Szeged (E6) proudly boasts provincial Hungary’s most unified town
centre, although it doesn’t contain buildings that are hundreds of years
old. This is because the town lies on the River Tisza, which burst its
banks in 1879 and destroyed almost five thousand buildings, leaving
only 265 standing, the thirteenth century Saint Demetrius Tower (part of
a church ruin) being one of them. Szeged was systematically rebuilt with
international assistance, and foreign visitors today can see the name of
the capital city of their country on sections of the Ring Road in acknowledgement
of that help. Survivors of the flood, in thankfulness from deliverance
from it, also built the massive neo-Romanesque Cathedral or
Votive Church. It accommodates 5,000 people, possesses one of the
largest organs in Europe, and has in one of its towers the second largest
bell in Hungary (weighing in at 81 tons). The Reök Palace is a particularly
fine example of “art nouveau” architecture, and the Synagogue is
one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Szeged is one of the main centres of paprika production in Hungary. Here too
is the place of manufacture of the famous and spicy Pick salami, still made
to a secret recipe. Szeged slippers are also made here; they are a special
type of hand-embroidered slipper with a hard heel, traditionally worn by girls
Ópusztaszer (E6) the southern Tisza region is of interest for its cultural and
historical assets as well as for its natural beauty. The Szeged Open-Air Theatre
Festival features performances of classical music, opera and dance from
world class artists and is internationally renowned. The outstanding Ópusztaszer
National Historical Memorial Park charts a thousand and more years of
Hungarian history. According to the chronicles, the leaders of the conquering
Magyar tribes first sat in judgement here in the ninth century. They formalized
the common laws by which their people, newly settled in the Carpathian
Basin, were expected to abide. The events of the conquest are depicted today
in the sensational cyclorama painting at the Memorial Park. This huge three-dimensionaleffect
panorama painting dates from 1894 and is the work principally of the artist Árpád
Feszty. It was an instant success, and has recently undergone careful restoration. With its surface
area of 1,760 square metres and its two thousand depicted characters, it is the second
largest cyclorama in the world. Elsewhere in the Park, the remains of one of the oldest churches
in Hungary and its associated eleventh century Benedictine monastery have been uncovered.
Archaologists have also discovered evidence of an old bell foundry, and have recast from
thousands of fragments and put on display the Saint Gellért bronze bell, a feat unique in Europe.
Nineteenth century peasant life is depicted in the Open Air Ethnographical Museum. There is a
range of buildings – from a paprika-growing house to a farm school and fisherman’s hut – along
with many different types of furniture, utensils, etc. A separate museum is dedicated to the
Hungarian diaspora, and another, called “The Forest is Nature’s Church”, deals with the relationship
between man and nature. There are equestrian and archery shows, and demonstrations of other
aspects of traditional life throughout the year.
Csongrád (D5) this is a town built near the point where the River Körös flows into the Tisza, and is
famed for the nineteenth century fishermen’s cottages in its old town centre. It is thought that the
thirty thatched dwellings once also served a defensive purpose. Their little courtyards and gardens
are hidden behind wooden fences, and many of the houses don’t even have windows on the street
side. The whole is a protected area, but tourist accommodation is offered in some of the dwellings.
Mezőhegyes (F6) known throughout the equestrian world on account of the royal stud farm estate,
founded in 1784. In just thirty years, the famous Hungarian Nóniusz breed was perfected here.
Among the estate’s sixty baroque monuments, the covered riding school still fulfils its original
function, and it is here also that the horses overwinter. One of the two barracks is now a hotel,
complete with Empire and Biedermeier furnishings. The Manager’s building and the terrace of
riders’ cottages sunk into the ground are of particular interest. The Coach Museum has a big
collection and here also can be seen the country’s biggest threshing house. There is good
hunting not far from the town.
Hódmezővásárhely (G6) in terms of its area this is Hungary’s
largest provincial town. The town and the surrounding country, peppered
with farmsteads, is famous for folk art. The floral linen table
cloths, cushions and pillows decorated with dyed woollen threads are
much sought after, as are the ceramics displayed in the market place.
The finest of these are on show in the Csúcsi Pottery House. The Town
History Museum has exhibits stretching back seven thousand years,
and the Farm Museum at nearby Kopáncs (E6) contains a wide variety
of artefacts and images illustrating traditional life on the Puszta.
|Szeged, Klauzál Square
|Ópusztaszer, Feszty Cyclorama