The geography of Hungary is dominated by hills and plains, namely the Pannonian Basin. Its territory is washed by the Danube for a distance of 417 km, splitting the relief in the Great Hungarian Plain in the southeast and the Little Hungarian Plain in the northwest, with the Transdanubian mountains at the centre. The Danube enters the Little Alföld plain immediately after emerging from the Hungarian Gates Gorge near Bratislava, Slovakia. There the river stream slows down abruptly and loses its transporting capacity, so that enormous quantities of gravel and sand settle on the bottom. The silting hampers navigation and occasionally divides the river into two or more channels. It bends near the city of Visegrád, creating a scenic view of the Transdanubian Mountains on the one side and the North Hungarian Mountains on the other. The steep right bank is crowned by fortresses, castles, and cathedrals of the Hungarian Árpád dynasty, which existed from the 10th to 15th century. The Danube then flows past Budapest and across the vast Great Alföld plain and exits the country.
The hydrography of Hungary is mainly represented by its two main waterways, the Danube and the Tisza. This influence is further reflected in the tripartite division of the relief of the country:
• Transdanubia (hung. Dunántúl), representing the eastern part of the country, dominated by hills and low mountains. Lake Balaton, the largest in Central Europe, and Lake Hévíz, the second-largest thermal lake in the world, are located here.
• The relief of the other two, Duna–Tisza köze (trans. Between the Danube and the Tisza) and Tiszántúl (trans. beyond the Tisza), is formed of the Great Hungarian Plain, and the Carpathians at the north border of the country.
The country is characterized by a continental climate, with hot summers and low overall humidity levels, but frequent showers and frigid to cold snowy winters. Yet, as in the rest of Europe, the average cold and warm temperature tails warmed from the 20th century onwards due to aggressive human interference with the natural landscape. The precipitation also decreased, particularly during springtime. This in the long term is expected to cause a decrease in the potential utilization of the water and an increase in the run-off, leading to an increased risk of floods.
The relief and climate make the arable land the most important natural resource of Hungary. Its agriculture is self-sufficient and, along with related industries, makes up approximately 13 % of the GDP. The most prevalent crops are wheat, corn, sunflower, potato, sugar beet, and canola, a range of fruits, chiefly apple, peach, pear, grape, watermelon, and plum. Hungary’s vineyards produce the grapes for the world-renowned Tokaji wine, about which Louis XV of France commented upon tasting: “Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum” (“Wine of Kings, King of Wines”). Symbolic for their agriculture and prevalent in traditional cuisine is also paprika. In fact, the country is among the leading producers of paprika in the world, Szeged and Kalocsa being central to this industry.