Done too soon in Debrecen

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Europe » Hungary » Northern Great Plain » Debrecen
June 12th 2018
Published: July 26th 2018
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Today we were travelling southeast from Eger to Debrecen.

Despite a wild night at the wine cellars, we were (once again) wide awake at 5am. The sun was rising over Eger Basilica, which was a beautiful sight from our small balcony. We headed down to a small external dining room/kitchen for a very basic but enjoyable breakfast. Baskets of bread rolls were on the table, along with plates of cheese, salami, ham and tomatoes. We made ham and cheese rolls, which we washed down with endless cups of tea. It had been, after all, a full-on wine tasting at Biro Borozo the night before, and we were thirsty.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Sir Charles, the resident cat, threw our packs on a private minibus and set off for Debrecen, Hungary’s second largest city. We arrived in the late morning for what was only to be a two hour visit to break up our longer journey to Vadu Izei in Romania. We wandered around Kossuth Ter (the main city square) and found Ikon, a well-positioned restaurant to relax and watch the world go by. We sat at a table in a covered outdoor area bordering the square and ordered cold drinks to refresh us, as the midday sun was intense. We both opted for the paprikash potato (potatoes with paprika and sour cream) with Debrecziner sausage, which was served in an iron cast pot that proved difficult to eat from, but the food – basically an upmarket sausages and mash – was absolutely sensational.

We were running our Hungarian forint down to ensure we had nothing left before crossing into Romania later in the day. We had just enough for some water to get us through the afternoon, but when I paid the restaurant bill, the change didn’t come back. Yikes. They must have thought the change was a large tip. After suffering the embarrassment of having to ask for our change, which was not met favourably by our scornful waitress, we beat a hasty retreat across the square to a supermarket, where we spent our remaining forint on water and snacks.

We wandered Kossuth Ter one last time in the searing afternoon sun, and on our way back to the minibus we took a few last photos of the Great Church, Hungary’s largest Protestant house of worship. We filled our water bottles, jumped on the minibus and started our eastward journey to the Romanian border.

Today was a travel day from Eger to Debrecen in the Northern Great Plain, by minibus.

We woke up a bit tender after a big night at the wine tasting cellars in Eger’s Valley of the Beautiful Women. Annoyingly, I woke at 4am and then 5am, on a day my body could really have used an extra two hours of sleep. Miraculously, neither of us nor the rest of the group fared too badly… I say miraculously, as we calculated that we’d each drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine each! It was a most hilarious night by all accounts.

The breakfast room stood alone at the end of the property, and breakfast was a simple affair of fresh bread rolls, butter, strawberry jam with cinnamon, cheese, salami, ham and tomatoes. I didn’t try the ham, and the homemade jam was too sweet for my taste, but everything else was really delicious.

We left Eger at 9am on a private minibus. There were thirteen of us plus two drivers, but the bus was very spacious and we could spread out comfortably. Looking out of the windows in every direction, there was nothing but farmland stretching out as far as the eye could see. Again full of rye and sunflowers. The land was immensely flat, and I realised we were on the ‘Great Hungarian Plains’ (puszta as locals call it). The plains cover over 60% of Hungary’s land mass, and Attila the Hun and his destructive troops had galloped out of these steppes to hound the Roman Empire all those centuries ago. I’d also read a saying that the nomadic Magyars were ‘created by God to sit on horseback’, and I could totally see what they meant.

I admired the scenery, wrote for a while, then slept for an hour before we reached Debrecen. Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary, and we’d never have visited this beautiful city if we hadn’t been passing through on our way to Romania.

We stopped in Debrecen for two hours, for a quick look around and to have lunch. The iconic buttercream-yellow Great Church, Hungary’s largest Protestant church, stood at the top of the beautiful Kossuth ter. We walked through the interesting Kossuth square (it was triangular really!), which was full of fountains, colourful buildings, museums, ice cream stalls, restaurants and cafes.

As soon as we stepped into the square (mainly to admire the Great Church), I was drawn to a slender sculpture of a cat on a bench. I noticed Andrew was looking at a statue of a woman on the other end of the bench – it was of Magda Szabo. I recognised the name, but it wasn’t until I googled it that I confirmed she was the famous Hungarian writer and author of The Door. I feel a little bad that I was more attracted to the cat than one of Hungary’s most renowned female writers. However, given she was such a lover of cats, I’m sure she wouldn’t have been too bothered! I’m now looking forward to re-reading The Door when I get home.

We explored the area surrounding the square for a little while, loving the architectural highlights on every street. However, the sun got so hot that we thought it best to find a restaurant and sit in the shade. We chose Ikon from the Lonely Planet guide, mainly for the fact that it had a great review and it also had a shady outside area right on the square. We picked the lunch special of paprikash potatoes (potatoes with paprika and sour cream) with Debrecener sausage. I’d heard of Debrecener sausages before, but never realised they were named after a town, or that I’d pass through that town by chance. The dish was basically sausages and mash, but the paprika-heavy flavours in both were absolutely delicious! To cool down, I had an icy cold pineapple juice and Andrew had a beer.

We finished the last of our Hungarian Forint currency at the supermarket by buying water, paprika chips and sour worms to tide us over until a late dinner that night. At about 1:30pm we left Debrecen and made our way to the Romanian border.

Next we travel east to the Maramures region in Romania.


26th July 2018

So far, so great!
Oof. You'd have to pour me out of my bed after two bottles of wine nowadays. Sounds like fun was had by all. BTW got to love those buttercream churches! Very interested to hear about Romania next.
26th July 2018

Re: So far, so great!
Andrea I was extremely surprised we pulled up so well the next day! But we noticed that the wines in that region seemed ‘cleaner’ than the wine at home. There was definitely a yellow church thing going on :)
26th July 2018

Short but sweet
Debrenec sounded and looked very interesting. I haven't heard of Magda Szabo--would be interested to check out her book The Door--it was lovely to include the cat in her statue.
27th July 2018

Re: Short but sweet
The city had a lovely feel, but it was intensely hot! Magda Szabo was a prolific writer, but I only heard of her when a British friend lent me a translated copy of The Door. I've since found out the book was made into a film with Helen Mirren :)
27th July 2018

Always an Enjoyable Read!
Another enjoyable read. Assume you are traveling as individuals, but you did mention going on a minibus with others to Romania so not sure? Must admit I'd never heard of Magda Szabo, or "The Door" so now I will have to check that out, especially since you said she is a lover of cats (like I am). Ren & Andrew, you've quickly become some of my favorite travel bloggers!
27th July 2018

Re: Always an Enjoyable Read!
Thanks for the lovely comment Sylvia! We explored Budapest on our own, and then joined an Intrepid Travel trip to Romania and Bulgaria. Our next trip in East Europe will most likely be very similar to your Balkans trip :)
1st August 2018

Those wine tastings are too tempting not to participate fully. However, it is best not to calculate how much you drank. It plays with your mind. Once again it sounds like you are having a great time and have found some nooks and crannies worth exploring.
1st August 2018

Re: Hungary
We hadn't really registered how much we'd drunk until we started walking uphill back to our hotel... and collectively wondered why we were struggling with such a basic task :D We absolutely loved the week we spent in Hungary, and can't wait to go back!
3rd August 2018
magda szabo the novelist

We have seen very little of Hungary
We have been to Hungary several times but so far we have seen very little other than Budapest. Hopefully we'll get around to visit more of this lovely country some time in the future. Btw I like cats so this picture I of course like. /Ake
3rd August 2018
magda szabo the novelist

Re: We have seen very little of Hungary
I thought this was a great visual depiction of Magda's love of cats, and functional too! I can totally understand how Budapest could capture your attention over multiple visits, and when we go back I can see that we may face the same temptation to just stay in Budapest... :)

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