26 April 2013

Visit your shtetl without leaving home: Google Street View of Hungary

Street View on Google Earth and Google Maps on streets in much of the  United States is wonderful, but it hasn't provided much for those of us interested in Eastern Europe. However, a couple of days ago, the Google Earth Blog noted that Street View has been added for Hungary and expanded for Romania and Poland. Now you may be able to walk some of the main streets of your ancestral community without ever leaving home.

For those who are not savvy on using the Google Maps or Google Earth applications, Street View may be accessed via the little yellow peg man on the upper left or right of your map image. If you don't see him on a map that may include Street View, zoom in until he appears. Place the cursor on him, click, hold and drag him over the map. Blue lines will appear on the map indicating streets where Street View is available. There is a short video tutorial on using Street View on the Google Earth Blog post.

I decided to look at the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. Starting in Google maps, I searched on the name, found the map, zoomed in and then dragged the little guy over the map. Voila! The images are from 2011.

Dohany Street Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary 
(from GoogleMaps.com)

One may use the arrow keys on one's computer keyboard to move around on the street. Here's a shot looking in the other direction.

I decided to see what they might have in some more rural areas of Hungary. I headed east toward the border with Ukraine. This Street View in Opalyi, Szabolecs-Szatmar-Bereg County, Hungary was done in Dec 2011.

What I really like about this is that I can move down the street and the very next image shows a change of season (!): an image taken the following Spring. Sort of feels like The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy starts dreaming in Technicolor.

To close out of Street View and get back to your map, click on the small X in the upper right of the map or satellite photo.

Right now coverage in Street View of Ukraine and several other Eastern European countries is still, literally, spotty. In Google Maps search on a country. Try Ukraine. Drag peg man and hover him over the map. What you see are many little square spots and a few larger blobs on large cities. The square spots indicate locations of static photos in Panoramio. The blobs are places where Street View is active. This includes:
Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk, and parts of Chernivtsi and Khotyn. This is nice, but not as nice as what is currently possible for the main streets in more rural areas of Romania and Hungary.

I hope there will be expanded Street View soon in Ukraine. Then I can shtetl-shlep from the confines of my computer.

Have you been able to "walk" the streets of your village in Eastern Europe using Street View? Let me know with a comment below. 


  1. Thanks! I was able to 'walk the streets' of both Almasu and Marghitta in Romania, the birth places of great grandparents. (Both towns were a part of Hungary at that time.)

    I was actually able to visit the towns last year, so it wasn't my first view of them, but it is still cool to see them.

  2. Great! I'm jealous. I will look up your towns so I can live vicariously. :-)

  3. This is very cool. I will have to take some time to explore Bonyhád and Hőgyész, Hungary, the ancestral towns of my husband's paternal grandmother and her ancestors. I also just found some street images for Ilok, Croatia (which used to be in Hungary). This is the ancestral homeland of my husband's paternal grandfather.

  4. Yes, this is definitely something in which one may lose lots of time. Enjoy your tour, Elizabeth.

  5. Feeling like a ghost, visiting the shtetl on Streetview (some thoughts and fantasies): http://itzikswell.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-ghost-of-shtetl-future.html

  6. Nice post, Irwin. Thank you for sharing it.


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