BT Companion

How to get a vaccination certificate?

Despite successful double vaccination it happens that you still have to wait in vain for your green vaccination card. In the following article, I show how you can download the corresponding app and activate it by registering. The app is now recognized as a fully-fledged alternative to the green vaccination card.

Nothing works without online registration

In order to be able to register for the app in the health portal at all, you first have to be approved for online use of the portal. Unfortunately, for us as foreigners, the approval cannot be obtained online; here, a trip to the responsible municipality/city administration is required first in order to apply for online access. As documents must be presented the identity card/passport and the Lakcím Kártya. First go to this portal and click there on the top left on registration “Bejelentkezés”.

Clicking on “Ügyfélkapu” takes you to the login page.

After inserting the received access data, you will be asked to update your personal data and set your own password on the first visit.


Now you are prepared not just for the app, but also for many other public online services.

App and registration in the EESZT portal

For a successful registration and activation of the app, you must now work in parallel with your cell phone and a computer or tablet. Just with a cell phone alone the activation is not feasible!

In the first step, please follow this link. First, the registration via the online portal is required. But before that you will be asked for your Hungarian social security number (TAJ). Afterwards you will get to this page.

Here you follow the individual steps and log into the system.

Now you get to this page:

The next step is to download the EESZT Lakossági app (on the left) from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to your cell phone. The app can be easily found using the search function in your respective store.

On some devices, the “New registration” button may be somewhat hidden.

The actual EESZT registration

Now the actual registration takes place. Follow the instructions on the website. In one of the steps you will be asked to enter a 6-digit code (only digits) and confirm it. Write down this code. It is very important and will be requested every time you activate the app on your phone.

After you have completed each step, a QR code will appear on the web page.:

Scan this code with your cell phone. Only after a successful scan your app is activated! If you have problems with scanning, you can also enter the alphanumeric code displayed below the QR code into your cell phone. However, I cannot recommend this procedure because of the high risk of typing errors.

This is how your website looks like after EESZT registration.

Now you can log in to the app with your 6-digit PIN. After that, click on COVID-oltásigazolás (engl.: COVID vaccination certificate). If you have been vaccinated, your vaccination data will now be displayed:

Everything is actually quite simple if you know how to work through the individual steps. I hope my explanation is helpful for all those who have already been vaccinated (at least initial vaccination) but are still eagerly waiting for the green plastic card.
If you still have problems with the registration process, please contact me through the editorial office. I will try to help as best as possible on an individual basis.

“Small Hours. The Long Night of John Martyn” by Graeme Thomson (published by Omnibus Press)

A one-man wrecking ball

In the late 1970s, record company public relations lady Dawn Murray, in Sydney, Australia, was excitedly awaiting a tour by one of her musical heroes, British singer-songwriter John Martyn. He was distributed Down Under by her record label, Festival, so Dawn would be overseeing the visit. Unfortunately, when it was all over she was left shell-shocked, hugely disappointed by the man. The concerts had been fine but perhaps Dawn had been unaware of Martyn’s reputation as a top-grade hell-raiser. Well, you know what they say, Dawn: never meet your heroes.
22. August 2020 14:59

We knew Dawn at that time and she told us of her unhappy experience but didn’t want to go into the messy details. Martyn died just over a decade ago, in 2009, and Graeme Thomson was able to conduct almost 100 new interviews for this all-embracing biography. He missed Dawn Murray, if she is still around, but he does offer one illuminative tale from that tour.

Martyn had flown to Australia with fellow folk artist Bert Jansch for a series of joint shows, and their manager was waiting for them to arrive in Perth, Western Australia. Bad weather forced them to Melbourne, 2700 kilometres away by air, from where Martyn phoned in. “What do you want: the bad news or the good news?” he asked. It was all bad. “I’ve got a busted lip, Bert’s got a dislocated finger and the road manager’s in prison.”

They’d had a fight on the plane. Jansch had punched Martyn. “Whatever possessed you?” Jansch was asked. “Well, I knew before the tour was over John was going to hit me so I thought I’d get mine in first,” he replied. The tour manager had been arrested for stealing a life jacket, which had been sneaked into his hand luggage by Martyn as a drunken prank. Jansch missed the first date due to his injured finger. And so the tour progressed.

Tales of Martyn’s escapades on various tours are legion, such as when his madman-in arms, double-bass player Danny Thompson, nailed a comatose Martyn under a hotel carpet in retaliation for some drunken indiscretion. The following morning Thompson ordered and ate a full room-service breakfast next to where a severely dehydrated Martyn, still pinned to the floor, ranted and raved. The author says it is a well versed though not verifiable story.

Another time, on stage, a drunken Martyn took an age tuning up, before leaning so far back on his chair he toppled over. Undeterred, he continued playing from a prostrate position. Martyn once head-butted two men of a party of 12 after one had racially abused a waiter in an Indian restaurant. As the other 10 prepared to act, Danny Thompson shouted, “Don’t even begin. I taught him!”, and they backed down.

Graeme Thomson’s book is great for those enthusiasts who appreciate the solid body of songs Martyn wrote and recorded on 23 studio albums over a 40-year career before his death in 2009 aged 60. His ambition wasn’t to be hugely popular but he received considerable acclaim and moderate fame. Anyone who is unfamiliar with his music, described as a sort of folk-jazz, would surely want to become acquainted after reading this biography. On the other hand, if you already know Martyn’s music, the factual details about this troublesome man may dishearten.

Journalist and author Thomson, who has written books on Kate Bush, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Phil Lynott, informs us that Martyn was actually born Ian McGeachy in New Malden, UK, in 1948 and adopted his stage name in 1967 after moving from Glasgow to London to begin his music career. The book gives just the right amount of information about his antecedents (we generally prefer not to know about a subject’s great-great-great-grandparents). Mum and Dad were professional light opera singers but the marriage flopped quickly, leaving Ian to be raised by his father and grandmother in Glasgow from the age of about two years, “an age when Martyn was still soft fruit, ripe for bruising”, writes Thomson. He could usually only visit his mother in school holidays, saddening him.

“He mistrusted women, which turned him into a misogynist,” opines folk singer and ex-wife Beverley Martyn, who suffered physical and psychological abuse at his hands. Her own career did not survive their two-album cooperation. She endured his rage and beatings, perhaps simply because his shirts weren’t ironed.

After the breakup, Martyn gave her no money and largely ignored their two biological children and Beverley’s child. The combination of financial and psychological pressures caused the family intense hardship while Martyn fuelled his drink and drug habits.

He started another family and forsook them too. Thomson: “He blackened the eyes and broke the spirit of women he professed to love, abandoned at least one of his children and neglected others.” When the mother of one child phoned Martyn, whom she had not spoken to in more than a decade, to say that the child would like to meet him, Martyn told her: “Tell him I’m dead.”

In Glasgow, Martyn had started playing guitar at 15 and on leaving school at 17 he started performing in local folk clubs. With a growing reputation he decided it was time to move on, taking the train to London without bothering to tell his girlfriend.

He started playing in the main folk venues around London but “Having grabbed a foothold in the rather earnest Sixties folk scenes in Glasgow and London, he soon outgrew what he regarded as their limitations… The art was magical and unerringly beautiful, fearsomely personal, feather-light and somehow pure. It was also capable of being coarse, aggressive, wayward and indulgent, not to mention repetitive and downright dull on occasion”, Thomson adjudges.

Martyn was soon signed by Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, and became the label’s favoured child among an illustrious roster that included Free, Traffic, Jethro Tull and Nick Drake. Thomson recounts: “Full of wit and bounce and bite, he pushed his luck into corners and charmed, or slugged, his way out almost every time.”

John’s debut album, “London Conversation”, was basically a folk album, recorded in mono and released in October 1967. His first two albums failed to do any serious business. He only ever had modest commercial success and his main income from touring, for which he needed stimulants to keep himself going.

His later work is described as incorporating elements of spiritual jazz, reverberating blues, smooth soul and skeletal dub, his albums as bold and unclassifiable. Slurred, lazy vocals topped innovative guitar. “Did any musician in the Seventies fly so free as John Martyn did on “Bless the Weather”, “Solid Air”, “Inside Out” and “One World”? Did any fall so far?”, Thomson asks.

The hair-trigger personality could switch in a flash. There was the Glaswegian thug and the loving hippie. His features took on a debauched air, puffy, red-faced, sweaty. The music lost a degree of verve and swagger. He became “a man who had chanced his arm one too many times and seemed astonished to discover that it had finally been torn off”.

Martyn fell and was impaled on a fence post once and ran into a cow with his car. By the time he heard that he had been awarded an OBE for his contribution to British music, he was in a wheelchair, having lost a leg to septicaemia compounded by his substance abuse. He died weeks later, before he could accept the honour.

Thomson understands his subject. In one of his excellent summings-up he offers: “Martyn lived his life the same way he made his music, improvising as he went, with no safety net, admirable in one sense and impossibly irresponsible in another. He tore through it, scattering brilliance and destruction in his wake.”

Or: “At turns he was sweet, tough, slightly terrifying and very funny, exhibiting roughly equal measures of scholarly eloquence, quicksilver intelligence and macho roguery, with flashes of tenderness. If there was guilt – and there must have been – it was not offered up. He seemed cheerfully unrepentant about the many bad choices he had made.”

Or: “The innate prettiness Martyn possessed – in his face, his voice, his music, his words – was a gift he at first exploited and then actively mistrusted. In the end he simply destroyed it.”

His daughter, Vari McGeachy: “A lot of people got wounded in John’s vicinity but he damaged himself more than anybody else – there is no question of that.”

Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

A musical postcard from Hilton Vienna Park

Wish you were hear

Just as the famous glass is half-full or half-empty, depending on your frame of mind, so there can always be music in the air if you choose to hear some.
22. August 2020 14:57

For us, this is always the case in Vienna, the world capital of classical music, and particularly so at the city’s Stadtpark, where our make-believe melodies are the ideal accompaniment along its winding paths as they pass numerous memorials to great Austro-Hungarian composers.

Immediately adjacent is Hilton Vienna Park, where a more modern trance-like music is playing in the lounge bar and a piano awaits its player. The two sorts of music may differ but in fact the hotel and the park are nicely in tune, for the Stadtpark is virtually the Hilton’s front garden.

This is especially evident from the top-floor windows of the 15-storey Hilton – Vienna’s largest hotel – which look directly down onto the near-impenetrable mass of trees and shrubs that fill the splendid park, allowing only occasional glimpses through the leaves onto the beautiful lawns and lake where the Viennese come to relax. From on high, just one white statue of a composer is visible through the blanket of greenery. (Subsequent ground-level investigation reveals this to be Austria’s own Franz Schubert, 1797-1828.)

Even better from our window, beyond the Stadtpark the whole of central Vienna is laid out in the August sunshine. This is the celebrated Innere Stadt, the old town encompassed by the celebrated Ringstrasse. Practically the entire historic area seems to be on view, and dominating everything and directly opposite the window are the 137-metre Gothic spire and glazed-tile roof of the grand Stephansdom cathedral, just half a kilometre away.

Near this centrepiece can be seen the imposing green-and-gold copper dome called the Michaelerkuppel over the Michaelertor gate into the sprawling Hofberg Palace, plus the long green patina roof of the State Opera House. Off to the side is the Karlskirche, the Baroque Church of St Charles, at Karlsplatz, with another fine dome and its two distinctive columns.

The panorama across Vienna from Hilton Vienna Park’s upper floors is magnificent, and the city is nicely framed by the distant hills with vineyards on their slopes. If it appears that there is too much out there to see in one lifetime, there probably is, a fact borne out by a quick glance through any guidebook.

If the Stadtpark was Vienna´s first communal park, having opened on August 21, 1862, the Hilton could be said to be the city’s “newest” hotel. Although it welcomed the first guest on June 6, 1975 and is thus celebrating 45 years, right now it is very near the end of a two-year renovation that has included 18 months of actual reconstruction.

The new concept was overseen by the Goddarf Littlefair architect studio in London, and with Vienna being regularly voted the “most liveable city in the world”, the British team understandably took inspiration from Austria’s thriving capital, arriving at a sophisticated look in the refurbished rooms, suites and communal areas. The contemporary style is inspired by Viennese Modernism, complete with graphic detailing and bold, natural colours.

There is no denying that Hilton Vienna Park is a guest’s dream at the moment, a hotel so clean and sparkling that it almost seems a shame for we visitors to intrude on the pristine surroundings. With tourism everywhere slowed by the coronavirus, guests could even be the first persons ever to use their room. After all, in the Hilton every cushion, curtain, chair, table, lamp, lift, towel, sheet, safe, running machine, bathroom, iron and all the rest have a virginal feel at present. The carpets in the corridors have a fresh smell.

Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

As said, the hotel is Vienna’s largest, its 663 guest rooms apparently eclipsing the next-biggest by a couple of hundred. The 663 include almost 80 suites. At the moment the glass is half-empty rather than half-full because of the fall-off in travel, and while for instance the Selleny’s Bar is up and running, the brand-new Lenz restaurant awaits its opening in September.

Selleny’s is named after the creator of the Stadtpark, Joseph Selleny, and, inspired by the location right beside the park, Selleny and his Austrian heritage are celebrated in a Viennese coffee house culture that offers freshly prepared coffee specialties and local cocktail trends paired with innovative signature drinks.

The bar promises a culinary journey from East to West, with an emphasis on Tatar cuisine in the seasonal and regional menu, all products being sourced locally, ideally within a 50-kilometre radius of Vienna. Up there on the Hilton rooftop they grow their own herbs and source their own honey, which is served at breakfast.

As with the ready-to-go Lenz, the revamped meeting rooms await their moment. The 3000 square metres of adaptable meeting space make the Hilton Europe’s largest downtown Meeting and Event hotel.

Also, the brand-new fitness centre is open and the wellness area is about to follow. Hiltons have a “Five Feet to Fitness” concept that offers health-conscious business travellers and exercise enthusiasts more than 11 different fitness equipment and accessory options inside their hotel room.

Understandably, there is an especially strong emphasis on health and cleanliness throughout Hilton Vienna Park’s 15 floors at the moment. The hotel team has daily temperature checks and weekly COVID tests. This is part of the “A Passion to Care” approach that covers both staff and guests, with rooms sealed with a “CleanStay” sticker until occupancy to show they’ve been thoroughly sanitised according to the hotel’s new procedures.

Hilton CleanStay has a Lysol protection program that is a collaboration between Hilton, RB (maker of Lysol (US)/Dettol (international)) and the Mayo Clinic Infection Prevention and Control team to provide a focus on staying healthy that is visible throughout a guest’s entire stay.

Sanitising stations have been set up throughout the hotel, including at all lifts and public areas. High-touch and high-traffic areas have received increased attention. Check-in and check-out are contact-free, and smartphones can download hotel menus and will soon replace plastic door and lift cards. Like “CleanStay”, “EventReady” offers the same standards in the meeting rooms.

Alongside these precautions, the hotel embraces Vienna’s commitment to sustainability, using 100% renewable energy and being awarded the Austrian Eco Label certification for the past decade.

Immediately outside Hilton Vienna Park is Wien Mitte The Mall, a multi-storey shopping centre. Here is the Landstrasse U-Bahn station where lines U3 and U4 meet, plus the CAT City Airport Train that gets to Vienna International Airport in just 15 minutes. The Budapest Times, noticing the frequent buses to the St Marx district, took a ride, knowing that this is home to the cemetery where Mozart is buried – exact spot unknown.

Returning to our 15th-floor eyrie, we omitted to mention that the room also looks immediately down on the mostly man-made channel of the River Wien, which flows almost apologetically alongside the Stadtpark (and even disappears underground for much of its time in the city). Some people apparently mistake it for the Danube and go home disappointed.

For the “real river” in its full glory visit the edge-of-the-city Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront, a name that speaks for itself. Hilton’s third hotel in the Austrian capital is Hilton Vienna Plaza, on the Schottenring section of the Ringstrasse almost opposite the Bourse.

Before departure to Budapest it is time for a final visit to the Stadtpark, where the northern end faces the MAK (the Museum of Applied Arts) and the southern end is home to the Kursalon, an impressive Renaissance-style 19th-century building from 1867 that’s now a restaurant and venue for classical concerts.

We find memorials to Anton Bruckner (who inspired, for example, Mahler), Franz Lehár (composer of the “The Merry Widow” operetta) and Robert Stolz, the internationally fêted “Grand Old Man of Viennese Light Music”. Finally, one of the world’s most photographed monuments since its unveiling in 1921, the Johann Strauss Golden Statue.

Surrounded by dancing and floating figures, the Waltz King (1825 to 1899) is shown with his violin poised, ready to play. His 500 works included the “Blue Danube” and “Emperor” waltzes and the operetta “Die Fledermaus”, tunes as Viennese as coffee and Sachertorte.

Did someone say something about music in the air?

Hilton Vienna Park

Am Stadtpark 1
Vienna, A-1030
Phone: +43-1-71700


  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

  • Photo: Hilton Vienna Park

Maximilian Zimmermann and Mariann Tóth.

Sport and music at La Estancia club in Etyek

Summer polo party thrills

Two international teams showed off their horseback skills in front of about 120 spectators in a mid-summer polo party at the Zimmermann family's La Estancia Polo Club in Etyek. As well as the match, classical music and open-air cinema entertained the guests.

Among those present were numerous familiar faces from the Hungarian German-speaking expat community, including Ulrike and Stephan Interthal, Philipp Körbler, Eilika and Georg Habsburg and their children, Peter Knoll, Marcus von der Wal, Katja Schläfli and Martin Aeschlimann, and Mariann Peller. Lothar Matthäus came with the whole family and, to the delight of the audience, showed off his soccer skills on the lawn of the polo club.

The Habsburg family with Dávid Horváth (3rd from left).

A concert by the “Young Virtuosos” Apor Szüts, Daniel Ali Lugosi, Zoltán Bacsy-Schwartz and Carmen Boateng – known from the TV show of the same name –, joined by star guest Placido Domingo Jr. (son of opera superstar Placido Domingo) took place in the afternoon. The grand piano was transported to Etyek especially for this concert.

Georg Habsburg and Jose Luiz, Ambassador of Brasil.

The guests included ambassadors David Najera (Mexico), José Luiz Machado E Costa (Brazil) and Joanna Azzi (Lebanon), and the Mayor of Etyek, Tamás Zólyomi.


  • Alexandra Bencikova and Philipp Zimmermann.

  • The Zimmermann family and Tamás Zólyomi, the Mayor of Etyek with his partner.

  • Philipp and Maximilian Zimmermann.

  • Marika Sommerstein and the Zimmermann brothers.

  • Krisztina Zimmermann and Jose Luiz.

  • Gergő Szabó.

  • Francesco Mari and Uwe Zimmermann.

  • Dahid Najera, Ambassador of Mexiko.

Photo: Facebook

Make a statement with retro clothing

Stand out from the dowd  

Fashion is one way to express individuality, and right now the retro style is getting an upwind and becoming one of the most sought-after looks. Vintage fashion is about much more than just buying used clothing for a good price. It’s a fashion statement that tells stories and represents a new consciousness about the dark side of throwaway society.  More and more shops in Budapest are joining the trend and trading fine vintage pieces. We present some of the best ones.

Szputnik – New design and classics

Over the years Szputnik has become one of the most popular places for cheap and still individual clothing. A broad choice of modern, unique designs, second-hand shoes and fine vintage rarities awaits the visitor at the spacious boutique on the corner of Dohány and Síp utcas, in the Jewish Quarter.  Products include leather jackets, distinctive wrap dresses with wild patterns and even glamorous evening wear, which could have just appeared from a film starring Greta Garbo. Not only locals visit the store regularly but often also tourists hunting for good deals. Sputnik is the Russian word for “companion” or “travel companion”, thus the vintage boutique aims to – in their words – equip people with pieces of clothing that “accompany them on their everyday travel just like true companions”.

District VII, Dohány utca 20, Monday to Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 10am-6pm



Photo: Facebook

Similarly to Szputnik, Retrock combines a well-planned palette from young Hungarian designers with a broad range of extravagant but wearable vintage clothing. The real vintage paradise can be found on the top floor. The chests, shelves and clothes rails are packed with extraordinarily unique pieces.  You find here everything ranging from pompous furs and cowboy boots through elegant, wide-brimmed hats and faded denim vests up to the sailor outfit – you will be able to dress from top to bottom in Retrock, no matter what the occasion or your taste.

District VI, Anker köz 2, Monday to Saturday 11am-7pm


Ludovika Vintage – a treasure chest for vintage fans

Photo: Facebook

This small shop in Rumbach Sebestyén utca is something of a secret shared. Especially if you are on the hunt for leather bags in good condition, you will surely get lucky here. Ludovika also offers a wide selection of playful romantic ruffled blouses, refined dresses from the 1970s and trousers with high-waist.

District VII, Rumbach Sebestyén utca 15, Monday 1pm-7pm, Tuesday to Friday noon-8pm, Saturday noon-7pm, Sunday 1pm-6pm


LoveBug Vintage

Photo: Facebook

This shop on the Buda side already differentiates itself from its competitors geographically, since most of the other shops are in the hip city centre of Pest. This is an advantage for all the treasure and bargain hunters who prefer to browse through the offered antiquities and clothes undisturbed by nosy tourist groups who often wander into vintage shops. LoveBug Vintage is special due to its famous assortment of accessories such as antique brooches, gloves, jewellery, hats and used but still elegant shoes. The offered pieces are often originally of the best available quality, which guarantees their durability. Fashion-conscious citizens of Budapest will find the matching detail here to give that inimitable finishing touch to their wardrobes.

District II, Margit körút 62, Tuesday to Friday 2-7pm, Saturday noon-5pm



Photo: Facebook

The small boutique is one of the hottest insider tips. The retro trend having reached the fashion-conscious citizens of Budapest, the really chic pieces are very sought-after. Unfortunately this means it’s not always easy to find good-quality vintage clothing, and the sources are quickly drained. At the same time the prices of used clothing are increasing at a fast pace. Antifactory on the other hand attracts its customers with its almost shamefully low prices and the incomparable selection. You can still find real rarities here.

District VI, Paulay Ede utca 58, Monday to Saturday noon-7pm

Gum manufacturing in Hungary in the 1970s. (Photo: Chocco Garden)

Coronavirus leaves bad taste in mouths of gum manufacturers

Nail-chewing times are here

COVID-19 has battered countries, communities and corporations big and small. One perhaps unexpected casualty is chewing gum, a product with a 5000-year history and which has just celebrated half a century since the first full year of Hungarian production in 1970.

Chewing gum is part of what is known as the impulse products market, with at least 60 percent of its consumption related to activities outside the home, mainly chewing on the go, at work, at school and buying on a whim at checkouts. So with the coronavirus pandemic causing many people to stay home and do more online shopping, the industry has been hit hard.

So hard that manufacturers are responding with innovation and functional products, which were presented by the Association of Hungarian Confectionery Manufacturers at a roundtable discussion in July. It was the Csemege Confectionery Company that recorded the Hungarian milestone in 1970, and thus the significant 50-year anniversary provided a good opportunity for the summit meeting on how to tackle the crisis.

The discussion was hosted by the Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Hospitality in Budapest, and representatives of three companies currently dominating the domestic market participated: the Hungarian-owned Chocco Garden based in Szabadszállás (the successor of the former factory of the Budapest Confectionery Company), secondly MARS, which owns the classic Wrigley brand, and finally Mondelez, which owns the Halls and Trident brands.

The event was broadcast live on the internet, and Sándor Sára, the managing director of Chocco Garden and the president of the Association of Hungarian Confectionery Manufacturers, had to concede that this year is unlikely to be a year of chewing gum.

The 5000-year history was recorded after archaeologists excavated the oldest relic to date, a piece of tar from birch bark containing tooth marks, in what is now Finland. Tar has antiseptic properties, so it may have played a significant role in oral care at the time.

In 2019 nearly one million tons of gum were consumed worldwide, according to Euromonitor International, and in Hungary we normally chew about 2000 tons a year, an average expenditure of HUF 2000 per capita. By comparison, in the United States, the world’s largest market, the figure is USD 12, about HUF 3500 at today’s exchange rate.

So rather than dwelling on the current difficulties, the roundtable looked ahead to the next 5000 years. The companies believe in the power of innovation, and the latest product developments are about gum enriched with various minerals, trace elements and other food supplements, which not only give the pleasure of chewing but are also considered healthy and delicious.

From this point of view, Sára said, sugar-free gums, for example, have always been a particularly healthy product group in the confectionery industry, as chewing improves oral hygiene, strengthens teeth and chewing muscles, and in many cases relaxes.

Debuting in 1964, Trident was the first sugar-free chewing gum to contain three enzymes to help prevent tartar formation. The brand now belongs to the Mondelez International group, which once appeared on the Hungarian chewing gum market ten years ago, only to return in 2018 with a gum based on cough-suppressant candies, also available in the sugar-free version of Halls.

The group is planning for the long run under the Halls Gum brand, said Péter Kertész, government and corporate communications consultant at Mondelez Hungária Kft. At the beginning of 2020 the company launched the pellet-shaped dragee version of the gum in several flavours, and for the end of the year they are preparing a study of the changing consumer habits.

Attila Sófalvi, the country director of MARS Magyarország Kft., also known for Orbit chewing gum, said that after a strong start to 2020, a 20-60 percent monthly decrease in turnover was registered in domestic retail chains. However at the same time, sales increased in international discount stores, which covered the complete range of goods for people’s shopping needs.

Sófalvi said the company tries to respond to the new situation with, among other things, an online display of impulse buying, which evokes a checkout zone, but in the long run they see the solution in expanding their offering with innovative products.

Chocco Garden operates the only classic chewing gum plant in Central and Eastern Europe, said Anna Benke, the company’s business development director. Founded 30 years ago, the original German machines are still in use, in addition to next-generation technology, and 70 percent of their Crazy Gummi products are exported to many countries, such as Canada, Brazil, Israel and Japan.

They have to meet extremely diverse consumer needs, so consistent quality management is just as important to them as continuous product development, Benke said. Chocco Garden’s innovative products include French fries-shaped chewing gum for connoisseurs, for example, but the future lies in functional chewing gum.

For example, the stimulating Energy Gum, enriched with caffeine, guarana and vitamins, was launched two years ago and is now available in green tea, multivitamins and cocoa-flavonoid superimmune as well as stress-relieving versions containing zinc and magnesium. In addition to the contents the looks would be updated, and with the introduction of a Danish foiling technology, chewing gums with a hidden tattoo pattern in the packaging would hit stores this year.

Although public belief holds that chewing gum was brought to Europe by American soldiers in the two world wars, it appeared on the continent much earlier. This is supported by the oldest Hungarian chewing gum advertisement, in a 1902 issue of Budapest Hírlap. The spread of this American passion in Hungary can be dated even earlier, as the popularised Ricy chewing gum, according to the ad, was already available in pharmacies, drugstores, spice and delicatessen shops, in many flavours.

Hungarian production, according to a contemporary article by Magyar Nemzet, began in 1959 at the plants of the Győri Biscuit and Wafer Factory. However, the real breakthrough, ball gum, was launched by the Csemege Confectionery Factory ten years later.

At the end of the 1960s Hungary imported chewing gum worth about USD 50,000, so the Csemege factory bought a French chewing gum production line for almost the same amount. Production began in 1969 and by 1973 it was already turning out half a million pieces of gum a day.



A new division

Europe is divided into the leftist West and right-wing East

Central European countries have to be masters of their own destinies if they want to become players instead of being the ball again. The fact that the Eastern European nations are largely on the same wavelength offers a rare historic opportunity to the region to establish a strong Central Europe, which is also indispensable for a strong Europe, Jan Mainka, publisher of The Budapest Times and editor-in-chief of the German-language Budapester Zeitung, writes in his opinion piece in conservative daily Magyar Hírlap.

There is a new dividing line across Europe that stretches along the former Iron Curtain, again separating two different thought models. It is as if the fall of communism has brought about a reversal in polarity, with left-wing thinking once again dominant — just this time not in the East. Instead, now it is the West’s turn.

Although somewhat tempered by liberalism, this thinking perpetuates the same world view that has caused so much damage to the East.

While Western countries are — even if only in small doses — embracing ideas that have destroyed the East, in the East those who were already destroyed are still relying on the ideas and values that once made the West strong. The West remains so strong that it has still managed to assimilate all sorts of left-wing social experiments without major issue. It seems that affluence has provided a certain degree of stability for the West, allowing its people and nations to distance themselves from reality and embrace pseudo issues.

The East, however, is a long way from the dangers presented by affluence. If these countries want to succeed they must remain with both feet firmly planted on the ground. A sense of reality is crucial for them.

This common framework is both the basis for the gains of conservative forces in the former Eastern bloc and the source of better understanding among them than is the case between Western countries. The recent Visegrád Four meetings and the Europe Uncensored conference were very positive and are the type of events that renew hope time and again for a strong and united Central Europe.

History has shown that the nations in this part of the continent could best develop when they cooperated and were not set against each other by outside forces. In the past the Hungarian Kingdom and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy were such integrative forces. Nowadays the Visegrád group and the states of the former Yugoslavia can play the same role, especially when they work together to prevent countries such as France and Great Britain from interfering.

The United States, Russia and China do not yet pose a direct danger to Central European integration either. Germany, which in a geopolitical sense is part of Central Europe, is currently more focused on the German-French axis than aiming to regain its centuries-long leading role in Europe.

This strategy, however, seems rather short-sighted in a post-Brexit Europe. Germany should accept the extended hand of its Eastern partners. Despite past humiliations from Germany, the leaders of these countries are wise enough not to threaten Germany’s participation in a potential Central European cooperation.

This is so even when Hungary is facing attacks that would be inconceivable without at least the tacit approval of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Displaying an excellent strategic sense, Hungary is waiting patiently to respond.

The fact is that there is no strong Europe without a strong Central Europe.

It is also a certainty that Central European countries have to be masters of their own destinies if they want to become players instead of being the ball again. The fact that currently many leaders of the region’s countries are on the same political wavelength provides a huge and perhaps fleeting opportunity. They must use it resolutely.

The Danube Bend with the castle of Visegrád. (Photo: Wikipedia)

New services connect Adriatic Sea, and hop-on hop-off for Danube

Buses to coast, boats on Bend

Bus company Flixbus began long-distance coach services from Budapest to the Croatian Adriatic coast on July 9. Closer to home, MAHART company has started a daily boat service in the Danube Bend area, which operates on a 'Hop-On Hop-off' basis.

The buses are running between Budapest and Rijeka, Opatija, Pula, Rovinj, Zadar, Biograd na Moru, Pakostane, Pirovac, Sibenik, Trogir and Split four times a week on Thursday through Sunday.

Passengers may also board the buses in Siófok. A one-way ticket costs HUF 6399. Rebooking is possible until 15 minutes before departure. Other seaside destinations are available via transfer in Zagreb.

FlixBus is one of Europe’s leading coach companies. It has an extensive route network of more than 400,000 daily connections to over 2500 destinations in 29 European countries.

The MAHART boat connects key settlements of the Danube Bend – Nagymaros, Visegrád, Dömös and Zebegény – where passengers can get off at any time, and so get to know a particular place, by hiking or even by cycle, then continue their journey by water on the next boat available within any given day from Friday to Sunday.

Tickets can be purchased on board for HUF 500/person per day by cash or credit card. Bicycles are allowed on board for HUF 200, and children under two years go for free.


Visegrád 2pm
Nagymaros 2.10pm
Zebegény 2.50pm
Dömös 3.10pm
Nagymaros 3.20pm
Visegrád 3.30pm

Visegrád 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm
Nagymaros 10.10am, 12.10pm, 2.10pm, 4.10pm
Zebegény 10.50am, 12.50pm, 2.50pm, 4.50pm
Dömös 11.10am, 1.10pm, 3.10pm, 5.10pm
Nagymaros 11.20am, 1.20pm, 3.20pm, 5.20pm
Visegrád 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieczki. (Photo: MTI / PMO - archive)

Orbán: Hungary secures extra EUR 3bn funding after unfair offer

‘Hate, blackmail’ beaten back

The outcome of the recent European Union summit in Brussels on the bloc's 2021-2027 budget and its pandemic recovery package can be interpreted as the Hungarian and Polish forces having "repelled the international attack of the liberal brigades", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said. Hungary and Poland had thwarted the attempt to have others decide on the funds to which they are entitled, he said.

Orbán said there were some countries that had pushed for an arrangement where Hungary and Poland would receive their entitlements but their spending would have been tied to political conditions. “These are typically countries that are pro-immigration and hate us because we don’t allow them to enforce their migration policy and because Hungary stops migrants,” he said, asserting that they were backed by US financier George Soros.

He said these member states had wanted to introduce a financial mechanism with which they could “blackmail Hungary and Poland”.

Orbán added that Hungary had “only won an important battle, not a war”. He said debates on the future of Europe involved the clash of two conflicting visions. One was “past Christianity and the era of national cultures and would admit many people of foreign cultures so that they could mix with those living here to create a unique culture”.

(Photo: MTI / Press Office of the Prime Minister / Vivien Cher Benko)

But Hungary did not want this. “We like it if there’s security, order if there’s no terrorism and we don’t want to have to be the ones to conform to those who come here. We don’t want to go down that path.” But those who held the opposing view “don’t want us to be the ones to decide on this because they say that Europe should be the same everywhere”.

This debate has not been settled, the prime minister said, adding that Hungary should be prepared to continue to fight this battle “for decades to come”. This was why Hungary had to be governed by a nationally-minded government and leader “who understands this connection and is capable of standing up for Hungary”.

He said the EU summit was a key moment in the history of Hungary and the other 26 member states because they had tried something that had never been done before. Because several member states had hit trouble, EU leaders had to deal not just with the bloc’s next seven-year budget but also put together an economic recovery package.

Orbán said there were members whose public debt-to-GDP ratio was expected to reach 150-160 percent. By comparison, Hungary’s debt-to-GDP ratio was 83-85 percent in 2010, he said, adding that this too had been “depressing”.

Given that there were a variety of interests clashing at the summit, it was “very hard” to reach a deal that everyone felt was good.

Orbán said he and his team were able to secure a little more than 3 billion euros in additional funding. When the Hungarian delegation arrived there was a proposal on the table that was “unfair” and “deeply flawed”. It had needed to be corrected and it was.

On another topic, he said Hungary is a part of an international division of labour that is the European single market. “But we have a historical disadvantage that we inherited from the communist era and if we open up our borders and there are no protective tariffs in place, companies from the countries that have been more fortunate in the past will come here and put up a tough competition for Hungarian businesses”.

Because these companies repatriate their profits from Hungary, “the goal is to ensure we make at least as much money off of them as they make off of us”. Orbán said the government’s task is to see that money flowing into Hungary, for instance EU funds, matches the repatriated profits of foreign-owned multinationals.

Photo: Neverland

Entertainment centre successfully plotted escape from COVID-19

Make room for horror

While other businesses have been left reeling by the pandemic, 14 creative people have used the past six months to plan a new horror-themed 250-square-metre escape room – Hungary’s biggest. And they didn’t have to fire anyone, in fact hiring more employees and doubling the income of District VII’s Neverland entertainment centre.

During the stay-home COVID-19 health crisis the entertainment centre in Dohány utca did not stop for a minute. “We developed a marketing and sales strategy which could double our income compared to 2019, even in the middle of the biggest hospitality crisis,” Josep Zara, the mastermind and founder of Neverland, said.

“We involved many new experts to Neverland’s method. The secret behind our COVID-19 pandemic work method was thinking, hard work and endurance. Thanks to Neverland’s advanced marketing strategy, the service’s quality was designed directly for our target audience. We work with nine marketing specialists with all different specialisations and three graphic designers who help their work.”

Photo: Neverland

While the quarantines were happening, Neverland’s crew worked on maintenance and started to develop a new escape room. They say that as well as being Hungary’s biggest it will be the most terrifying. The investment is worth HUF 190 million. Construction will begin in September and will take some months. The result will be a unique gameplay.

Zara said: “Even studios from Hollywood are involved in the making of special effects and the set. Besides them, artists, mechanics, engineers, designers, decorators, sound engineers were asked to join the works. A uniqe movie crew is working on short videos for the brand-new escape room, including Gábor Hevér the “Hungarian Leonardo DiCaprio” for sound effects.”

He added: “The secret behind Neverland’s success is that we think through every little detail carefully. We check thousands of feedbacks and after that we begin to create. We put so much work into these details that might not be noticeable for guests, but we might generate 10 million extra income thinking about these steps.

“Our debuting hand-drawn drink menu has been in the making for six months also. We hope our guests won’t want to put them down and will fall in love with all the drinks. There are things that we can’t speak about, because some details from the process are taken care of just like the secret recipe of Coca-Cola.”

Zara plans to spend some weeks in Australia to prepare a Neverland expansion. The plan is to open entertainment centres in the country’s four largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. If that goes well, the United States could be the next target.