Spare a Thought
Spare a thought for the Hajdús! Say what? Hajdús are the Hajdú people who were settled in the east central part of the Great Hungarian Plain in the early 17th century.
They originally came to the region as cattle drovers from the Balkans. Known for their ferocious fighting qualities they made excellent mercenaries. In eastern European legend they are the Robin Hoods, fighting the rich on behalf of the poor. Truth is the Hajduk liked to fight period. They fought against just about any group of foreigners or wealthy landowners who were unlucky enough to upset them.
They were not beyond committing banditry or extorting from locals of all classes in the countryside.
The Hajdu took part in the peasant rebellion of 1514 and less than a century later were co-opted by Stephen Bocskay (Bocskai István) to assist him in fighting the Habsburgs who were terrorizing the Protestant population of Transylvania at the onset of the 17th century.
Bocskay raised a warrior force of Hajdú’s that provided critical assistance in his subsequent triumph. The legacy of this victory was threefold. Bocskay’s role as Prince of Transylvania was secured. The Peace of Vienna (1606) guaranteed religious and self-governing rights to the Hungarians in both Transylvania and Royal Hungary.
For their part, the Hajdús were rewarded by Bocskai with titles of nobility, tax breaks and land which became a series of towns. This is the region known today as the Hajdúság, centered in the area around Debrecen.
The prefix Hajdu in a town’s name is the giveaway that you have found your way into the Hajdúság.
The one you are most likely to visit is Hajdúszoboszló. Perhaps you have heard the phrase one horse town, well that definitely describes Hajdúszoboszló. The proprietors of Hajdúszoboszló ride this horse all the way to the bank! It was not until 1925 that a thermal spring was unearthed here, but from that point to the present this became the main economic engine of the town.
You can join the one and a half million visitors who come here every year to have a soak in the Hungarospa Thermal Baths. Expect to meet plenty of Germans, Poles and of course Hungarians as you frolic in one of thirteen thermal pools, nine waterslides, a wave pool and several other large swimming pools.
There’s enough to go around for everybody.
After you’re done there don’t forget the Hajdús. The Hajdúsági Múzeum fittingly located just off Bocskai tér will enlighten you on the ethnographic history of the Hajdú people.
Without these people there probably would have been no town here today and the counter-reformation may have claimed Catholicism for all of Hungary. It turned out much differently and that’s why we spare a thought for the Hajdús.
written by CHRIS WILKINSON
edited by CHRIS KOVACS
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