Szeged is the third largest city of Hungary, the cultural and economic center of South-Eastern Hungary and a thriving university town that hosts a great number of foreign scholars and students.
The local opera with its Neo-baroque style and exquisit performances admittedly competes with the well-known one in Budapest. Theatres, cinemas, clubs, riversides, parks, and sports facilities provide plenty of possibilities for recreation. During summer, the open air theatre in front of the Cathedral attracts over 4000 spectators each night to special opera and musical performances. Additionally, 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.
The first use of a name for this location - Partiscus - comes from Ptolemy in the middle of the 2nd century AD. For more than two hundred years the region was ruled over by the Gepids – Huns, then for a short time the Gepids again, and finally the conquering Avars. The downfall of the latter was caused by the French Charlemagne and by Kroum, the Bulgarian Khan, pressing forward from the east.
Arriving at the end of the 9th century, the Hungarians found a weakened Avar-Bulgarian people here. The conquering Hungarians held their assemblies in the vicinity of Szeged – at what is today Ópusztaszer – where according to Anonymous they divided the territory of the country between themselves. This region came into the possession of Ond, one of the tribal leaders.
On 23rd July 1728, 13 people were burnt as witches on “Witches Island”, in the area of the street which is known today as Máglyasor. The wicked deed was provoked because the then leaders of the town decided that the only way to remove the problem of the masses complaining about the drought and its consequences (famine, epidemics) was to instill in them the belief that as long as the stigmas of the guilty parties fraternising with the devil remained alive among them, nothing would change: the Good Lord did not like the people, and thus they were being punished.
The modern era, the age of technology, saw the spread of machines, with man`s intervention in the natural order becoming ever more drastic. Man wanted more and more protected land to sow and harvest as he wanted, and he took this from the river. Dykes were constructed between the periodically flooded area and the river, since which time the Tisza, tamed and deprived of its freedom, has flowed quietly along in its modest, regulated way for most of the year. But once, sometimes twice a year it becomes like a wild beast, trying to win back the land which was earlier taken from it, and then people launch a desperate defence, piling up more mountains of earth beside and on top of the dykes to prevent the water breaking through. It is a game with an unpredictable outcome: sometimes it is not man who wins.
This is what happened in the early hours of 12th March 1879, when a breach in a distant dyke caused Szeged to be completely destroyed. The country united after the tragedy, as did the peoples of the world, and helped the town in its reconstruction. The fruit of this international collaboration and of the will of the inhabitants (who loved their town) was the establishment of the town as it is now. With its boulevards and avenues and its elegant mansions, Szeged is the most beautiful and most well-ordered town in Hungary. A look at the map shows the regular, organised plan laid out with ruler and compass. And looking closely at the street names you can see that the main boulevard features the names of Rome, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, Moscow and Vienna, recalling the donations made by the peoples of the world when collections were made in the capital cities and sent here. The King visited Szeged at the time of the tragedy; his sympathy is echoed by the consoling words which now adorn a coloured glass window overlooking the main staircase in the town hall: “Szeged will be more beautiful than before”