South - East hungary - Towns in a steppe
You reach the region, named nagyafold, i.e. the territory of Great Hungarian Low Ground, situated between rivers of Danube and Tisza, and we meet puszta, taking more than 1000 ha. Anyway, your attention would not be concentrated for towns only, mentioned in your guide-book, but also for rests of people rural architecture, preserved especially nearby the community of Bugac, not far from the town of Kecskemet. Puszta did not looked like you can see it at present. It was densely afforested, the trees were rooted up by Turks later (you do not forget that even at the beginning of 17th century, most part of Hungary-territory, including Budapest, was besieged by Ottoman Empire, and southern Balaton-bank served as a nature border), so the steppe was established here. Shepherd-pasture was a typical activity, and to the beginning of 20th century very poor way of local life here. When you drive this part of the country, would you imagine, at least partially, (from preserved rests) former way of living.
Before you reach these places, your first target will be probably the town of Debrecen, provided you drive here from Kecskemet. Debrecen is the second greatest town of the country, famous from past as „capital of Hungarian Protestant faith“. This fact proves Great Calvin Church as well as Small Calvin Church and Land School on Calvin ter, Protestant school in past. State University, situated on Egytem ter, bears the name of Lajos Kossuth. The town became a centre of crushed Hungarian Revolution within 1848-1849. Just here, there was declared Habsburg dethroning from Hungarian throne. City centre of Debrecen preserves Neo-Classical character of its reconstruction, it acts in imposing and noble way. Anyway, it is modern town at the same time, this fact is proved by Debrecen Plaza with many entertainment as well as shopping possibilities. So, you do not be in a hurry, and you can visit collections of local history in Deri Museum, or to watch Nagyerdei Park, near to city centre, where you find ZOO garden, botanical garden and especially wonderful thermal spa. In any case, do not forget to visit community of Hortobagy (40 kms distant). It is a centre of puszta and National Park - you find here remembrances of previous way of life in the region, including shepherd-pasture of typical gray cattle. The town of Szolnok offers a chance for bathing in thermal spa. You can make a derivation from Kecskemet (provided you do not travel in opposite way.i.e. from Kecskemet to Debrecen, so in such case the order of visits changes).
The town of Kecskemet was busy business town in past, and except Szeged the only one, which was not damaged within Ottoman occupation, as it belonged directly under sultan administration. At present, Kecskemet is famous for production of apricot-brandy (you can see a lot of orchards around) and it is also worth seeing for its Art-Deco buildings with rich ceramic decorations and several museums, especially Gallery on Rakoczi utca and flowers-themes on surface of Cifra-palace. Kossuth ter with a promenade, this is just the right place, suitable have a seat here, and order cup of coffee (non-drivers can offer barack-palinka) and watch the life of this very pleasant place. And small thing more: you find in outskirts a lot of changes for really cheap accommodation in farmers´ estates.
You continue your drive through puszta in south direction to the town of Szeged. This place is famous by Szeged Goulash. Frankly speaking, the Hungarian goulash is different from the meal we know in our country, it is practically goulash soup. On the other hand, in Szeged, there is really produced „Hungarian Salami (Sausage)“, named deliszalami (winter-salami, it sustains within whole saison, when you do not eat it completely). Local fishermen discovered Szegedi Halaszle (it is food of poor people) cooked in small kettle with fish-scrapings, the result was covered with red pepper and spices powder.
Szeged is a place colonized more than 4000 years. In past, it was an important merchant crossroad. Nevertheless, it is also a town with one of oldest universities, with great culture and educational traditions. However, the visitor could hardly look for something similar as in case of the town of Sopron. Szeged was till 1686 under rule of Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the town was in 1879 nearly completely destroyed with inundation of Tisza river, flowing through. Anyway, it does not matter, that the town is not worth for inspection. As to places of interest, it is Dom ter square, with National Monument with statues of most famous personalities of Hungarian history, art and literature, and Votive Church, built as a thanksgiving to those, who survived this flooding. Lover of art can visit Serbian Ortodox Church on Revai utca with 80 impressives wood iconas (pictures), further Virgin Mary Church, and also New Synagogue on Hajnoczi utca. We can recommend you also to visit the exhibition of Hungarian salami production in Felso-Tiszapart utca.
We find, of course, many other towns in this part of Hungary, as places of interest, such as, for instance, Kiskunhalas, Bekecsaba or Szarvas. As to population number, these are great similarly as our district towns. It is a pity, that there are not mentioned in guide-books. In this case, the attentive visitor could observe some interesting house, park or statue. The advantage of a fact, you travel with your own car, is, that you can make a stop also in standard milieu of Hungarian countryside (in comparison with Budapest or Debrecen), in places outside of habitual touristic places, full of souvenir shops, Hungarian salami and garlands of dried red peppers. You can simply watch around and estimate from faces, cloths or figures the way of life of normal Hungarians.
A fact that you do not understand Hungarian language, makes - from your eyes and your direct impression nearly one communication instrument with them. It is true, that we are especially reticent observers in Hungary. So, such part could not be limited for important places only. Apart from these places, you get the idea that local population does not live in different way as you live. And why to live in different way at all?
Text: Jan Chaloupka
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