Full life in Hungary: Budapest, basketball, and bridges

Full life in Hungary: Budapest, basketball, and bridges

Zsuzsi Sandor

Over a thousand years ago, the ancestors of the Magyars–the name we Hungarians call ourselves–were nomads. After a long journey from the Ural Mountains, we settled in the Carpatian Basin, the heart of Europe. The Magyars were warriors who lived in felt tents called yurts and were famous for their bow and arrow prowess. Today, Hungary has survived several occupations, involvement in the Second World War, and a Communist dictatorship. Hungary has been a free and democratic country since 1989.

My name is Zsuzsi Sandor. I’m 16 years old, and I live with my mother, father and 14-year-old brother, Andris, in the village of Nagykovacsi (which means “great smiths”). According to legend, one of Hungary’s renaissance kings settled the Nagykovacsi Valley with his blacksmiths. Nagykovacsi is located just outside of Budapest, Hungary’s capital city. Budapest has two parts–Buda and Pest. They once were two separate towns, divided by the Danube River. Buda is home to the Castle of Buda, a city museum and library, and Pest is where Parliament is located. Lots of tourists visit Buda because of its interesting sights, including a maze of underground tunnels. There are seven bridges along the Danube that connect Buda to Pest.

I attend a Steiner, or Waldorf, school. Waldorf schools are private schools that emphasize creativity and imagination. On a typical school day, I get up at about 6:30 a.m. School starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:45 p.m. I like my school, because besides learning the usual subjects, I learn how to be creative in every aspect of life! I really like to write, sing, and act. I love the feeling I get when I’m on stage and people are waiting to see what I will do next. I’m not sure what I’ll be when I grow up–an actress, a writer, a lawyer–but I love trying new things, so I’ll just have to wait and see!


I also play basketball on a girls’ team. My team isn’t very good and we lose a lot, but we always stay happy–we play because it’s fun! After school, I often go into the city with my friends. Public transportation is very good in Budapest–I can get to practically anywhere in the city within one hour! My friends and I like to go to teahouses and concerts. On warm nights, we like to just walk around the city. Budapest has concerts every night of the week, shops, museums of all kinds, and parks. The people are very kind, and they love to smile. It’s easy to talk to them, even if they’re total strangers! When I’m out and about in Budapest, I almost always run into a friend on a bus or tram.

I love living near Budapest, because the city is always bubbling with life and action. We don’t need to go far to find a place to have fun or a park to visit with family or friends. It’s easy to make friends here. When we go to a party, we usually end up with twice as many friends as we started out with!


just the facts

Country size: 93,030 sq km (35,919 sq mi)–slightly smaller than Indiana.


Population: Almost 10 million people.

Religions: 75% of Hungarians are Christian; most of them are Roman Catholic. About 15% don’t participate in any religion.

Languages: Hungarian, German, and English. Szia, hogy vagy? (pronounced: See-yah, ho-dg voo-dg) (Hello, how are you?) A hold szerelmes a csillagokba. (pronounced: A-hold serel-mash a-chill-agok-ba) (The moon is in love with the stars.)

Weather: It gets as cold as -15[degrees]C (5[degrees]F) in the winter, and as hot as 35[degrees]C (95[degrees]F) in the summer. Lately, there have been a lot of huge storms, with loud thunder and lightning. My class was on a field trip in a nearby village when lightning hit a house. Half the roof came off, but everybody from the village came to help rebuild it!

Literacy: 99.4% of the population can read and write.

Holidays: In the U.S., Santa Claus comes at Christmas, but in Hungary, Santa Claus comes on the night of December 5. That evening, children shine a pair of shoes and put them in the window before going to bed. When they wake up in the morning, goodies that Santa Claus–known in Hungarian as Mikulas–brought for them fill their shoes. If the children have been bad, they will find a virgacs–a birch rod–and a piece of coal in their shoes. At Christmas, Jesus and the angels, not Santa Claus, bring gifts.

By tradition, boys visit girls on Easter Monday and sprinkle them with water or perfume. In exchange, the girls give them an egg that they have painted by hand.

We celebrate our Independence Day on March 15 and the foundation of the Hungarian state on August 20. We set off fireworks all over the country.

Money: One New Moon magazine costs about 1100 forints, which can buy about 10 scoops of ice cream, five loaves of bread, or two pairs of socks.

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