Try Saying That 3 Times Fast (or Once)

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Hungary  , Bács-Kiskun,
Thursday, July 29, 2010

This morning, the heavy clouds from the last few days were gone, and I decide to spend a little time checking out the town I had spent the night in before moving on. I hadn't planned to do any touring in Kiskunfélegyháza. I couldn't begin to tell you how to pronounce it. In fact, it wasn't even in my guidbook. I just ended up there because it was partway between Kecskemét and Szeged. On the way  to my hotel, though, I noticed one of the neatest buildings I've seen on the trip. It had a tile roof mixing ordinary brown tiles with a green color that made it look like ivy was growing on the roof. The facade had a colorful ceramic vine and rose pattern. I wanted to grab some pictures since the weather was good.

I also wanted to check out the town museum, the Kiskun Museum, which I had read about in a brochure at my hotel. It turned out to be quite large, with four main exhibits: the prison museum, the windmill, a small gallery, and a folk museum. Except for the prison museum, which had a few trilingual summary placards, all of the exhibits were Hungarian-only. The staff also did not speak English. I didn't have trouble getting a ticket, but one of the staff members had to show me around the museum, which led to a lot of awkward silence as she watched me looking at the exhibits since we couldn't communicate.

My favorite part was probably the windmill. It was the first time I'd been inside of a windmill to see it's guts. The gallery wasn't my taste, and I'm also not a fan of the sordid details of medieval punishment, so I didn't care much for the prison museum, although it was extensive if you like that sort of thing. I was surprised to learn that Hungary didn't have a standard Code of Justice until 1878. Before that time, the "law" was pretty arbitrary and the punishment was usually death rather than incarceration or even some form of physical abuse. The folk museum was definitely more interesting to me, although my ability to absorb it was limited by the lack of English. I did like a set of "church scenes in a bottle" they had (like "ships in a bottle", but with religious motifs). It must have been a fad at one point.

Moving on, I took a long drive east to Debrecen. Unfortunately, the transportation infrastructure of Hungary was arranged as spokes radiating from Budapest. This included both the high-speed motorways and the rail lines. This structure made it difficult to travel east and west in the southern part of Hungary. The trip probably would have taken a third of the time if Hungary ever bothered to run a crescent-shaped road along the southern border. It was also probably the number-one reason I ended up renting a car instead of taking the trains. Every train trip I looked at ran back to Budapest to connect and ended up being a 6-hour train ride vs a 2-hour drive.

Debrecen was on the eastern edge of Hungary and the second largest city in the country. It's citizens seem to have taken every opportunity to set themselves apart from the capital, embracing the Reformation early on and providing sanctuary for the Hungarian revolutionary goverment in 1849 when they were ejected from Budapest. In that year, Lajos Kossuth read his Declaration of Independence at the city's main church, the Reformed Great Church.

By the time I got to Debrecen, I was starting to get a little hungry since I'd only had some rolls from a grocery store for breakfast. My hotel room had come with a buffet breakfast, but the first day I discovered there were no eggs, there was cereal and milk, but no spoons, way-too-sweet packaged fruit-stuffed rolls, and worst of all they only had American cheese, yuck. I loved everything else about the hotel, they even did my laundry for only $2, but I couldn't find anything edible at breakfast.

With museums and churches starting to close since it was 4pm, and my strong desire to locate food, I didn't do much my first afternoon in Debrecen. I did walk through their "old town" and grab a few pictures of west-facing buildings. Their "old town" wasn't very old, but it did have a few good 19th century buildings, and a nice, wide, pedestrian square for strolling.

I managed to duck into a couple of churches as they were getting ready to shut their doors and found they were unusually plain. The interior walls of both churches were entirely white. What little decoration there was consisted of understated wood-work on the modest pews and altars.

Even the layouts were unusual. The Reformed Church had a second level of pews over one of the aisles, like in the neolog synagogues I've seen, and an elliptical interior. The Reformed Great Church was arranged in the shape of a T, rather than a cross, with the T "wings" containing more pews, rather than any sort of altars. I'd assume the lack of decoration and rejection of standard cathedral forms was due to the churches being Calvinist rather then Catholic.
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