Why am I recommending Pécs?
It can’t be said the Pécs is a boring, uninteresting, hidden little “dust nest”. Saying its location is fortunate is putting it mildly, its incredibly rich history and different cultural expressions makes it an ideal destination to anybody. Regardless of the season, we can find a way that suits our holiday, or the exact opposite, falls out of our comfort zone. Pick either way, you can only win!
Nothing is impossible
Sometimes it feels as life is dealing us bad cards. And then there are the cases where you get a full deck of them. But according to big card players, there is no such thing as a bad deal. Just like it wasn’t for György Orsós graphic artist, or as many know him, “Gyurika”.
For Gyurika, the beginning wasn’t easy: the intellectually disabled gypsy artist spent his first four years in an orphanage. He then came under the care of foster parents, where although his talent for drawing already shone through in primary school, his step-father directed him towards a more bread-winning opportunities.
Due to this, Gyurika put down the pencil for many years. After finishing his studies, he transferred to an institute, then to a residential home. Here, the later headmaster, – after hearing he drew when he was younger – guided back the stubborn guy to the drawing board with the help of Deep Purple.
At the age of 27, after winning a drawing competition he got to spend a week in Italy, this was his first serious achievements. After this, the exhibitions followed each other – both domestic and international -, where they showcased Gyuri’s work.
He gained national fame through a portray movie made about him. Since then he got inspired in many large European cities, and his work was shown, is shown at many exhibitions.
The focus of Gyuri’s art is old buildings, this is what he draws with incredible detail, often from his memory. Nothing to be surprised about though, as Pécs, the home of Gyuri, is an architectural treasure chest, a living art history course, where the “gypsy kid’s” special susceptibility thrives on the best possible ground.
The largest town at Transdanube (Dunántúl) lays on the lap of the contrasting Mecsek Mountains and the Great Hungarian Plain, and we can say that this duality spreads through the city as well, but as it is an over-used, nonsense, silly cliche, we won’t.
Even more so, as the city is characterized by even more than two “ity”-s, as it was – often literally – the point of battle many times in Hungarian history.
The rich history didn’t develop overnight: even sixty thousand years ago people lived in the caves of the Mecsek. The oldest signs of settlement in the area are six thousand years old. The city named Sopianae in ancient times, was established by the Romans, and by the 4th century it became a headquarters, one of the most important centers of Christianity of its time.
King Stephen I founded a bishopric in 1009, and in 1367 Lajos Nagy established the first university of the country here. The big humanist poet, bishop Janus Pannonius made the Middle Age Pécs one of the country’s most important cultural sites.
The monuments from 150 years long Turkish visitation still play an integral part of the city. Becoming a free royal city in 1780 provoked strong civilization and economic prosperity.
Industrialization really sped up in the 19th century, famous factories and plants opened. By the second half of the 20th century, the city became Hungary’s largest industrial center.
The city responded to the heavy economic fall during the transition period by adding culture, art and tourism next to the education and health industries. This decision was proved right by the fact, that in 2010 the county capital became one of Europe’s cultural capitals.
On the highway of nations
Romans didn’t just send their soldiers here to keep the land back then, the citizens coming with them brought their habits with them. Their religion played an important role in their lives, so many early Christian items remain from the Sopianae era of Pécs.
The most significant of these are the early Christian tombs, crypts and cemetery buildings. These rare discoveries are showcased at the Cella Septichora Visitor Center. Besides the different sized burial buildings, an unfinished chapel from the second half of the 4th century can also be viewed.
When in 1009, King Stephen I founded the Diocese of Pécs, there was already a cathedral. This church is considered, the ancestor of the Pécs Cathedral, which was built – well, technically completely renovated – in 1882, in a neo-Romanesque style.
The monumental building keeps its medieval charm and the eternal dreams of Bishop Janus Pannonius, whose remains were found in the 12th century crypt during archaeological excavations. The huge, magnificent interior, the wonderful murals, the large altar canopy puts even those who came for strictly tourist reasons in awe.
They say that diversity is a delight, this is what the visiting Turkish probably believed, when after the battle of Mohács they looted the city and set it on fire, killing all the citizens.
The pretty drastic change of citizens meant cultural changes. The Ottoman settlers made Pécs a real Eastern city. The churches were converted to mosques, they built Turkish baths, established Quranic schools. A lot of these still stand today, but with a different functionality.
The most spectacular piece in Hungarian Islam architecture is Mosque of Pasha Qasim, or in short the Pécs Mosque (Pécsi dzsámi).
Before it became a Turkish Grand Mosque, it was a Christian church, which was built in 1560 under the order of Pasha Qasim, Pasha of Budapest. Currently it’s a Catholic shrine called Gyertyaszentelő Boldogasszony-templom (Candlemas Church).
The symbol of Pécs is the unique blend of the encounter of different cultures, by visiting we not only explore its architectural specialties, but we can throw ourselves in an interesting chapter of Hungarian history in the frames of a history lesson.
The Tomb of Idris Baba is a similar structure. The tomb of the miracolous Muslim worshiper from the 16th century is one of the two remaining resting places of its kind in Hungary. The domed, octagonal building was made in 1561. It is an important place of pilgrimage of Hungarian Muslims to this day.
The only Turkish prayer house in the country, that has survived with its minarets can be found in Pécs, the Jakovali Hassan Mosque. In addition to being used as a place of worship by the Muslim community in the city, there is also an exhibition of the materials donated by the Turkish Government.
If Pécs, then Zsolnay. The emblematic porcelain dynasty became one with the city. The factory’s renowned items are a lot more than a simple porcelain tableware or ceramic tiles covering buildings.
They are timeless pieces of art, it would almost be prestigious not to use them. The factory’s, which has been converted to a manufactory, trend dictating pieces, cultural footprint and its family’s history is showcased in the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter, which formed in 2010.
The most important cultural investment of Pécs was the grandiose Pécs 2010 Europe’s Cultural Capital project.
The rehabilitation of the largest factory in Central-Europe peaked with the opening of the center made from four quarters: at the Míves Quarter is the exhibitions introducing the Zsolnay family, the famous Rózsaszín-Zsolnay exhibition, which shows us the factory’s experiments during their early years through a private collection of over a thousand of pieces, this is also where the sample shop, showcasing the factory’s current products, opened.
The Youth House of the Pécs Youth Center is at the Creative Quarter, with events and catering facilities. The Children and family quarter gives home to the Planetarium, the Pécs Gallery and an interactive, scientific exhibition. This is where Bóbita Puppet Theatre can be found, as well as an outdoor stage.
In the University quarter is the PTE Faculty of Arts, the Department of Communications and Media Studies of the Faculty of Humanities and the Department of Sociology. In addition to this, plenty of statues, public decorations, fountains and exciting buildings richen the quarter, each with at least one hint of Zsolnay.
Pécs was made special by humans, but nature took care of its surroundings. We can start exploring the novel-like scenery of Mecsek straight from the city.
Tettye is the northern part of Pécs. Besides the medieval ruins is a huge park, arboretum, tufa cave and the Tettye park makes it a beloved location for both locals and visitors. From the 404m high Flóra-pihenő we can see an incredible view of the Eastern-Mecsek and the former mining area.
Perhaps the most beautiful hiking trail of the area is the Melegmányi-valley, Nagy-Mély valley, Kantavár route, which brings you through the mountains most intimate valleys. We can explore this wonderful area filled with beech trees, wild ramsons while wandering between sources and streams. The tourist route reaches the Ágnes-waterfall, which is the largest of its kind in the Mecsek (it’s true that large is pretty relative here, but it doesn’t take away from its beauty).
Those who find the numerous, wonderful hiking trails too boring – although the local wild boars and the periodically escaped wolves of the Pécs Zoo can rise the adrenalin – the Mecsextrém Park will be salvation itself.
In this easily accessible adventure park located two kms from Pécs in the Mecsek, we can let our inner Indiana Jones take over in a wonderful environment. Alpine rope park, zip lining, forest coaster ride (at night too), shooting, archery, climbing walls with varying difficulty and many more challenges await both adults and children.
The most fun one is the survival game, where at night, in the nude, covered in pig blood we have to get through the forest obstacle course. Okay, there is no game like this, but how fun it would be! 🙂
In a city like this program tourists won’t be bored either. One of the largest pop festivals is Fishing on Orfű, which is held at the panorama camping of Lake Orfű near Pécs, since 2008. Besides the mainly Hungarian performed concerts and other cultural programs, the gastronomic experience with the locals away those, who would like to camp very interactively.
As the country’s largest college is in Pécs, it’s not surprising that the Pécs College Days (PEN) is one of the city’s most important events. Besides the couple days long, hold-my-hair concerts the specialty is that willing people can test themselves at the talent competition.
The city isn’t only famous for its porcelain, but its beer as well. In addition to the unreasonable amount of local alcohol, there are concerts, handcrafts, adventure park and even an MMA show awaits those interested (and thirsty) at the Pécs Beer Festival. The latter one is hopefully not interesting because it involves the audience.