The National History memorial Park is home to a remarkable work of art. One of only 18 remaining in Europe the Feszty Panorama is a late romantic style painting depicting the bloody and brutal foundation of the Hungarian nation. Not much to surprise so far I hear you cry!
Hang on a moment!
The dimensions of this painting read as follows: The 120m long, 15m wide AND 38m in diameter. Yes folks the Panorama is actually a circular painting with no beginning and no end.
Visitors enter through a door that leads along a corridor and then up a gentle, sloping, circular ramp, and emerge in the very centre of the painting. An explanation is provided in Hungarian and English, with features of the painting highlighted with lights and sounds. It is really very impressive altogether. I had feared that the quality of the painting would have been compromised because of the novelty of the form, but not a bit of it. There is a powerful battle scene and a similarly evocative scene depicting village raids.
The painting demonstrates a particlarly strong gift for persepctive and includes a number of trompe d'oeuil features. At the bottom of th epainting it is difficult to discern what has been painted and what has been built as a foreground.
This is the only place in the park where photos are not allowed, so to you'll have to settle for my photo of a sculpture commemorating the artist, Arpad Feszty, and a wondeful website that tells you all you could possibly want to know about this remarkable painting.
The castle was built parallel to the river Tisza with an irregular layout but roughly rectangular in shape. On every corner of the castle stood a circular tower built for defensive purposes, and the walls on every side were also fitted with rectangular towers. The castle’s palace was situated west of the southern gate and was turned into an artillery storage space from the 18th century. The circular tower on the south-eastern side of the castle was far bigger than the other towers. It was later named the water tower because it stood on the banks of the river. The thickness of its walls surpassed all others so experts think that it was originally a medieval old tower.
The building of the castle started in 1247 due to the privileges given by King Béla the 4th right after the invasion of nomad tribes. It is most likely that the building of the castle was carried out by replacing the existing wooden castle walls and towers with stone built ones. The first official document mentioning the castle is from the reign of Róbert Károly when the castle was managed by master Pál who was the son of Dénes from the Dorosma clan. As a king’s castle the ownership of it changed many times with the reign of Hungarian kings.
In 1524 after King Lajos the 2nd paid off a debt of 2000 forints the castle of Szeged was passed on to the archbishop of Esztergom.
In 1704 during the war of independence with the leadership of István Andrássy and Ádám Vass 8000 soldiers tried to capture the castle of Szeged but failed. Later in July Ferenc Rákóczi the 2nd also took siege of the castle but was also unsuccessful
Szeged offers an experience unequal to any visitor of the city. Its sights, like the Votive church, the Synagogue, the Hero's Arch, the Ferenc Móra Museum all give such a distinct character to the city, that it is safe to say: Szeged is the gem of the Great Plains. The renovated shops, cafés and beautiful buildings of the Karasz street give it a Mediterranean feel, which makes strolling though the downtown area a delight. On the Klauzál square, which virtually splits the pedestrian only street in half, one can enjoy the delicious pastries of the famous Virág confectionary shop.
The city of Szeged existed even during the time of the Roman Empire, where its strategic location was perfect for guard post settlement to guard the gold and salt shipments coming from Dacia. A couple of years before 1274 the settlement advanced to city rank, and become the cultural and economic center of the region. Szeged played an important role during the 15th century in the campaigns lead against the advancing Turkish armies. 1879 was the most dramatic date in the city's history, but it was also the start of the rebirth of Szeged. The flood water of the river Tisza broke through the dams protecting the residence and virtually washed the entire city away. Only 5% of the buildings remained standing!
Szeged is not only famous for its colorful history, the spice paprika and its interesting sights. The University of Szeged with its more than 15 thousand students give the city a youthful atmosphere.
We await every visitor with a warm-hearted welcome and hospitality!
Alsovaros or Lowertown, close to a railway station, has many interesting small houses:old and new, renovated and delapidated. Characteristic for this part of Hungary are so called"napsugaras hazok"( napsugar meaning sun ray). Notice the small window in the attic (locals call it 'God's eye') and sun rays coming outwardly from it.
Before I leave entirely the subject of the tubular painting in the park, I did glean a couple of pieces of information about the artist, Arpar Feszty, which are worth mentioning in passing.
Our Arpath first discovered the art of Panorama painting during a visit to Paris. He went home to Hungary with the idea of making a huge painting of the Great Flood. It was his father-in-law who pesuaded him that the meeting of the seven tribes would make a more worthy subject for his magnum opus.
The painting hung in Budapest for most of it's life, It was badly damaged during the war and was restored by Polish experts who took 3 years to complete the restoration (1992-1995) longer in fact than it took Feszty to paint it in the first place (1892-1894)! Granted Feszty did have 19 friends to help him!
The painting depicts the conquest of the Magyars and was completed to celebrate the millennium of this event. The location of this conquest however is in some doubt. In fact, when the decision was made to create a park to commemorate the event, two villages fought over the right to host the park!
34 panorama paintings exist in the world. This one ranks very highly in terms of artistic quality by all accounts.
No more than 1 hour from Szeged is the Opusztaszer National History Memorial Park. It is a park that has existed only since 1995, and was created as a national memorial to the history and culture of Hungary in general and to the people and traditions of the great southern plains, the Puszta, in particular.
The park can easily absorb a full day in summer, when the traditional homesteads, the yurts (traditional tents), play host to traditional artists, demonstrating their crafts and selling their wares. Indeed there is a full programme of events throughout the year which take place in the park.
The park celebrates the establishment of the Hungarian nation some 1100 years ago. Monuments and a massive cylindrical painting assist the visitor to understand how this great nation was formed from disparate and nomadic tribes. There is also an open-air village museum with some 18 buildings restored to reflect village life in the Szeged area in the 19th century. The buildings include a fisherman's house, a school, a forge, an onion-grower's, a traditional sun-ray house, a grocery and bakery, a windmill, a pub and a narrow gauge railway.
In the 2 hours allowed for our visit we saw the monuments from afar, spent time viewing the panorama painting and the replica street scenes that are exhibited in the same building and visited the school in the restored village. I could easily imagine though spending much longer in this 55 acre park, that has been exquisitely conceived and beautifully built.
There is some conflicting information about opening times. The official website says it's open all year round from 9 to 5, November to March, and from 9 to 7, April to October. The leaflet I was given though said that it is open from 9 to 4 all year round and 9 to 6 during the summer (March to October). Best to phone maybe! Tickets can be reserved in advance.
HUF 1350 adults (around €5.30)
HUF 900 children
HUF 680 entrance to park only
Culture & Sporting events in Szeged
Szeged is most famous for its culture, including its various institutions of higher education. The city has a museum of history which attracts about 350 thousand visitors each year, art galleries, movie theaters, dancing clubs, discos, a recently remodeled theater where outstanding performances are presented. During the summer the open air theater in front of the Cathedral attracts over 4000 spectators each night to special opera and musical performances. The Szeged Opera and Ballet Company and its Symphony Orchestra provide a full season of productions. The program for the summer performances can be viewed here. Adjacent to these performances folk festivals, exhibitions, sports events (including speedboat races and regattas on the world class rowing course) and the hospitable swimming pools and beaches make Szeged a desired holiday spot.
Szeged provides a full-season cultural program, the 'Collegium Artium,' which is a wide-ranging series of lectures on various topics of art, literature and music.
Szeged has a very extensive library (Municipal Somogyi Library), with about 1 million volumes of books and periodicals, many of them in English, German and French. The universities in Szeged also have specialized libraries. The Central Medical Library contains 138.000 books and periodicals and has a direct medline connection with the European medical data-banks.
Among others Szeged has produced many world class swimmers, great chess players, powerful weightlifters. The list virtually goes on and on. The city is also host to many world class races. In 1998 for example Szeged was host to the Kayak-Canoe World Championships!