Have you ever tried to give each place you visit a “title”?
I have always thought about Prague as “The city of lights”, about Berlin as “The city of past” and well, also about Rome as “The city of history”. It’s a nice game to play when you go somewhere. We always focus on what we should see of a town or a city we visit for the first time. But, let me say something new: forget about to visit, and start considering what you might feel, while walking inside a museum, or enjoying a glass of a local drink.
Immersed in colors
In the lower part of the country, close to the border between Romania and Serbia, there is the third city of Hungary, unfortunately not as famous as the Capital, Szeged. It is called “The city of sun”, due to the fact that it is exposed to sun most of the year. I had never visited Hungary before and, as anyone going somewhere for the first time, I had my mind full of evanescent images about that place that I had once heard when I was a child watching and listening to the stories about a certain empress Sissi. Then, I went to Szeged, and I found myself immersed in colors. Starting from the yellow of the neo-baroque National Theatre that welcomes you as you approach the centre of the city. Then it takes a while to actually feel the harmony that there is between each color of Szeged: it’s not strange to watch the aquamarine walls of a building matching the red coral ones of the house next-door. So, take a minute to allow yourself to truly feel it. Then, you can start walking around, because you wouldn’t understand Szeged without having its colors in you.
The “Szegedi Dόm” is something you should see from the inside, even though it looks amazing even when you watch it from the square upon which it stares. It’s the perfect explanation of what I mean by calling Szeged “The city of colors” because the main feature of this Neo-Romanesque style Church is, again, its colors. If you are gothic style lovers, then you might not appreciate completely the brightness of the space inside; but I would suggest you to give it a chance anyway. Right from the entrance you will notice how more colourful the vaulted ceilings are, with their light-blue, red and orange decorations. Then, if you were positively surprised by this unexpected presence of light, then you should go on, and walk until you find yourself under probably the most colourful cupola you have ever seen. Just stare at it for a moment, because it is something very different from any other kind of style you might see in Europe Churches, especially in the “gothic area”.
If you are in Szeged in May or June, then there is a great possibility that you will witness a wedding, because in this period lots of people get married inside the main Church of the city.
The New Synagogue
There is an adjective that seems perfect to describe this place, halfway between imagination and reality – at least it was my impression when I visited it during a rainy day -, and it is “powerful”. I had never entered a synagogue before, and I was caught by a sense of simplicity and majesty at the same time. This place seemed more a state of mind to me, than a real place. It was like having lost the sense of the concrete world to enter a one where time doesn’t exist. Take your time to experience it, not just to see it. Even aesthetics is very impressive: built in eclectic style between 1900 and 1902, the New Synagogue of Szeged is the second biggest synagogue in Hungary, after the one in Budapest. I saw the Synagogue in Budapest too, and even if they are equally beautiful in terms of concrete details, I’d say that the Szeged synagogue touched me more in terms of feelings.
Szeged Botanical Garden
Szegedi tudományegyetem füvészkert, better known as Szeged Botanical Garden is a very beautiful place that you might miss if you don’t know it. It’s located a bit outside the centre of the city, but you can reach it by foot, in about 45 minutes, or by public transports, taking the bus number 70 from Szechenyi Ter. It belongs to the University of Szeged and, along with a lot of colourful greenhouses, it hosts a beautiful space dedicated to butterflies: it is possible to walk around and taking pictures of different kind of butterflies which will land on you. You can also organize a pic-nic inside the garden, obviously respecting the rules. It’s a place that I suggest to every artist who might lack inspiration, because of its silence and the atmosphere that reminded me of a fairytale.
For more info, you can visit http://www.fuveszkert.u-szeged.hu/en/
If you were wondering why I haven’t mentioned food until now, well, it is because it deserves a specific paragraph. First of all, let’s say that you will taste the real Hungarian food if you have some Hungarian friends; because avoiding cliché isn’t easy, and you might end up looking desperately for the wrong kind of restaurant. So, here some advices: if you are in Szeged you definitely need to try the fish-soup. On the other hand, you certainly heard about the kürtőskalács, a Hungarian typical dessert which has the shape of a chimney and will literally leave you speechless.
I always try to find the essence of a place I visit: I think that the deep meaning of Szeged, as well as of its people, lies in the colors: the colors of their Churches, the colors of their delicious lemonade-like drinks, the colors of their buildings’ roofs, the colors of the Wine Festival that you would have the pleasure to experience if you visit Szeged at the end of May. The colors of its heart.