Have you ever heard of Brno or Bergen, Maribor or Mostar? Now you’ve probably heard of Prague and Oslo, Sarajevo and Ljubljana. The former cities are all second ones, in both population and prestige in their home countries.
Debrecen – with 208,000 people Hungary’s second largest – has much in common with these cities. It is dwarfed in prestige by its much bigger brother, Budapest. Yet even though it is second in size – having just one-tenth the population of Budapest – it is still one of the least known second cities in all of Europe.
Second cities are more about subtle delights and quiet surprises. These traits best describe Debrecen. It sits on the Great Plain in the eastern half of the nation.
Debrecen has much to recommend it. First and foremost, it is a university town. The university has just been named one of the top 700 in the world. With over 30,000 students, a magnificent main building and situated adjacent to the thickly wooded Great Forest, it has intelligence, style and nature all rolled into one.
Then there is the city’s main street, Piac Utca (Market Street) with Debrecen’s one and only tram line rolling right along it. The tram glides past striking examples of eclectic imperial architecture from the turn of the 20th century.
It can drop you at the foot of the marvelously twin towered Great Church. We cannot say enough about the church’s gorgeous façade that shines like a ray of bright yellow sunshine straight into the city’s heart. This is the symbol of Debrecen, long known as the Calvinist Rome.
Debrecen is Eastern Europe’s home of the reformation and the Great Church stands as testament to this historic legacy. This is one of the many surprises that await the intrepid traveler venturing into Hungary’s relatively unknown east. Beneath expansive skies and endless horizons, Debrecen is a quiet wonder awaiting discovery.
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