I stayed two days in Szeged, Hungary, and loved it for what it was: A relaxing, charming college town with a lot of outdoor recreation. Everywhere I explored those two days in June, people were out biking, running, swimming, sunning, or just eating ice cream in the square. After the rush of having to get to Istanbul, then Belgrade, and then Timișoara, in Szeged I could slow done and just be. I didn’t feel the pressure to see touristy sights or do anything elaborately planned. Instead, I did just as the locals did: I ran in the park, I had coffee in the square and people-watched, I crossed its river bridge time and again and enjoyed the scenery of this lively college town. I was on a break from my own vacation.
I’d arrived by an old beater of a train from Romania, but had clearly stepped into a more modern version of Old Europe once I set foot in Szeged. A sleek tram pulled up and I hopped on and took it to the center of town, with some help from an English-speaking local. As in previous countries, the only words I’d really master in Hungary were thank you (köszönöm) and hello (Szervusz). The latter is pronounced more or less like “service,” which means every where I went and said hello it felt like I was rudely demanding service.
I stayed in the Aquarius Vendégház guesthouse, where the owners folded bath towels into swan shapes but otherwise seemed intent to stay out of my way. It was a quiet, clean place, with no breakfast but adjacent to a restaurant and bar where I know I had one of those amazing Eastern European meals, but for the life of me I cannot remember its details.
The town is divided by the river Tisza, with my hotel on one side and just about everything else on the other. Trams and buses crossed the river bridge, but walker that I am I hoofed it back and forth several times in an effort to stretch my legs, which had been bent sitting on trains, planes, and automobiles the past few days.
All in all it felt like one of those towns you read about in quality-of-life articles online. Culture, architecture, orderliness, health, safety, nature, education, all seemed there for the enjoyment of everyone. I’m not sure if that’s really true, but it sure felt that way.
By far my favorite sight was Szeged Vasútállomás train station, a different station from the one at which I arrived. I don’t have the words to do it justice, so here are two pictures to close out this post: