Where I hear you say? Nyiregyhaza is a small city in Hungary’s east of around 200,000 people. It’s hardly on the tourist trail. But it’s where Beata calls home.
As a small city it’s not without its merits. It served as a good base for us to explore the lesser seen side of Hungary.
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How to get there
Nyiregyhaza is served by the train service from Budapest-keleti train station which is located in Pest. It’s a relatively direct trip and takes just over three hours. Tickets should be bought at the station before boarding the train.
We opted to rent a car from Budapest Airport. The process was relatively straightforward, we booked through Rentalcars.com where prices are generally fairly competitive and were met in the arrivals by a representative of U-save who whisked us off to their office. In a holiday already blessed by upgrades we were now upgraded from a Citroen C-3 to a Suzuki SUV, which was a pleasure to drive. When booking a car in Hungary make sure you take the Highway tag, as driving on the motorway without one will earn you a healthy fine.
The route across Hungary took around three hours. I lamented the month of my visit, there were many sunflower fields scattered across the country but they were now past the ripe stage and had wilted. The trip would surely have taken much longer in an earlier month as I would have left the motorway in search of photos. It’s an extraordinarily flat country with only a few distant hills to the north visible for the whole 230 km journey. Corn seems to be the most planted crop and the fields were alive with harvesters.
So why Nyiregyhaza?
Like yourselves perhaps, it was a city I never heard of until five years ago. Until the day I met Beata that is, as this is her home city. The prospect of bed and board in a foreign country is one of the perks of finding love with a foreign national. So Nyiregyhaza has become my home away from home. We travelled to the prospect of good home cooking by our host, Beata’s mom. Hungarian cuisine is heavy on the stomach but also heavy on the meat. Surely it’s not a cuisine for vegetarians.
Where we stayed and where you should
We arrived at around 7pm in Nyiregyhaza and spent the evening settling in at Beata’s home and enjoying some of that home cooking, some oven cooked pork was prepared that night.
The next morning we awoke to unexpected rain. We let Nina have a good sleep in, the early morning a few days before still having an effect on her. This was her first trip to Hungary and as such the trip would be tailored to suit her. In totality we would spend five of our days within the confines of Nyireghyhaza.
Nyiregyhaza as earlier stated wouldn’t be the most tourist of destinations. The east of Hungary lags somewhat behind the polish of Budapest or the Balaton. The best of its hotels probably lies in the Sosto area north of the city. The recently renovated Hotel Aventinus and the newly opened Pangea hotel give good access to the plethora of amenities nearby. See all accommodations here at Booking.com.
What to do
Over the course of our holiday we spent several days in and around the city. The city centre is very compact and certainly isn’t a shoppers paradise despite the presence of a mall and weekly markets. It has in spite of this it has an attractive centre with broad squares and a good number of buildings constructed during an architectural movement at the end of the 19th century. To the north of the city the Sostogyogyfurdo area is the city’s main attraction.
Squares and Architecture
Nyriregyhaza’s main square Kossuth Square, which is called after Kossuth Lajos, the Hungarian leader during the revolution of the 1840’s. The paved square is tree-lined and has most of the city’s beautiful buildings. The arcaded City Hall takes centre place on the square on the square with a statue of Kossuth Lajos to the front. However more impressive is the Savings Palace which was constructed in 1912. The top floor has a beautiful coloured glass dome, which can be sometimes accessed. It now hosts the OTP Bank. Across the street is the Korona Hotel, whose interior has fallen into disrepair, but maintains its wonderful frontage of the 1890’s.
On the far side of the square a fountain known as the Three Graces depicts three ladies taking a bath, and is an iconic image in the city. It was constructed in bronze by Tibor Borbas.
Continuing beyond here we came across the Jose Andras Museum. this museum contains many relics of the city and the surrounding countryside of the county of Szabolcs. Admission is 1000 ft into the museum and it is only moderately interesting with no information in English.
Back in the centre Hosok Tere (Heroes Square) is a beautiful colourful area with flower beds and monuments surrounded by some eclectic buildings. A monument to World War I, strangely depicts a soldier fighting a dragon but it’s a beautiful bit of sculpture. The squares main building is the County Hall which has a wonderful bright yellow facade.
I love the churches of Hungary. Their steeples are so different from the cold grey stone that I see in Ireland. Nyiregyhaza doesn’t disappoint and with a number of religions vying for the populations beliefs there are many to see.
The most imposing of these is the Roman Catholic Church, with its red brick twin steeples. It is located on Kossuth Square. The interior is arranged in three naves and its worth visiting to see the rostrum. Admission is free during open hours.
There are a number of other noteworthy churches within the city, but opening times are a problem, and it’s difficult to see their interiors. They are usually only open during mass times. Three other churches that are worth the effort to see the exterior are the Evangalist Church on Luther Square which was consecrated in 1786, the Reformed Church from 1882 on Kalvin Square, and the Greek Catholic Church from 1895. This is on Bethlen Gabor Street, and trying my luck I was able to visit one morning. There is only a limited view of the interior behind a glass wall, but the decoration is very byzantine, with ceiling frescoes. It was definitely worth the visit.
For more on what Nyiregyhaza has to offer the towns website is a good source.
We took several trips out to the Sostogyogyfurdo area north of the city. This is a complex located within an oak tree forest and was to be the focus of our attentions. It’s the city’s main attraction. The complex is built around a lake and its main pulling point are the thermal waters that now heat the pools of the Aquarius Experience and Park Bath. With waters naturally heated up to 36 degrees the area has attracted patrons seeking its healing abilities since the 16th century. It slowly evolved and is now a sprawling area consisting of innumerable indoor and outdoor pools, a host of eateries, and where Nina and I would spend several days, an excellent water park. The addition of a zoo, an open air museum, hotels, and restaurants have further enhanced the area. Bus number 8 from Nyiregyhaza railway station serves the Sosto area.
Aquarius Experience and Park Bath
This sprawling area covers 1.7 hectares on the banks of a lake. Admission to Aquarius Eperience was 3900ft for adults and children over six, with a discount for locals. Sounds like a lot but when you convert it it’s just €31 was three of us to visit. The sheer volume of things to do convinces you of a bargain. and there really is enough to keep you entertained for the day. It caters for those who want to sunbathe with a large outdoor area, and four outdoor pools I could count, 3 indoor, numerous spa facilities, and a plethora of water slides and wave pools. The thermal pools were particularly relaxing.
We met Beata’s friend Klarie here with her boyfriend and his kid (whose names I lost along the way) but I played the part of adventurous dad, making full use of the torrent pool, wave machine and water slides. Great opportunity to use my action cam too and release my inner child.
There is a selection of food options available here too, from the interior restaurant to a vast selection of stalls selling fast food. We opted for langos on the days we were here, its a local speciality of deep-fried dough best served with cheese and sour cream. It’s one of my favourite options in Hungary. Healthy god no, but delicious. Lunch options were all priced around the 700 ft mark. You can’t go wrong with a €2 lunch.
Locally it is believed that this zoo is the best in Hungary and it is a source of pride. It’s an amalgamation of a zoo and an aquarium, and so there is great variety for your hard-earned cash. Admission for adults is 3500 ft and for little adults its 2300 ft and the zoo maintains opening hours for daylight times.
As one would expect the zoo presents animals from all corners of the earth and is organised respectively. It’s a large area and a walk to see all takes half a day. It had some great highlights, there were live shows featuring parrots and seals which are presented in Hungarian, but the animals are the star of the show so its not a deterrent. Large water tanks allow penguins, sealoins, and polar bears more freedom, and underwater viewing decks allow us to see them at their most natural.
The indoor water tanks have the same feature with a huge tunnel carved through it. Sharks swim within metres of your head and they are such an imposing sight. It’s surely the most awesome image within the park.
Through the rest of the zoo, the different varitails of monkeys always entertain, and remind us of genetically similar we are.
The most endearing of all the animals was a two month old elephant. The idea of captivity had no bearing on him, and his playful antics drew a large crowd.
Sosto Open Air Museum
The Sosto Museum is a recreation of a Hungarian village atmosphere of the 19th century. The museum contains a full village form houses, farm buildings, a church, a school through all the different facilities available to the lower class of the day. The interiors are faithfully recreated and all the buildings can be visited both out and in. It’s a great way to spend an hour or so when in the area, and there is a sizeable number of buildings to visit. The same construction materials and techniques were used as in the bygone time. A wooden bell tower of a church was also built and these as I have already said were the highlight for me.
Where to eat
We enjoyed the benefit of good home cooking for the duration of our trip. Our delicious meals included husleves, oven roasted pork, porkolt with nokedli, and lecso. I am a big fan of trying the cuisine of where I visit as much as the culture. Hungarian cuisine doesn’t try to be aesthetic on the plate and focuses more on the palate. Trying to introduce my daughter Nina to it was challenging but in the end worthwhile, as she discovered often to her surprise that she liked it.
We also ate out on a few occassions and the food was of a good standard. We can certainly recommend Szechenyi Etterem where we all tried the Rantott Hus stuffed with smoked , the Hungarian version of Schnitzel. It is located on Szechenyi Street, has a sheltered patio area and is moderately priced.
The best restaurant we visited in the town was Sziklakert Etterem, which is slightly outside but has a great menu. My personal favourite food to order here is the Ciganpecsenye, or gypsy roast in English, a combination of different cuts of pork.
Day trips from Nyireghyhaza
Having our own wheels we used Nyiregyhaza as a base to discover much of Eastern Hungary. I’ll be delving deeper into those trips over the next few weeks.
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