Szeged – the city of sunshine

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By Tibor Papp

Szeged is the third largest city of Hungary, the county seat of Csongrád County, and the centre of the Southern Great Plain Region. The number of inhabitants is 170 thousand. It is the most important scientific, educational and cultural centre of the region.

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The city has an excellent geographic and strategic location by laying in the intersection of national and international transport corridors. Szeged is easy and fast to reach on road via motorways M5 and M43. The city is situated 8 km far from the Serbian and 18 km far from the Romanian boarders. Budapest is 170 km, Belgrade is 220 km, Timişoara is 100 km and Vienna is 417 km far from Szeged.

The conquering Hungarians settled down in this area in the 9th and 10th century. It was in 1183 that Szeged was first mentioned in written document, a royal diploma. After the Turkish Ottoman invasion, in 1719 Szeged obtained the status of a free royal city. The 18th century boom was crowned in the reform age, in the middle of the 19th century, when the railway reached Szeged, steamboats appeared on river Tisza and new factories were established. And then came the Great Flood.

In 1879, the city of Szeged was struck by an immense natural disaster: the river Tisza flooded the whole city, as a result of which 95 percent of the buildings was destroyed.

When Franz Josef, the Habsburg Emperor and King of Hungary saw the damage said: „Szeged will be more beautiful than ever before” – a famous sentence that has become the slogan of the city.

Szeged was totally reconstructed after the Great Flood, and within 5 years a beautiful downtown with palaces was born. The main European capitals gave financial help (Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, Rome and Vienna), therefore, one of the boulevards was named after these capitals.

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The Votive Church Fogadalmi Templom, the symbol of the city

In the second half of the 20th century industries of Szeged developed rapidly, mainly due to the crude oil that was found near the city. Since 1962, Szeged is the administrative centre of Csongrád County.

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The Ferenc Móra Museum

Szeged has some characteristics that make the city popular. The number of students is just like a population of a middle sized city. Szeged is traditionally the city of young people.

Szeged has a vivid cultural life and becomes a city of festivals during summer. The Open Air Festival, first held in 1931, is one of the most attractive cultural events in Hungary. The “Szeged Youth Days” is the oldest pop-rock festival in Hungary, where several thousand young people come together.

Not only cultural events attract visitors, but also the fact that Szeged is the city of sunshine. In Hungary, the highest number of sunny hours is measured here.

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The Town Hall

The Day of Szeged is celebrated on the 21st of May every year. This time the famous Wine Festival last for ten days, and, at the Bridge Fair, which actually takes place on the bridge, handmade products are presented from all over Hungary.

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The Dom Square

Szeged can be proud of many achievements. The total reconstruction of the city centre was carried out between 1997 and 2003. It was a total reconstruction including all houses, statues, covering of streets and squares. In 2004 the Europa Nostra Alliance recognized what we did for preserving the cultural heritage with a very respectable award.

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Szeged, the first city in Hungary that won the Europe Prize 2006. This is the highest award of the Council of Europe, since 1955. Every year one city in Europe is awarded this prize to recognize outstanding efforts in promoting European unity.

See more information about Szeged at www.szegedtourism.hu.

Phtos: Aurel Ivanyi