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In learning a little about the People's Crusade and the First Crusade, it seems Hungary is important as a sort of gateway to the east. The crusades must pass through Hungary in order to get to the east, and must even apparently convince a well guarded gate to let them pass through the country.

Similarly, in modern times, I recall it being an important gateway, this time from the east, with refugees needing to pass through it in order to get to Europe.

So why is Hungary so important for travel between the west and east? I don't see any obvious reason why it should be, looking at a map.

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    And what have you seen on that map? A shorter pathway maybe going all the way around Ukraina, Poland, ..? (You may also want to consider that historical Hungary and nowadays Hungary looked different on those maps) – Greg Dec 17 '16 at 0:59
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enter image description here (original image by Wikimedia Commons user San Jose)

If you look at a topographic map of Europe, the reason should be self-evident: the easiest land route from northern/western Europe passes through the gap between the Alps and the Carpathians. Hungary sits in the middle of that gap; historic Hungary occupied effectively all of it.

This same geography remains an important factor in modern times: there are far more roads and railroads passing through that gap, typically by way of Budapest, than go over the Carpathians.

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