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Sunchasing in Hungary

On August 11, a rare celestial phenomenon will descend upon Europe -- and it's parts of Romania, Yugoslavia, and Hungary that will offer the best glimpse of this full solar eclipse. The Savvy Traveler's Drew Leifheit has noticed that Hungary is bustling in a variety of ways to get ready for this extraordinary event.

Sunchasing in Hungary
by Drew Leifheit

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In the few remaining days before the eclipse, the Hungarian capital, Budapest, is buzzing with excitement over the two-and-a-half minutes the moon will block the sun. You only have to look at the local billboards to see there's something different going on. One campaign for Rexona anti-perspirant has a blazing photo of an eclipse with a caption reading, "The only two and a half minutes you won't have to worry about how much you're sweating."

According to the Hungarian tourism board, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to leave the big city and head out to the Hungarian countryside. Many of them will travel a couple of hours to the resort towns around lake Balaton in the days surrounding the eclipse.

Zsofia Regoczi, whose family runs an inn and restaurant, says their 12 rooms have been booked months in advance. Regoczi explains that the proximity of the NATO air strikes that were carried out against Yugoslavia earlier this year has made for a sluggish tourist season. She hopes the excitement generated by the eclipse will bring business back to the region.

Regoczi: "We expect a lot of guests because you know it's going to happen next time, I think 2083 or so. So I think it's going to help for our tourist expectation. We didn't have a lot of tourists since now and in August they say that's going to be the big season for us.

Eclipse 1 One German concert promoter hopes to attract some starry-eyed sun watchers to the tiny village of Ozora for a "Solipse," an international rave and camp out. And a company called Napvadasz or "Sun Chaser" will celebrate by throwing eight separate folk festivals in cities near the Balaton and further south. They're also distributing special glasses so that no one's blinded by the light. Gyorgy Montvai is an amateur astronomer and "Sun Chaser's" founder. He wants to make sure people can see the spectacle while still remaining safe.

Montvai: "If you are not a professional and have no tools to measure these things you can't tell whether it's a good filter or not. You have to buy it from well-known shops and gas stations."

But while the phenomenon means money in the pockets of some people and a vacation for others, there are still others for whom the eclipse has an otherworldly significance.

Barat: "Everybody's asking whether it will influence his own or his children's' destiny or not. And I say, 'No, it won't.'"

Joshi Barat is a fortune-teller in Budapest. He says that many of his clients believe this summer's eclipse might be a sign of some sort of cosmic imbalance or cataclysm. And he adds that some customers have even asked him for protection. The effects of the eclipse, according to Barat:

Barat: "Nothing special. Only on certain people -- this catharsis for this eclipse. It brings a completely different state of mind and maybe some accidents can happen or something but it can happen other days also. But this day can make it a bit more intensive."

Still, Hungarian Dora Eke says she wants to play it safe when the moon covers the sun.

Eke: "Somebody told me that at that exact moment she wants to be with her son just to make sure if something happens then she wants to be with him and from that point on I'm a little bit thinking about the same thing."

Though she'd like to avoid the crowds, Dora Eke says she'll probably take a day off from work, and join her son and parents at their weekend home on Lake Balaton to watch the fleeting spectacle that's captivated the entire country.

In Hungary, I'm Drew Leifheit for The Savvy Traveler.

Sky Watching
An Interview with Joe Rao

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Eclipse 1

The eclipse will be partially visible from the northeastern United States to Asia, but the total eclipse will be seen only from a narrow corridor that starts in the Atlantic and cuts a swath across Central Europe and the eastern hemisphere. We've got no shortage of calls from travelers who want to witness this event first hand. We call them "eclipse chasers" and we're anxious to know why they're making such a fuss over, as Drew said, a 2-and-a-half minute event. Joe Rao is here to fill us in. Joe is the meteorologist at News 12 in New York and author of The New York Times "Sky Watch" column.

Savvy Resources for Watching the Total Eclipse

Info on the Eclipse:

  • '99 Solar Eclipse from Hungary
    Everything you might want to know about watching the eclipse from Hungary. This site is in English.

  • Solipse '99
    The Eclipse Festival -- "7 days of performance, love and psychadelics."

  • Exploratorium: Solar Eclipse: The Path of Totality
    Will have live webcast of the eclipse, also has tips for viewing an eclipse, eclipse links and much more.

  • NASA's Total Eclipse page
    Provides detailed predictions, maps, figures and information about this historic event, and a comprehensive list of links concerning the August 11, 1999 eclipse.

  • Europeans Space Agency--Solar Eclipse 1999
    Practical guide, links, eclipse history and more.

  • UK Solar Eclipse Info
    Official UK eclipse site includes detailed viewer information, history, and links.

  • Science@NASA's Thursday's Classroom
    Science@NASA announces the first installment of Thursday's Classroom, a prototype educational web site for teachers and parents. Its aim is to provide a dynamic connection between NASA's latest research and the classroom environment - a pipeline of new knowledge between scientists and students. This first installment focuses on the August 11 solar eclipse, and the science of studying the sun.

Traveling to and within Hungary:

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