Because of its border location, Debrecen has played a prominent role in the history of Hungary. It has always been an important market and trading town, and twice was the country’s capital. Once much more isolated from the rest of the country, the transportation infrastructure is sophisticated and makes travel to Debrecen quite straightforward. As virtually a frontier city located on the vast Great Hungarian Plain, Debrecen Hungary maintained its Protestant identity while Catholicism predominated in the rest of the country. The two main attractions in Debrecen are, fittingly enough, the imposing Protestant neo-Classical Great Church, Nagytemplom, and Hungary’s first national park, Hortobagy, protecting what is Europe’s largest continuous natural grasslands.
Popularly known as the Puszta (meaning deserted or uninhabited), the Great Hungarian Plain is similar to the vast pampas prairies of Argentina. These plains are ideal for grazing and breeding livestock. Here is where you will find the famous “Hungarian cowboys” whose skillful horsemanship is an integral part of the history of Debrecen Hungary – just like the gauchos of Argentina. Among several tough local breeds that thrive in the puszta is the sturdy and powerful Nonius horse, mount of choice for the fearless Hungarian cowboys. And it was horsemen from Debrecen Hungary and the Great Hungarian Plain who became the most respected cavalrymen and sought after horse breeders in the world.
The plain stretches across half of Hungary, so you can see very good organized shows of Hungarian cowboys near Budapest. But why not travel to Debrecen (it’s only 120 miles from Budapest), the true heartland of the Puszta? And then, once in Debrecen travel into the countryside.
Here in the heartland is where Hungary’s history meets its culture, and the region is a showcase for tradition, folk art, and handcrafts. While shopping in Budapest or its neighboring towns along the Danube, you will find the beautiful embroidery and exquisite lace for which Hungary is so well-known, but travel to Debrecen and you will find embroidered table linens, shawls, peasant blouses, and skirts at genuinely bargain prices – all locally made.
There are country czardas (farms) that can be visited independently or as part of vacation packages where you can watch traditional dances, enjoy a thrilling exhibition of daring horsemanship, all while tasting Hungarian wine and dining on delicious traditional cuisine. The czarda is also a part of Hungarian culture in the form of the country’s traditional folk dance, and it caught the attention of one of Hungary’s greatest composers, Franz Liszt.
The national park and its natural environment is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. If you’re looking for things to do here, join one of the vacation packages that include bird watching in the park. You may not be a bird-fancier now, but if you’re considering Debrecen travel for natural beauty, you soon will be! There are more than 330 species here in the forests, plains, and wetlands.
In the city of Debrecen Hungary itself, there are a number of things to do
and worthwhile highlights. Debrecen retained its self-rule when the conquering
Turks partitioned Hungary. This made it ripe for Calvinism. Because of this
Protestant background, the city was known as “Calvinist Rome” during the period
when the rest of the country was almost entirely Catholic. Nagytemplom, the
neo-Classical Great Church, is a dominating yellow edifice standing in the main
square. As the most important of all attractions in Debrecen it is the city’s
symbol, and the panoramic views from atop of its twin towers are quite spectacular.
The Deri Museum, built in the 1920s, contains extensive art, archaeological,
and ethnographic collections representing the history
of Hungary and the region.
Behind the Great Church are the graceful buildings of the Calvinist College campus, and behind that is the Great Forest of Debrecen, a beautiful park and nature conservation area. A college serves as one of the 3-star Debrecen hotels and apartments from which one can “take the cure” at the Aquaticum Medicinal and Bath Centre, which utilizes some of the thermal spas for which the region is known. Also in the forest are an amusement park, the city zoo, and lovely Lake Békás. Because this is such a popular park, the dining here is also quite good as there are a number of restaurants. Make Debrecen travel plans part of your Hungary itinerary, and experience this gem that remains unspoiled and relatively undiscovered.