Most of the common cultural ways are the same here, like tipping at a restaraunt etc. Some of the shops will speak English, but don't expect all to, and for those that do, it's worth learning how to at least say hello and thankyou, it will be appreciated.
The archeological findings of human inhabitants go back as early as the Stone-age. During Roman times the area was inhabited by the jazig tribe (from 0-270 AD). The town then was an important bridge to the province of Dacia, named Partiscum. The outpost's purpose was to look after the salt and gold shipments coming down the Maros river. During the period of the Great Migration, the 5th through the 9th centuries, it was a meeting place for various tribes. Because of this, the region is abundant in valuable archeological sites. It is thought that during the 5th century the area was the capital of the Hun Empire led by Attila The Hun.
The nomad Hungarian tribes conquered the area in 896 and established a state three times as big as it is today (today's map was drawn after Hungary lost WW1). It was then that Szeged was given it's name. Szeged is a formative syllable of the word szeg, which mains corner in Hungarian. Most attribute the name to the near right angle curve of the Tisza river at the center of the town. The first mention of Szeged in public documents was in 1138, but due to it's favorable geographic location it was probably an important riverside trading post before that. Beside the transport of salt, which also helped develop local carpentry, raising of livestock, farming and fishing was also an important source of income. By the time a castle was erected on the settlement, Szeged was given the rank of free royal town (1246). The town became an important monastic center in the later Middle Ages.
The beginning of the 15th century saw the start of the Turkish invasion of the country. Although Szeged was not a bordertown at that time, many men were recruited from the area to fight the advancing Turkish troops. The Hungarian army was outnumbered and with the west refusing help, half the country was conquered. Szeged was plundered several times before being conquered in 1543 when it was razed. Those who could escaped, those who didn't suffered the consequences. During the 16th and 17th century Szeged served as an administrative center of the area for the Ottomans. At the end of the 17th century the country was liberated from the Turks (Szeged in Oct. 23 of 1686) just to be occupied by the Habsburgs (Austrians), who helped the country's liberation. The attempt to recapture Szeged from the Austrian emperor's troops in 1704 failed. For a long time Szeged served as a military outpost. Due to the hardship of occupation and the 1712 flood, the population of Szeged waned. To boost the city many nationalities were invited to settle. The year 1719 saw the town regain its free royal rights and in 1721 a famous grammar school was established here. Witch litigations heightened in 1728 where 15 people were sentenced to death by burning on a parcel of land which bears the name of Island of the Witches (see map of Szeged on where the supposed witch burnings took place- #25). Szeged had 21,519 inhabitants as of 1787.
In the Reform Period which began in 1825 and is associated with István Széchenyi and Lajos Kossuth, the development of the town accelerated. Industrial works and banks sprang up. At the same time, the ever improving highway and railway systems of the country reached Szeged.
In the War of Independence (1848-49), where the country tried to throw the ruling Habsburgs out, Szeged played a prominent part. The famous recruiting speech of Lajos Kossuth was delivered here (see map Szeged for exact location- #8) in the Fall of 1848. Szeged was the seat of the last Revolutionary Government in July 1849. The Hungarian revolutionary troops took a stand not too far away from the city but were defeated by the opposition that more than surpassed their numbers.
In the second half of the 19th century, citizens of the town and the surrounding areas put forth tremendous effort to populate the steppe-like region, to make agriculture thrive and to develop areas within the town itself. The building of the railways brought a burst of growth to the region. Several new large factories were built in the region.
March 12th, 1879 brought Szeged's darkest hour- the Big Flood. Like most big cities Szeged was plagued by disease and fire but no one knew there was worse to come. It can be said that the coming catastrophe was also due to bad timing. Both the Tisza and the Maros river was bursting with extra water caused by the melting of snow upshore. Shortly after midnight (taking everybody by complete surprise) the dyke near the outskirts of Szeged gave way and literally washed the whole city away . Of the 70,000 people 151 died that day. Only 265 houses remained standing, and 5458 were destroyed.
It took four months for the water to dry up. Only after cleaning the rumble and pulling down Szeged's majestic castle could the reconstruction begin. The news of the disaster spread throughout Europe. Concerts and fund raisers where held all over the continent to help rebuild Szeged.
With the financial help of Vienna, London, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Berlin a new modern city was built with an exemplary layout of avenues and boulevards, with a strikingly homogenous architecture that preserves the Eclecticism and Art Nouveau of the turn of the century. Thus its present layout of wide streets, incorporating a network of three rings with avenues crossing them, gives the city its fairly modern and organized appearance. The major avenues were named after the contributing cities, and later a monument was erected in memory of the Great Flood. The economic and cultural importance of Szeged greatly increased after the flood in the developing period of Hungarian capitalism, which is associated with the period of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
In 1883 a bridge was built over the Tisza, which connected Szeged (the larger part of the town lying on the right bank) and Újszeged -New Szeged (a suburban district of residential housing and parks). New institutions and schools were also built. By the turn of the century Szeged became the cultural center of southern Hungary. During this time, when Szeged had a deep well dug, it was discovered that hot spring water flowed under the city. Even today the Fountain of Anna (see map of Szeged for exact location- #2) supplied the residents with rich mineral water.
During WW1 (when 18,000 men went to battle from Szeged) the city was first captured by the French then the Serb forces. The Great Depression also mean unequivocal hard hardship for the people of Szeged. The crisis was softened by taking up of big loans, which later put Szeged on the edge of a financial meltdown. In the 1930's a big project of building a local hospital complex was started.
WW2 - During the German occupation a ghetto was established for the Jewish community. Later they were transported to concentration camps. Szeged's casualties numbered six thousand men, women and children. Szeged went through six English air raids - many buildings were blown up and many burned to the ground. When the news of the approaching Soviet troops were heard Szeged's top officials fled with all the money and important documents they could carry. Some expensive machinery from local factories were loaded up on boats, but due to the shortage of time to get them safely away, they were sunk just so it would not get into the hands of the enemy. The bridge was also blown up on Aug. 1944 to make the job of the advancing Soviet troops a little bit more difficult.
I don't want to talk too much about the past 50 years because most people are aware of what took place during this time. Just in a nutshell though: Central and Eastern European countries came under the control of the USSR. These countries were ransacked for valuables and shipped to Mother Russia to ease the incurred losses. Communism was forced upon the people, collectivization was started... By the end of the 80's Russia's grip on the Eastern European countries weakened. The communist state's economy was in shambles. Hungary broke free of the Soviet block by 89-90. Since then a slow recovery has started.
In 1970 Szeged just nearly avoided another catastrophe. The Tisza came an inch close to the top of the city's dykes. These two pics are also from the above mentioned book and are the property of the Szeged Somogyi Library. The threat was so perilous that even school children were required to help fill and place sandbags around the dykes (my parents were also there). Due to the extensive effort of the people the repeat of the Big Flood of 1879 was averted. On the 100 year anniversary of the 1879 flood a second bridge was built across the Tisza.