Ever heard of Debrecen? Probably not. Most people visit Hungary and go to Budapest, naturally. Other recommended cities you might find are the wine region of Eger or Lake Balaton. The great thing about Angloville was that we met people from different areas of Hungary, even better is if you get to know them they are happy to offer you to stay with them. This is what happened with Debrecen and the wonderful Judit.
We met her at Angloville and got on really well, she lives in the second biggest city in Hungary (but still very tiny compared to Budapest): Debrecen. Her office is a flat and she welcomed Mitch and I to visit and stay anytime. We took her up on this offer and made our way there about a week after Angloville.
We ended up staying there for a week because Judit was a great host and showed everything the city and local area had to offer, and of course allowing us to stay for free! We were also there for the Easter weekend and as not much was open it gave us a chance to re-charge ourselves and have a couple of days to chill. Unfortunately, in this time we sat and did some mathematics. Our money was seriously running low and there were only really two options: Try and find some work/volunteering to sustain our trip more, or, go home. The latter didn’t seem preferable so while we were in Debrecen we arranged to do another Angloville programme in two week’s time in Poland and set up some farming work in Slovakia. More of that to come later though.
As I mentioned, Judit was a brilliant host and showed us everything we needed. She took us to lovely restaurants, the Botanical Gardens, thermal baths and even organised us a private tour of the local theatre. It’s not a very touristy town, although in the summer they have an annual flower carnival and by early April some of the flowers were beginning to bloom which was beautiful. One of my favourite attractions in the city is the Great Church (that really is what it’s called). It’s bright yellow and in the middle of the town square. Inside there are impressive white-washed walls and if you walk to the top of the bell towers and you’ll get a lovely view over the city.
Two other impressive sights are the new arena; very swish and created with a running track around makes it a popular spot. Secondly is the University – one of the biggest Universities in Hungary which ensures the town is buzzing with students. The architecture and design within the main hall is impressive and worth a visit.
My absolute highlight from visiting Debrecen was the local national park: Hortobagy. Europe’s largest continuous steppe unbroken horizon and grazing livestock culture, covering over 82 thousand hectares of untouched land it makes it the largest continuous protected area in the county.
We casually hopped on a horse and cart and were taken around some of the area; only horses and feet are allowed to walk on the land, no cars, tractors or anything else to ruin the land. We saw Cows, Bulls, Buffalos, Racka sheep (only found Hungry), and even got to ride horses for a little while. It was brilliant landscape to see and a hidden gem of Hungary that the travel books don’t recommend you to visit. It’s a bit out of town so you preferably need a car to get there.
The day didn’t end there though, after lunch we headed to Lake Tisza Ecocentre. Only opened in 2012, it’s not just a zoo and ecocentre but has activities and conferences taking place. There are animals inside and out, but also a play areas for children – including a water-based fort type thing to engage children in practicing navel skills, something along those lines away. Despite being nearly 25, it didn’t stop us having fun on them too.
If you want to visit somewhere the travel books wont tell you much about – go to Debrecen. I can’t promise that you’ll have an excellent host like us but there are definitely some good things to see and to have a break from the busyness of Budapest.