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A drop of mediterranian, a sea of tradition and history, rich gastronomy, a cultural treasure box. This is the sunlit Szeged on the lap of the rivers and the Great Plain. In the city and its area, we can be immersed in countless manifestations of Hungarianness, get lost in nature, move as much as we want, and do more while being caressed by the rays of the sun. Go for it!
“Witches” of Szeged
You’re a tough woman if you don’t blush when someone calls you a bewitched beauty. This was always the case, only the level of blushing differs.
During the early 1700s it wasn’t only the face that was burning of women who were called a witch in any context. At the beginning of the 18th century Szeged gained a dubious reputation: half of the country’s witch court hearing happened here.
There times were pretty difficult for the city. With the specially droughty years came hunger, and with hunger came diseases, illnesses, and the tension grew within the walls of the city. The responsible leaders, just like during other times in history, did not provide solutions, but scapegoats.
The sinners live among you, they said to the citizens, channeling the growing displeasure from themselves to the witches in sheep’s clothing. And those who got branded got no mercy.
The accused women were tortured until they would have confessed to everything. The painfully accurate water test – the tied up accused is thrown in the water, if they drowned they weren’t a witch, if they floated they must have been a witch as they have hollow bones – really helped finding the sinners.
Anna Nagy Kökényné
Then around 1728, the famously mean mannered, feisty midwife, Anna Nagy Kökényné was accused of being a witch. In the midst of the social tension at its peak, they made her responsible for all the troubles.
After her capture, almost everybody confessed about here, that had a quarrel with her. Amidst the painful turture, she didn’t only confess to her own sins, but confessed about plenty of her friends, accointances.
The cellars of the city filled up with witches in no time. Reports that were bate from the captured people showed an organised “witch-maffia”, whose boss was 82 years old Dániel Rózsa, the former judge of the city, one of Szeged’s biggest people, who in addition have been bothering the eyes of many members of the town council for quite a while.
His interrogators successfully got the truth out of him: he and his companions have sold the rain for seven years to the Turkish, causing the drought in the city.
On the 23rd of July, they tied 12 people to 4 poles at the Witch-island, and to purify their soul before appearing in front of God, they burnt them alive.
After the completion of the death-sentence, the mood of the city eased for a while. The witch hunt continued later, until in 1755 Maria Theresa didn’t ban these in all areas of the monarchy, and encrypted the records of the court hearings for a hundred years – thus creating a living tradition of handling the Hungarian public affairs.
Fortunately, Hungary’s third most populated city became famous for different things. Thanks to its famously good locations, it has been inhabited since the Neolithic era.
This city lying at the crossroads of the Maros and Tisza rivers and important land routes, became an important station in Roman times for gold- and salt transportation. A certificate mentions Szeged in 1183.
In 1246, the town receives the city rank. The 16th century Turkish devastation doesn’t pass here without a trace either. The rich and educated citizens of the city escape to other cities, Turkish and Yugoslav settlers join those who stayed behind.
After getting rid of the Turkish, the town’s role in salt transportation and sale continues to grow. In 1879, Szeged is practically destroyed by the flood from Tisza. The city, rebuilt four years later, is more beautiful than ever.
After the First World War its regional importance grows, the -badly aimed – air strike leaves serious damages in the city during the Second World War. In the following years Szeged becomes a light- and building industrial center. Today, it still holds onto its regional role, it’s an important college town, and liked tourist destination.
Can’t go any lower than this
Szeged is Hungary’s deepest located city and mediterranian tow, where summers are hot and winters are mild.
This is where most of the sunlight reaches in the country, this is why they call the town the city of sunshine. The usually excellent weather doesn’t only allow us to underdress without risks, but it’s also the ceremony master of the carefree hours spent outside. And it’s worth to use the opportunity!
There are the rivers for example, which spectacularly break up the flat monotony of the endless Great Plain not only through their appearance. They can be ridden on a boat for a long distance, and what’s even more fun, they can also be rowed.
Through organised tours we can canoe down the Maros until Makó, on the Tisza until Algyő, and the braver ones can take part in a two days long tour floating along the country border on the Nagylak-Makó-Szeged route.
Those who prefer to live their lives in the fast lane, don’t have to sit on the banks of the river all bored either. At the city section of the Tisza there is an opportunity to rent sport boats, from which we can pull water ski, wakeboard, and in extreme cases friends that fell in the water.
With an environmentally friendly cruise ship the lazier people can take a small grouped water tour on the river, at their own pace, enjoying the gentle rocking.
There are times that we only want to stir the still water a bit, and the area gives an opportunity to this as well. This is where, on the lands of the Kiskunság National Park, Lake Fehér is found, the country’s largest surfaced saline lake.
Due to its uniquely rich bird life, it’s a specially protected area, some of its areas can only be visited with a tour guide. We can kill two birds with one stone if we sign up for one of the many guided tours.
An example of these is the tour that focuses on the herbal flowers around the lake, or the cycling tour that covers the surroundings of the lake. Organized bird-spotting is a great opportunity to peak inside the lives of the wing creatures around the lake. This opportunity is a must for photographers!
It’s no issue if it’s not only birds we would like to see, at the 45 hectare Szeged Zoo there are plenty of other four- or more legged animals. In the mainly natural forest covered park we can view the ambassadors of different species in their own areas. There are countless rarities here that we can’t see anywhere else in the country. In addition, various events, camps await visitors.
An oath kept
If we get enough of the animals, a row of man-made wonders await in the city. One of these is the country’s largest basilica, the neo-Roman style Votive Church of Szeged, which is an essential part of the city.
The construction of the locally named szegedi dóm happened between 1913 and 1930, based on the plans of Frigyes Schulek and Ernő Foerk. The decision of its construction was made by the city administration in 1880, as an oath in exchange of staying safe from further floods (this is where the Votive Church name came from).
One of the special things about the interior of this monumental church is the 9040 pipe organ. This is where János Fadrusz’s “Christ on the Cross” statue can be found, which in 1900 won the main price at the Paris World Exhibition.
Besides the church exhibitions, Szeged’s magical view can also be seen from the 81m tall tower of the dome.
Szeged’s most famous building can be found on its most famous square, the Dóm square. The square made by the plans of Béla Rerrich is square shaped, its area matching exactly the area of Piazza San Marco in Venice.
The homogeneity of the space is given by the red bricked buildings. Within most of these buildings is the University of Szeged. The square is surrounded by an arcade, and under it stand the big figures and famous artists of Hungarian history.
The Móra Ferenc Museum is the prominent cultural center of the area and can be found in the heart of the city, near the banks of the Tisza. The neoclassical building, which opened in 1896 contains mostly archeological, folklore, fine art and scientific collections. Besides its constant exhibitions, continuously changing temporary exhibitions await those interested.
The sunshine, besides making everything well visible, has several other beneficial properties, for example it is great for crops, from which the szegedi paprika enjoys international fame.
Not by accident, as the cooperation between the humus soil and the sunshine creates a special aromatic herb, which is happily used all around the world.
We can try this, as well as many dishes made with this at the Hungarikum Festival which has been running since 2008 every year. And of course cheeses, jams, dried fruits, pálinkas, in one word anything that we could want. But we can do more than stuffing our faces, at the festival there are cultural programs, concerts, children’s shows and a dancing house as well.
Szeged, the city that brings SZIN (colour) to your life
Behind this awful wordplay is a much more dedicated party, which is the Szegedi Ifjúsági Napok.
The over 50 (!!!) years old festival was already special during the state of socialism, as at this event, bands that were banned from other events performed, here the punks and hobos (not the homeless) could be themselves without any retort, which lets face it, even in a democratic framework requires a good bit of tolerance.
The yearly craze at the banks of the Tisza is actually the season closing party of the country, so many people come. A bunch of bands, domestic and international stars provide the music on the last days of August, putting the dot on summer’s “i”.
Szegedi Szabadtéri Játékok
Undoubtedly, one of the most significant events of higher culture is the Szegedi Szabadtéri Játékok. Since 1930, it is the country’s largest open-air stage gives home to beloved theater, song, operas, musicals, folk dance and contemporary dance performances in Szeged.
It’s location is the Dóm square, which becomes a large stage for the time being. Over 80,000 visitors come yearly, to enjoy the performances with different atmospheres under the open sky.