Besides the language, opposition was also directed against the “German” dress of hat, frock coat and stockings, which was massively exchanged for “Hungarian” gear. Because no one knew what this Hungarian garb actually was supposed to look like, they reverted to the colourful 17th-century dress and the flamboyant uniforms of the hussar regiments, which resulted in picturesque costumes covered with braid and fur. The nobles exchanged coach for riding horse, boots and spurs, hung the elegant épée on the hatstand and girded themselves with the broad Hungarian sabre. In cities and villages pyres were lit on which, besides the imperial regulations, German hats were burned, and if anyone dared to appear in the streets in German attire, his clothes were literally torn off his body.
With all his well-intentioned, but far too many and too hastily implemented measures, the Emperor had brought Hungary to the brink of an outright revolution. In January 1790, an embittered and critically ill Joseph was forced to withdraw most of his reforms. On February 18, while he was dying, the Crown of Saint Stephen was taken out of the treasury of the Hofburg and brought back to Hungary with great pomp and ceremony, and was welcomed in Budapest under a revelry of roaring cannon, chiming bells, torches, candles, impassioned speeches and free wine and chicken for the populace.
Nothing is better suited to arouse the dormant nationalism of a people than exteriors such as language, clothing or a symbolic object like a crown, and it was in this spirit that goulash, that simple, humble dish of cooked meat and onions, rose to the status of national dish of Hungary.
© 2016, Marcel Wick