168km (104 miles) SE of Budapest
Historically, Szeged (pronounced Seh-ged), was destroyed on March 12, 1879, when a distant dyke collapsed and flooded the city. Locals were given financial aid that was collected in other European countries and sent to Szeged to help the rebuilding; hence, there are streets named Rome, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, Moscow, and Vienna honoring their contributions. After the catastrophic flood, Szeged was redesigned with the engineer's precision of a compass and ruler to become the most modern town in Hungary. Its broad avenues and boulevards along with its extravagant center won the Europa Nostra Award, granted annually to outstanding heritage achievements.
It is the proud capital of the Great Plain in Csongrád County; an interesting hospitable city, large by Hungarian standards with a population of 177,000 making it the fourth largest in the country. World famous for its paprika and salami (Pick Szalami), Szeged is also home to one of Hungary's major universities, the University of Szeged as it was renamed in 2003. From 1962 until its renaming in 2003, the university was József Attila University, named for a poet who did not gain fame until after his death. His statue stands in front of the university's main building on Dugonics tér. There is another statue of him next to the Parliament building in Budapest on Kossuth tér, sitting on the steps of the embankment.
The people of Szeged, many of whom are students, love to stroll along the riverside, sit in cafes, and window-shop on the just reconstructed elegant Karász utca, the town's main pedestrian-only street. Dóm tér, a beautiful, wide square, is home to the Szeged Open Air Drama Festival, which has continued annually since 1931. It is a popular summer-long series of cultural events, with the majority in Hungarian, but they have opened competition to the festival, so other languages may be represented in the future. THEALTER, an association of artists was founded in 1991 with the mission to introduce and support the work of experimenting, innovative artistic communities. They bring the best artists from minority-marginal positions to Szeged to perform during their festival. There is an emphasis on introducing well-known groups from Western Europe as well as local artists to create progressive schemes and ways of viewing artistic performances. During the last 16 years, the Old Synagogue has become synonymous with THEALTER, forming a close alliance. THEALTER has presented more than 130 groups from 27 countries to Szeged; some of them making their Hungarian premier performance here in the town of Szeged. For more information about these festivals, contact Tourinform. This smaller city is a delightful travel destination for a day or two of visiting.