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Budapest the capital of Hungary (93 030 sq km 10.1 million inhabitants) -a land-locked country lying in the Carpathian Basin - is with about 2 million residents the largest metropolis of East-Central Europe.

Hungary is bordered by Slovakia to the north by Ukraine to the northeast by Romania to the east by Yugoslavia to the south by Croatia and Slovenia to the southwest by Austria to the west. Hungary is situated in a basin with mostly lowland-relief while the hills - with altitudes from 700 to 1000 metres -are situated mainly in the northeast of the country. Lake Balaton (598 sq km) the largest lake in Central Europe is located in the western part of Hungary.

With its beautiful setting and marvellous panoramic views Budapest is one of the most attractive European capitals. It was much admired in the Middle Ages as the following mediaeval saying shows "the most beautiful towns of Europe are Florence on the lowland Venice on the water and Buda on the hills." In modern times Budapest's outstanding qualities were recognised by UNESCO in 1987 when this agency of the United Nations inscribed Budapest including the banks of the Danube and the Buda Castle district on the World Heritage List.

But why was the city founded just here? Many geographical factors had a bearing on this decision.

Budapest is located in the heart of the Carpathian Basin on both sides of the river Danube. The Danube - the longest river in Central and Western Europe - leaves the hills behind and enters the lowlands just in the vicinity of Budapest. The hilly Buda was founded on the right bank and thelow-lying Pest on the left. The Danube was and is still today an important water-way and this region in the centre of the Carpathian Basin lies at the cross-roads of trade routes. Budapest was developed on the border of two different regions - hills and lowland - along an important - so called - market-line. In the early Middle Ages the river was forded at the narrowest point of the Danube where today the Erzsébet-híd (Elisabeth Bridge) stretches over the water.

Certain useful attributes of the Buda Hills also played a part in the decision to settle here : - the hills along the riverside: the Vár-hegy (Castle Hill) theGellért-hegy (Gellért Hill) are of strategic importance and offer good possibilities for defence - the woods and the rocks of the hills (e.g. limestone dolomite sandstone clay) supplied building materials for the houses. There were also abundant supplies of good-quality water available for the settlers. The gravel layers on both sides of the Danube are several metres thick and provide substantial reserves of drinking-water. The section of the river Danube on the territory of Budapest is 30 km long. Its broadest part (640 m) is to be found in the north near the souther tip of the Szentendre Island at the Lánc-híd (Chain Bridge) it is 330 m wide its narrowest reach is at the foot of Gellért Hill (285 m). The discharge ofthe Danube at Budapest is 2330 cu.m/sec (compared to the Seine at its mouth: 500 cu.m/sec and to the Rhine at its mouth: 2200 cu.m/sec).

But even more important was the role of the springs at the foot of the hills along a tectonic line. These warm-water and hot-water springs are a unique feature of Budapest there are about 120 of them situated within the boundaries of the Hungarian capital many of them having therapeutic effects.

The temperature of these springs in Buda (e.g. Lukács Császár Gellért baths) is between 25 and 60 ÉC (75 -140 F) while the thermal-water of the Széchenyi bath from a depths of more than 1000 m not far from the Hősök tere (Heroes Square) is 73-76 ÉC (167 F).

Budapest is not only a "town of baths" but a "town of caves" too. The subterranean streams of the Buda Hills have formed long caves. Two of them the Pálvölgy Cave ( total length 7200 m) and the Szemlőhegy Cave (total length 2200 m) can bee visited by tourists.

The relief of the less densely populated Buda is more varied: the 200-500 m high hills are dissected by valleys along tectonic lines. Some of the more picturesque hills are : the Vár-hegy (Castle Hill) the site of the mediaeval town of Buda (168 m) the Gellért Hill often referred to as the "Gibraltar of the Danube" (235 m) the Sas-hegy (Eagle Hill) which is a conservation area (266 m) and the János-hegy (John Hill) the highest point of Budapest with the Elizabeth lookout tower (527 m).

The relief of the more densely populated Pest is rather monotonous. The 110-120 m high lowland was accumulated by the Danube the busy Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard) was built on land that used to be submerged under a branch of the Danube. Far from the river in the eastern part of Pest there is higher ground for example near the eastern terminus of the Budapest Metro's M2 line at Őrs Vezér Square which is at about the same height as the Gellért Hill.

Budapest also has a kind climate. The region has a typical temperate climate with an average temperature of 11 ÉC (52 F). The coldest month is January with an average monthly temperature of -2.5 ÉC (27.5 F) the average temperature during the warmest month July is 20 ÉC (68 F). The average yearly precipitation is 611 mm the wettest months are May and June(average monthly precipitation 60-70 mm) the driest January and February (35-38 mm). There are on average 139 rainy days in a year and 26 with snow.

There are between 2000 and 2300 hours of sunshine each year.

Compiled by the Hungarian Geographical Society



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