his magnificent blue eyes, as if he were frightened of what he saw there. Our greatest novelist, he left to us more than a hundred volumes. He got up at five every morning and wrote all the day. A most curious phenomenon in world literature. It has often happened that the writers of the West had gone to the East for material. Just think of Kipling. Jókai, on the other hand, was an Eastern writer with his fantasy. He was the only Eastern writer of the world who wrote Western tales.
I am not at all sure you will be interested in the evolution of Hungarian agriculture. Should you be interested by any chance, there is the Agricultural Museum. It has a collection of forestry, and exhibits relating to fishing and shooting.
As regards the Museum of Transport, I am devoted to it by strong ties of sentiment. Some twenty years ago I used to go there for months on end … in order to meet a girl of sixteen called Emma. She told her mother that she was interested in the past of the Hungarian Post Office and Telegraphy, because she wished to get a job at one of the post offices. I still don’t know what attractions the museum can offer to its visitors, but I warmly recommend it.
In the end of the Stefánia Avenue there is the Municipal Museum encasing, like a huge box, the past history of Budapest: it is full of the artistic ornaments of some of our lovely old buildings, the master-works of the Guilds, their chests, flags, badges and other relics.
The rest of the museums are not in the Town Park. Relating to Hungary, our largest and most important museum is the Nemzeti Museum (National Museum), which is in the centre of the town. From its steps in 1848, three years after it was built, Petöfi, the poet, recited his famous poem “Talpra Magyar!” which was the spark that started the war of liberty.
Among the rooms of the museum the most interesting are those containing antiques and coins, also those devoted to palaeontology and minerals. The Roman relics are also fine. The rooms dealing with Hungarian history follow the whole course of our past. The Széchenyi Library, housed in the same building, is very rich in old Hungarian prints and manuscripts. Here you can find some of the best of King Mátyás’s library and the oldest Hungarian manuscripts.
The György Ráth Museum in the Vilma királynö Road, originally a private collection, houses valuable pictures, statues, coins, china, tapestry and furniture.
We are very proud of the Museum of Industrial Art in the Üllöiut, whose façade is decorated by the ceramics, in the Hungarian style, of the famous Zsolnay maiolica factory. This museum shows the historical evolution of pottery, and its collection of Holics faience is admirable.
You remember when we discussed the picturesque uniform of the Hungarian general creating such a surprise in the Funeral Procession of the late King George? You asked me then, whether the people in the streets of Budapest still wear the same dresses. Unfortunately, they do not. But all the same the Hungarian gala uniform reflects all the splendour of the East. Well, in the same museum you can find examples of all dresses worn throughout the history of Hungary.
You must not forget to visit the Nèprajzi Muzeum (Museum of Folk-lore), which is a little out of the way, in the Hungaria Boulevard. It is divided into three parts: collections relating to Hungary, to races kindred to Hungarians, and overseas races. The nucleus of the collection was formed by János Xanthus, our famous Asiatic traveller, and by Otto Hermann, who made a life study of prehistoric occupations. Do you know the names of Béla Bartok and Zoltán Kodály? They made some three thousand gramophone records to save from oblivion the folk-songs of the villages of Hungary and Transylvania.
And now let us take a walk among the architectural marvels of Budapest. The greatest architect of Budapest was God Almighty himself, who arranged the huge masses of rocks of the Gellért Hill; the soft undulating lines of the hills of Buda; the plain-land widening towards the east; and the moody curves of the Danube—as it embraces its islands—in such a magnificent harmony that its beauty shatters and exhilarates the spectator at the same time. That is the greatest architectural miracle of Budapest. Don’t search for the refined architectural culture of the Italian, French, German or English towns in Budapest. The Hungarians, a nomadic nation which has always lived in tents—as I have told you once already—had been fighting with the Barbarians during its European centuries while you were busy building your towns and cathedrals. Still, you will be surprised to find so many beautiful streets, squares and parks in Budapest. Whenever I return from New York, London, and Paris, Budapest always impresses me as being the smallest of European metropolises, and the largest watering place of the world.
Buda—the right bank of the capital—with its old-fashioned streets and ancient houses, is a museum in itself. On the central hill, over the Danube, stands the Royal Castle. Its situation and architectural beauty makes it one of the most beautiful royal residences of the whole world. Its foundation walls were laid seven hundred years ago. The Tartars destroyed it, but later it was built up again. It met with the same fate several times in the course of history during the battles with the Turks. In its present form it was built by Ybl and Hauszmann. On the same hill there is the Coronation Church—or Mathias Church. The original part of it was built very nearly nine hundred years ago. The Fisher’s Bastion around it completes the medieval atmosphere of the church. The hill, with its slim towers and ancient houses, contrasted against the old trees in spring bloom, or full of yellow and reddish leaves in the autumn, is the most lovely jewel of Budapest. It looks something like an illustration to a tale—perhaps an Eastern one. It breathes Time and History.
With this I have by no means exhausted all the sights of Buda; most of its houses have an interesting past and history—unknown, as a rule, to most people in Budapest.
Will you drop me a line to tell me when you are going to arrive? I shall wait for you at the aerodrome or at the railway terminus.
For the second time I received no reply. A few weeks had passed, but I still did not give up hope. I began to comfort myself with the reflection that Miss Glinton had changed her travel plans and she was travelling somewhere else. In my loneliness I began to analyse myself. With whom am I in love? Miss Glinton or Budapest? I could not decide it. The following week I wrote her another letter.
Dear Miss Glinton,—I am led to believe that you did not receive my letters; this, however, does not discourage me from writing further to you.
First and foremost, I should like to tell you something about Hungarian gipsies who, through the medium of the wireless, are well known all over the world. If they appear in a restaurant or in a night club abroad, they are usually pitchforked into a pillar-box red uniform and made to wear a tie with gold tassels at the ends. In Hungary, however, you will see nothing of that fancy dress. Here the gipsies wear a dinner jacket or a dark suit, and when they put down the violin they appear to be very little different in looks from their audience. Their Indian origin is only indicated by their dark colouring and their fiery eyes.
There are few races whose origin is so uncertain, so mysterious as that of the gipsy. All that is certain is that they were a nomadic people of Indian origin, who first appeared in Europe some four or five hundred years ago. We call them cigány, which is usually spelt tzigane in your country. The proper English name “gipsy” indicates the fact that they were taken for “Egyptians,” as they had actually rambled through Syria and Egypt before they arrived in Europe. The Dutch, on the other hand, call them ungern, as the gipsies of Holland were of Hungarian origin. Once visiting Amsterdam a very pretty Dutch woman with red hair and a milky-white complexion asked whether I had brought my violin with me. She thought the Hungarians were gipsies. That, of course, was the same sort of mistake you made when you thought I was an Austrian.
The gispsies are the last legatees of the ancient habits of nomadic existence. Dressed in picturesque rags, some of them still live in tents or move about in a covered wagon. This, of course, is by no means irrelevant to the fact that a gipsy boy born somewhere in a Hungarian forest could not appear at the age of twenty playing in a very smart hotel in a well-cut and well-worn dinner jacket. The violin seems to be part of their body.
The Hungarians were, of course, very glad to find this nomadic people, blessed with such a wonderful musical talent, when they first arrived from the east. You already know so much about the facts of the Hungarian conquest of the ninth century that you could easily answer an examination paper on it. I only wish to add that when our ancestors had first arrived they found a country which was quite bare as far as music was concerned. They had brought their own musical instruments: they had their whistles and pipes, guitars and cimbalom; moreover, they had a primitive form of violin, and they played their own native tunes. They had been long converted to Christianity when the pious psalms of the Church were still being drowned by these old pagan tunes. The rhythm always contained something unusual, something touchingly melancholic for the people of the west. And this touching eastern sadness, or its exact opposite a blazing and indomitable gaiety and a vital joie de vivre, is still characteristic of Hungarian music. When the gipsies had first arrived in Hungary, towards the end of the fourteenth century, they had already found an important musical culture. It would not be true to say that it was the gipsies who had brought us their music, or that our motifs were the products of their souls. On the other hand, it would be true to say that the gipsy had learnt the existing Hungarian tunes surprisingly quickly; had added something to it from his own imagination, and in the course of the centuries there was produced the Hungarian gipsy music which millions of listeners in all countries find the most original, colourful, and moving music of, perhaps, the whole world. It is this music which gives firstly and foremostly a genuine character to Budapest night life.
It would be extremely difficult to tell you what our night life exactly means.
If you come to Budapest from London or Berlin, from Paris or Vienna, you would feel it at once without any explanation. You will inevitably notice that there is “something in the air.” Even the very smallest restaurant in Buda has a gipsy band, and their music gives a perfect indication of the town’s atmosphere. We have smart establishments which are almost perfect replicas of the average European or American night-club, with the same jazz band, the same service, the same light effects, and the same variety turns; but even these “international” places have an atmosphere of their own in Budapest.
Visiting places abroad, their night life always impresses me as if it was carried on as a strictly commercial activity, whereas the night life of Budapest has a spontaneity as if it were practised for its own sake. I had a friend who invested all his fortune in a night café. The place was flourishing, except that when his patrons had left the café at six in the morning the owner had thought the time fit to have his own little fun and ordered the gipsies to play “at him” till noon the next day. And since he was in the habit of paying his own guests’ bills himself, I think you can guess the financial result of the first year. A few years ago a famous Hungarian actor, retiring from the stage, also invested his savings in a restaurant. The noted artist being an adherent to the principle of credit all through his life could not change the custom of years even when he came into the position of a creditor himself. I should think his was the restaurant which went to the dogs in the shortest time in the history of the trade. After a few weeks even his tables were taken away by his friends. By this I don’t, of course, wish to say that a foreign visitor would always find a case similar in Hungary. I merely wish to indicated that there is really something “in the air” there. Hungarians are very fond of having a good time. And not only they are fond of it, they have a peculiar talent for doing it. Talking of talents, this particular one is not so uninteresting either. And when I say this I am not referring to the superior persons who carry the art-of-having-a-good-time to a pitch of perfection. (Some of these are natives of Budapest, some are provincial landowners, and they can create such a gay, vital and lovely atmosphere and can lead the band up to such a wild tempo that even the walls seem to rock as they paly.) I am merely referring to the ordinary man of Budapest; even he enjoys night life and its musical accompaniment with glittering eyes and with a mind which seem to be full of sunshine and laughter inside. Well, this is that little something, that little plus, which seems to hover invisibly in the air and is noticed by the foreigner on the first night he spends in Budapest.
I believe you know about the sad fate of the buffaloes. They are a race which is slowly dying out, and apart from a Hungarian sanctuary (at a former royal park in Visegrád) are only to be seen in a few European zoos. The old-fashioned Hungarian revels seem to share the buffalo’s fate. In my youth I have seen a Hungarian gentleman who, according to the old traditions of “fun,” had discharged his revolver into the double-bass, if he was in one of his good moods—and paid for it with an easy heart. And in a provincial town I remember having seen some Hussar officers who broke all mirrors in the place in their “merry mood” and made strange objects out of the spoons and forks. Then they distributed all the contents of the café’s larder; bottles of beer, wine and champagne, cheese, ham and delicatessen among the poor—and paid the bill with the lightest of hearts. These are, of course, romantic memories of a particularly romantic and happy past. But I must say—for the last time—that there is “something in the air” in Budapest. You can only have a real good time in two places in the world: in Paris and in Budapest. But both of them have distinctive tastes of their own.
Talking of restaurants, let us go to see the kitchen for a few minutes. The kitchen in Hungary is an object of the nation’s particular pride. Brillat-Savarin, the great French wit and philosopher of gastronomy, had said: “It’s only the fine mind who can appreciate culinary arts.” Apicius, a noted Roman gourmet at the time of the Emperor Tiberius, was of the same opinion. If that is true, I must say in all fairness that we Hungarians must be of an extremely fine mind.
The arts of the Hungarian kitchen were already famous in the past centuries. Not only the people, or the middle class, but even the ladies of the aristocracy have held the art of kitchen and household management in a high esteem. Since our ancestors had settled down in the country of the Four Rivers their gastronomic taste had become the more refined, and the repertory of dishes had become the more and more varied. This simply because the new country had offered them the possibilities of higher culinary arts in the most superior abundance. Writing about Hungarian wines, I have already told you that in prehistoric times most of the land of Hungary was a sea-bottom and of volcanic origin. That is the curious secret of the most interesting taste and flavour of Hungarian corn, fruit and vegetables. The Hungarian peasant eats the best bread on earth. Even Hungarian meat has quite a unique and different flavour from the rest of the world. Hungarian poultry, lamb, and all eatable animals, including game, are reared on a savoury Hungarian grass whose effect becomes so important. I can always taste that difference at once if I am abroad. In America, for example, cauliflower has exactly the same taste as green paprika, the paprika in turn has very much the same taste as carrots. On the Hungarian table each vegetable has its distinctive taste, the paprika, for example, is sometimes so strong that it seems to burn the mouth of the uninitiated. The old cookery-books of the past are witnesses to a great abundance in good food and to an enormous luxury which had made the dining-room of the great of Hungary famous all over the world. In the course of time the Hungarian kitchen became influenced by the French, Italian, Turkish and Slavonic tastes, but its original and individual character has been preserved till this day. Not so very long ago the wonderful dishes for the famous banquets of King Edward VII were made by a Hungarian chef.
Hungarian food is generally regarded as rich and heavy. This is a libel on the Hungarian kitchen, but since all libels contain a grain of truth, I must admit in all fairness that now even I myself would find my mother’s cooking a little too heavy. I shouldn’t advise you to go through all the courses of a real Hungarian dinner, if you are staying in a country house, as I am sure you won’t sleep that night. The principal meal in Hungary is still the midday dinner. It begins with a soup which is usually so rich that to the Westerner it is almost equal to a complete meal. In Budapest, however, you need not be afraid of such a surprise. In most restaurants you can have dietetic food, and the so-called “international menu” in Budapest has the great advantage of containing practically everything that is the best of the Hungarian kitchen and excludes all that the foreigner might find a little too heavy. A late Hungarian magnate who weighed over 18 stone used to say that turkeys are the most useless animals on earth as one is not enough for a meal and two is a little too much. So you can see that we can appreciate the good things of the world.
Unfortunately, Hungary is not by the sea, and when I am at home I have to deny myself with a heavy heart the lovely things with which the sea enriches the kitchen. But, nevertheless, we have a little private sea of our own, the Lake Balaton. The fogas, the best Hungarian fish, is a produce of Lake Balaton. As a zoological specimen this fish is unique, as it cannot be found in any other water, and as food the fogas is the whitest of all fish and has the nicest flavour. In shape and size it resembles the Italian barracuda. Besides the fogas remains our specialité de la maison.
Will you please show some signs of life in a few lines?
Miss Glinton, however, remained enveloped in her mysterious silence. In the course of my meditations it came to my mind that she had perhaps met with sudden death. In two months’ time, however, the stubborn silence began to excite me beyond bounds, and I wrote to her again.
Dear Miss Glinton,—I must admit the failure of my attempt to bring you to Budapest. I am inevitably led to believe that you are not interested in the beauty of the Danube or the charm of the surrounding hills, the steaming mud of our thermal baths, the unique flavour of Hungarian wines, the enticement of the Hungarian kitchen and the magic of gipsy music. Maybe you are right. But since I have now taken a lot of trouble to coax you to come to Budapest, I am determined not to give up the fight. The venture had for me at least the advantage that I have at last made proper acquaintance with the town of which I am an inhabitant. And, what is more important, should pennies be tight—and God knows, in these days they are steadily becoming very tight—I shall make an application to the office of the Hungarian Tourist Bureau in the hope that my knowledge and literary style will enable me to obtain employment as a professional guide.
But to return to the subject of my letter, I shall now take you round the Hungarian countryside and some of the provincial towns.
First of all you must know that the Hungarian capital, on the Buda side, is surrounded by hills 1,500 to 2,000 feet high. Although not called so officially, these form the Hungarian National Park. Unfortunately, we have no bison or herds of deer living in it, nor have we waterfalls and such trees as I have marvelled at in California, but it has one enormous advantage over all other national parks, namely, that one can reach it from the heart of the town in fifteen or twenty minutes. Few capitals can boast such surroundings. In the long-distant past the hunting-grounds of the old Hungarian kings used to lie where now there are rows of new villas, mostly built in the modern Bauhaus style (of German-American origin), of which I am not an admirer. The forests in the far distance still manage to preserve something of their old primitive character. Just imagine that I who live in Buda, not so very far from the centre of the town, sometimes see with the greatest amazement a covey of partridges rise in my own garden. A few years ago, moreover, I saw with my own eyes a deer running through the street where now there is motor traffic. But—and I am sure this will surprise you even more—a few years ago they shot a stray wild boar—in the garden of the Prime Minister’s house of all places! And one night, in one of the busiest thoroughfares of Budapest, the passers-by saw a fallow deer. Despite all this, I don’t want you to think that in the main streets of Budapest or among the ornamental gardens of its squares you could hunt for tigers. I merely wish to call your attention to the proximity of the Hungarian capital to the wilds of nature.
At the foot of the Buda hills lies the Zugliget, a favourite resort of the men of Budapest, as it has excellent restaurants. On the other side of the hills is the Hüvösvölgy, whose forests have been besieged for the last thirty years by a smart and ever-growing villa-colony. The place is wonderfully beautiful with its surrounding hills, its caves and historical relics. Talking about relics, in half-an-hour’s time you can reach Aquincum, the remains of an old Roman town which was excavated and explored some forty years ago. Its greatest attractions are the elliptical amphitheatre, the gymnasium, the market-place, and the public bath. In the Temple of Mithras many sarcophagi, statues, frescoes and stuccoes have been found, and they are now exhibited in the Aquincum Museum.
If you follow the road leading northwards from Aquincum you soon reach Visegrád, which is at the point where the Danube, coming from the west, makes its way suddenly eastwards and forms a rectangular turn. On the rocky hill-side the ruins of the castle of the old kings of Hungary still stand. This is one of the finest European beauty spots. Under the town there are large forests where the last European bisons are kept in a sanctuary.
In close proximity to Budapest—about an hour by train—is Gödöllo, where in the centre of a large park there is the summer residence built for Francis Joseph I. This park was the scene of the World Jamboree of the Boy Scouts in 1933.
And now I should like to run you through the towns of the Hungarian countryside. I shall try to be as quick as possible as I fear it might bore you; though believe me, the real character of a land or of a people is most truly revealed in the country.
Among the towns of the plain-land of Hungary you must stop for a minute at a place called Hajdu-Szoboszló. It has a hot-spring coming from a depth of more than 3,000 feet which contains iodine, bromides, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Its heat is 73 deg. C. Just imagine what the presence of such a hot spring would mean to a town like Paris or London! This water has various medical uses. As a drinking-cure it is excellent for catarrh and gastric complaints, and as a medical bath it gives immediate relief from rheumatism and arthritis. It has not yet been properly exploited. In the same way the natural gas springs of the neighbourhood are not used to their full capacity. For the time being they supply the town and its factories with electricity. The rest of the gas is bottled and sold by the Hungarian State Railways.
I have deliberately enlarged on this subject since I hope you will remember our discussion some time ago about the many unexploited treasures the earth still has in store to alleviate human poverty. According to the estimates, by means of the natural gas and the natural hot water buried in the earth of Hungary, all the houses in Central Europe could be heated and lighted. I can already see the huge hot-houses the future will build to supply Hungary and the neighbouring countries with fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers, even during the winter months. This is only a dream, of course, so let us return to reality.
Under Hajdu-Szoboszló lies one of the most interesting and valuable parts of present-day Hungary—the Hortobágy. It appears to be a huge plain, and this is the real Hungarian Puszta, of which presumably you have heard. It is of natural and folk-lore interest. Its area is about 75,000 acres, so it is very large, yet in comparison with the Sahara or with the American deserts it seems tiny. This Puszta is a most interesting land on which horses and cattle have been grazing for many thousands of years. It is quite certain that the nomadic people knew it long before the Hungarian conquest.
The Hortobágy is the property of the town of Debrecen. It is the grazing-land of the municipal stud, of the gulya which is the Hungarian name for the cowherd, together with municipal sheep and pigs. The animals spend most of the year in the open air.
Hundreds of shepherds watch over them. The Hungarian juhász—the shepherd—is still leading a life familiar to that of the old Hungarian conquerors in this huge steppe, whose silence is only disturbed by the hoofs of excited horses, the tinkling bells of grazing sheep or the flapping of the wings of the wild birds over them.
In these days practically every foreigner pays a visit to the Hortobágy to see this Eastern marvel. It has a hundred-year-old inn, called csárda in Hungarian (from this is derived the word csárdás, the Hungarian national dance). Near the old inn the famous “Bridge-Market” takes place every year on the last Thursday in June. On these occasions a great multitude of carts are to be found in the vicinity of the old inn, immortalised by the poet Petöfi; and thousands of people from the neighbourhood congregate there. It is a most picturesque sight. You can see cattle-men (the gulyás) standing like statues, and wearing their famous and lovely native cloaks. The cloak is called szür and has a more ornamental variety—the cifraszür—which is a most interesting sight. It is made of sheepskin, worked by master-craftsmen according to a centuries-old tradition. In the winter the furry side is worn inside; in the summer the other side. The shepherd’s garb is the same as that of the gulyás. The csikós (ranch-man) wears a home-spun garment, dark blue trousers of great width, and a wide-brimmed felt hat, ornamented with a bustard feather. The csikós is the cowboy of Hungary. He rides without a saddle or on a tiny embroidered affair which is not even supported by girths.
On the Hortobágy you can witness one of the most interesting of nature’s spectacles—the Fata Morgana.
The fisheries of the Hortobágy are very valuable. Here the most tasty freshwater fish, such as carp, perch, pike and sheat fish are reared in ten large artificial basins. This industry keeps three hundred men busy and it produces about 6,000 cwt. of fish every year.
Perhaps the most “Hungarian” provincial town of the country is Debrecen. It is Protestant and is often called “Calvinist Rome.” It has a long history; it was already inhabited in the thirteenth century. Its colonies, however, were devastated by the onslaughts of the Tartars, and it was only in the following centuries that the town re-developed itself. Its commerce and industry was already well known in the eighteenth century. Its old Protestant college was founded in 1550. Near the college is the Déry Museum, rich in eastern Asiatic weapons, coins, Greco-Roman terra-cotta statues, and lovely Flemish gobelins. Its picture-gallery contains, among other valuable objects, the world-famous canvas of Mihály Munkácsy, “Ecce Homo.”
The most beautiful part of the town is the Nagyerdo (Great Forest). It appears to be a little spa in itself, with an up-to-date stadium, strands of natural hot water, a large closed-in swimming pool, and excellent restaurants. Here the first crematorium in Hungary has been erected, but it is not yet in use. The new university of Debrecen, built in the same forest, is rivalling with its up-to-date equipment the most modern scats of learning in Europe. This famous university was built first and foremost through the efforts of the inhabitants of Debrecen. Collections for the university were started long before the War, and the peasant-millionaires were very generous in offering their money. These “millionaires” must not, of course, be compared with their English or American namesakes, because then they would inevitably appear to be poor men, but in their goodwill and love for their town they have surpassed all other rich men. In those days sums like 50 or 100 kronen were subscribed. When the subscription sheets were handed to Bálint Lencsés Nagy, the richest of all peasant-millionaires in Debrecen, he wrote down the number 100.
“But Uncle Bálint,” said the collector, a little startled, “you have made a mistake. You have put your hundred where donations of a thousand kronen should go.”
Bálint Lencsés Nagy meditated for a moment.
“Well, I think it’s all the same now,” he mumbled. Then he produced a weather-beaten, dirty old note-case reminiscent of a small accordion and put 100,000 kronen on the table.
This was how the university of Debrecen was built and such is the mentality of the Hungarian.
Another famous town of the Hungarian plain-land—called Alföld in Hungarian—is Nagykörös. I let you stay there thirty seconds. It has no great attractions to offer, but it is very near the heart of all Hungarians. There still stands the country house of Ferencz Rákóczi, the greatest of Hungarian Princes, and that of János Arany the renowned Hungarian epic poet. Its fruit industry is noted, and if you are a lover of cucumbers you should know that the best species in the world are grown at Nagykörös. The poultry farms are also extensive. England receives no less than 300,000 fowls a year from them.
Kecskemét: one minute. Known all over Europe as the centre of fruit-growing. It was from Kecskemét that the famous Hungarian apricot, the Kajszin-barack, started out to conquer the world. And it is here that they make the famous Barack Pálinka, the apricot-brandy, a well-known Hungarian speciality. The majority of the inhabitants of Kecskemét live on various little “stations,” like most people of the Hungarian plains. On the town’s boundaries is the famous Puszta of Bugacz, a steppe not quite so large or romantic as the Hortobágy but quite as picturesque and interesting. It is bordered on one side by the lovely forest of Monostor which figures so often in Hungarian folk-songs.
Szeged: one minute and ten seconds. The largest provincial town of Hungary. Of its agricultural products the paprika of Szeged is known everywhere. There are two varieties, the red paprika and the sweet paprika. Its corn, its fruit, its salami, and a special sort of vermicelli, known as Tarhonya, are good Hungarian specialities. The town is the cultural centre of the Hungarian plain-land. On the large square of the Votive Church open-air performances, based on the Salzburg pattern, are staged in the summer. The principal bridge across the river Tisza is built after the plans of Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.
Hód-Mezo-Vásárhely, which is as charming as its name is long is interesting from the folk-lore point of view. I allow you to stay thirty seconds there. Here they make those lovely flower-vases decorated with Hungarian themes, the interesting kulacs and butykos, the round earthenware containers of wine, as well as other ornamental wares.
Makó: twenty seconds. It is famous for its onions. Two or three thousand wagons are exported every year. By the way, it has just occurred to me that you dislike onions of every kind and variety and that you mistrust even the people who eat them. I apologise.
Mezohegyes. If you are interested in horses you could spend a whole day here. Here is the large government stud, which was founded in the eighteenth century by Joseph II. This small provincial town of Hungary supplies horses for a good many of the armies of the world.
Well, you have no reason for complaint as we have already finished with the whole Hungarian plain-land. Now we are going up to the north. The Mátra mountains through which I am taking you are covered with gorgeous forests. They are very rich in game.
Mezokövesd: sixty minutes. To the best of my knowledge all foreigners coming to Hungary have visited this town, which is unique. Its greatest claim to fame is the moment when the peasants leave the church after Divine Service on a Sunday. But that moment really lives up to the greatest expectations.
A magnificent flaming river of various colours seems to burst out of the church door in the form of the most beautiful European peasant costumes. The dresses of the women whose colour, embroidery and line have not changed for a thousand years, give a spectacle of Eastern splendour.
Parád is the medical bath of the Matra mountains. The town lies in a closed basin surrounded by the forest. Its water is excellent for anaemia, neurasthenia and women’s diseases.
Miskolc: one minute. It was already famous for its industry in the Middle Ages. Next to it is Diósgyor, Hungary’s greatest manufacturing town. Some of its old buildings are well worth a visit, and the neighbourhood of the town is most attractive. Among lovely old ruins of castles you reach Lillafüred in about a quarter of an hour. The luxury hotel, which is most comfortable, was built quite recently over a small mountain lake. Under the bastion walls of the hotel is the Anna cave, the only known cave of tufa-stalactite in the world. The neighbouring places are all very pretty and give excellent opportunities for summer and winter sports.
It you would still like to continue the flight in our imaginary airplane, you will notice that its direction is turned westwards. As we pass the silver ribbon of the Danube we soon catch a glimpse of a large silver mirror glittering in the sunshine. That is Lake Balaton. The biggest lake of Central Europe, it is some fifty miles in length and ten in width. You can see quite well that it is surrounded by a hilly countryside. That part of Hungary is called Dunántul (Transdanubia); always well protected in the stormy centuries against the attacks of the East, it became the hothouse of Hungarian culture. The Transdanubian towns are mostly built in Baroque, showing the influence of Austria, which is so near here. The best examples of this Baroque are to be found in Sopron, which was originally a Roman colony. Its present houses were for the most part built in the fifteenth century.
Before we alight by Lake Balaton, with your kind permission I should like to fly round with you over the Dunántul. About five miles from Sopron is Lake Ferto, the second biggest in Hungary. The industrial centre of the Dunántul is Gyor. It has an important harbour on the Danube and many factories. The monastery of Pannonhalma, a few miles off Gyor, is of historical interest; it was founded by a Prince of Hungary very nearly a thousand years ago. Its Roman-Gothic cathedral was built in 1225. In the monastery library some of the most valuable sources of Hungarian history are preserved.
And now we are approaching a hill surrounded by a lovely forest. It is called Bakony. A century back it was the romantic haunt of the Hungarian outlaw, whose most interesting history has yet to be written. In the small village of Zsámbék you find a church which is very similar to Notre Dame de Paris in its architecture. Its builder was very probably Villard de Honnecourt.
The largest town of the Bakony is Veszprém. It is an important tourist centre. Being, or trying to be, a conscientious guide, I have in the course of my former letters often used the expression “world-famous.” With your kind permission I shall have to use it again. I am writing about Herend and the lovely traditions of Hungarian china. England first made her acquaintance with its products in 1851 when they were exhibited in the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. Queen Victoria gave a big order for them then. The factory was flourishing in those years.
Székesfehérvár: thirty seconds. In the first three centuries of Hungarian history the centre of the court and its activities. It is something like a Roman Catholic Winchester.
Pécs: the largest town of Southern Hungary. Its cathedral has remained intact through troubled centuries. It was built nine hundred years ago, and it is one of the loveliest buildings in Hungary. The primitive Christian catacombs under the cathedral are still to be seen. Outside Rome you cannot find anywhere else such interesting ecclesiastical relics of the first five centuries.
Szombathely: thirty seconds. It was also a Roman colony, and its name was very likely Sabaria. Its museum contains an interesting collection of Roman glass. The episcopal palace is also worth visiting.
Koszeg: centre of one of the most beautiful tourist districts of Hungary. It is a picturesque and quiet little town, and full of lovely old houses.
And now we fly back to the Balaton and take a rest on the beach of the large lake. Its water is generally rather shallow, on the average it is rarely deeper than 10 or 12 feet. Its golden white sand is soft like velvet. And its water, which is soft and warm, is like a huge opalescent shell reflecting the most lovely colour variations of the sky. Nowhere in the world have I seen such lovely nights as on the banks of the Balaton. The water contains important minerals which encourage the circulation and are recommended for children. The Balaton is easy to reach from all points of the country, moreover its railway lines are parts of some of the most important international lines. It is situated about two and a half hours from Budapest and about six hours from Vienna.
On the banks of the lake there are many watering-places, among them Balatonfüred, Almádi, Siófok, Tihany, Keszthely, Boglár, on which I shall not enlarge this time. Some of them are towns and have luxury hotels which can now satisfy the requirements of the most fastidious foreign visitor. Apart from this the Balaton is very cheap, its prices are never higher, even in the height of the season, than those of the first-class Budapest hotels. If you want to make your stay a little longer you can rent a villa or a flat there. The municipal management is doing its best to make the place comfortable and pleasant. On the banks of the Balaton you find sports and amusement all over the place. You can swim, do some angling, yachting, or motor-boating, play golf, and in the summer season can visit the horse races.
About 4 miles from the Balaton is Héviz. I promise on my honour that I shall not bring in one more rheumatic resort, but I simply must mention this place. It is a lake of some 15 acres in area, and its sources are 120 feet deep. On the surface of the steaming hot water the lotus blooms in exotic abundance. This I believe is the only place in Europe where lotus grows in the open air. The bottom of the lake is covered with a deep layer of turf, which is in a continuous state of decomposition. It contains radioactive calcium, magnesia, and other organic matter. Its dark-brown mud is the best cure for rheumatism.
I must confess I am secretly praying that you should have some little rheumatic pains (of transitory nature, of course) in your arms or back. You might say that is not very nice of me, but I must say in defence that that is my only hope of your ever visiting Hungary.
For full six weeks—it seems—no rheumatic pains have made themselves felt in Miss Glinton’s body, because I have received no reply to my letter. I therefore sit down to write my sixth and last letter to her.
We must say farewell, my dear friend, before I leave the ranks of the living, or, I should say, that of the touristic correspondents. I put my last hope into these lines. In the last weeks a sinister suspicion has crept into my heart. I fear that none of my efforts were of any avail. You presumably feel a strong antipathy towards climatic resorts; towards mud which offers an excellent cure for rheumatism; cathedrals of historic interest; native dresses of oriental splendour; and in general towards all things of which we Hungarians are so proud. I fear that even the statistics relating to Hungarian fruit exports and that of poultry have not stirred your heart. My last hope is the possibilities of Hungarian shooting. Just listen to this!
Hungary is the richest shooting country of present-day Europe. You can always find a few country houses with excellent shootings to let. The rent they ask you to pay is extremely moderate and it offers you in turn an excellent time for a whole season. Most of these country houses and homes of the aristocracy are in Transdanubia, and as such are not far from Budapest. You can shoot partridges, pheasants, hare and various water birds in larger quantities than anywhere else in Europe. We have a few packs of hounds, and hunting in Hungary in reminiscent of the English tradition. I shall tell you briefly of the periods when you can shoot the various game. Stag (male), September and October. Stag (female), from September till the middle of February. Stag (fawn), October till the middle of February. Deer (roebuck), May till October. Deer (female), middle of October till New Year. It is forbidden to shoot young deer. Hare, from the beginning of September till February. Partridge, from the middle of August till November. Bustard (cock only), April till July. Pheasant (cock), middle of September till February. Pheasant (hen), middle of October till February. Woodcock, middle of August till middle of April.
If you are lucky you may be able to shoot fallow deer and chamois as well in Hungary.
Water-birds, including wild geese and wild duck which are very frequent in Hungary, can be shot practically all the year round, except during a period of seventy-five days from the middle of April till the beginning of July.
Elephants, rhinoceroses and giraffes can be shot all the year round, and since such animals cannot be found in Hungary there are no restrictions whatsoever.
If you still resist the temptation of coming to Hungary I shall send a telegram consisting of a well-known Dante quotation to the Hungarian office for Tourist Traffic: Lasciate Ogni Speranza (Abandon hope!).
Au revoir, in the next world.
A full five months have passed since I posted my last letter. The banks of the Danube were already covered by the autumnal mists of the river when I saw a young woman coming towards me on the Embankment with little parcels in her hand. I could hardly believe my own eyes. It was Miss Glinton.
“You, in Budapest?”
“As you see,” she said, and laughed in my face.
“But why didn’t you answer my letters?”
“Where did you address them?”
“To London, of course. …”
“Well, that’s why. You see, I gave up my flat in London and moved to Budapest about six months ago.”
“But how and why, I mean …?”
“I married a Hungarian.”
She smiled again, bowed her head, and in a minute she had disappeared in the crowd on the Embankment.