Kecskemet Tourist Attractions
Kecskemét is the capital of the Bács-Kiskun region as well as the cultural and economic center of the area lying between the Danube and Tisza rivers.
It has few really old buildings but does boast some fine art nouveau style edifices and an extremely attractive town center. The billy goat which appears in the town's coat-of-arms is explained by the name Kecskemét, which roughly translated means "goat walk". Kecskemét is within easy reach of Budapest and a good setting-out point for excursions into the Bugac puszta, the tourist-favored region of the Kiskunság National Park (Kiskunsági Nemzeti Park).Boasting an impressive number of schools and training colleges as well as three university colleges, Kecskemét has become an educational stronghold. The Institute of Musical Education housed in the former Franciscan Priory promotes the new teaching methods devised by the musician and composer Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967, a native of Kecskemét. The Institute's reputation has now spread far and wide.The area now covered by the town of Kecskemét was already settled c 3000 BC (Bronze Age urnsite). During the migration of the peoples Scythians, later Sarmatians, Goths and Avars and finally the invading Magyars all settled here. The earliest documented record of Kecskemét as a town is dated 1368. The medieval settlement had no walls, being defended solely by moats and ditches in a ring round the town (now the route followed by the E5 road). Being owned by the Pasha of Buda and subsequently by the Sultan the town enjoyed the privilege of self-government during the period of Turkish rule. The basis of its economic prosperity was cattle-rearing and trading, and this was followed by other prosperous trades such as those of furrier, shoemaker and specialist metalworker. After the Turks withdrew, Kecskemét came under Habsburg rule in 1710. In 1834 a redemption treaty freed Kecskemét from its loan burdens and enabled it to boost its economy through the cultivation of fruit, vegetables and vines. In the early 19th C, 7 million young trees were planted around Kecskemét in an attempt to bind the sandy soil, which had lain fallow for centuries. On July 8, 1911 a heavy earthquake lasting 25 minutes caused great damage to the town and the surrounding area.EconomyAs a result of the intensive system of viticulture and the growing of fruit and vegetables the area around Kecskemét has been named "The Garden of Hungary". Its horticultural products are processed in the factories in Kecskemét. Far less important are such other branches of industry as prefabricated buildings, engineering, shoe manufacture and printing.
Kecskemét has all the characteristics of a market town on the Hungarian Plain: scattered around the periphery of the town are a number of individual farmsteads, which give way to rustic dwellings with fruit gardens (and now unfortunately some sad-looking satellite estates too) as one gets nearer to the town center. The atmosphere in the medieval quarters, with their typical cobbled streets lined with acacia trees, is typical of that usually found in a small town and only the center itself is a reminder of Kecskemét's size. The main places of interest will be found within a comparatively small compass and in one of the three large squares, Kossuth tér, Szabadság tér and Katona József tér.
Kecskemét Town Hall
The imposing Town Hall (Városháza), was built in 1893-96 to plans by Ödön Lechner (1845-1914) and Gyula Pártos (1845-1916), and is an important example of the Hungarian art nouveau style. Varying architectural features, especially the Gothic ogival arches, round columns and artificial pillars on the walls, mingle with traditional majolica ornamentation and contemporary extensions to form a unique and unconventional whole. The entrance hall decoration reflects the way the town saw itself during its halcyon days in the 19th C. The stairwell with its wide almost Baroque-like staircase obtains its special effect as a result of the light shining through the brightly-colored stained-glass windows.Visitors are also allowed into the magnificent, wood-paneled council chamber on the first floor. The frescos by Bertelan Székely (1835-1910) depict famous scenes from Hungarian history, ranging from the treaty with the tribal princes being signed in blood to the coronation of the Emperor Franz Joseph.Every hour the carillon above the main door plays a melody from the "Háry János" Suite, written by the composer Zoltán Kodály, a native of Kecskemét, and at 12.05pm, 6.05pm and 8.05pm other popular tunes are played.In front of the Town Hall stands a memorial marking the spot where the dramatist József Katona (1791-1830) died of a heart attack. Born in Kecskemét, he spent the last ten years of his life working in his native town. His play "Bánk ban", which takes as its theme the murder of the wife of King Andreas II of Hungary, has assured him a place in Hungarian literary history.
Géza Márkus, a pupil of Lechner and one of the second generation of Hungarian art nouveau architects, was responsible for designing this remarkable building. In the manner of Belgian and French art nouveau style buildings, the façades carry flat, mainly floral decoration, here in the form of majolica ceramic tiles from the Zsolnay factory in Pécs. Originally intended for commercial purposes, it has been used as an Art Gallery since 1963. The collection concentrates on Hungarian artists of the last hundred years or so, but there are also works by the colony of artists domiciled in Kecskemét.
Church of St Nicholas
On the east side of Kossuth tér stands Szent Miklós, the oldest church in the town, dating from the 13th C. Entrance is by way of a walled forecourt with Rococo wrought-iron tracery of the highest quality on both entrance gates. In the 15th C. the church was extended eastwards and the St Anne Chapel added in the side-aisle. The Franciscans, who took possession of the church in 1647, renovated it in Baroque style and in 1799 built the tower in the 18th C plait style. The only remaining vestiges of the original Gothic are to be seen on the pillars supporting the tower and on the plinth in the side-aisle. Excavations carried out to the north of the church revealed the foundations of the medieval St Michael's Chapel.The Calvary sculpture in front of the church wall was the work of an unknown artist in 1790.
József Katona Theatre
The south side of Kossuth tér merges into Katona József tér, on which stands the Neo-Baroque Theatre (1896), which has been renovated and has regained its original charm. It was designed by the Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer, who were among the busiest builders of theaters of their time. The front of the Kecskemét theater has the triangular gable and pillars to the side, a feature so typical of these architects, with the large rounded arch reaching down into the main entrance.The sculptor Leopold Anton Conti carved the figures on the Baroque Plague or Trinity Column in front of the theater; the cost of the column was met by public subscription in 1742.
The church with the contrasting yellow and white façades near the Town Hall is known as the Great Church (Nagytemplom); work on it commenced in 1774 to plans by Gáspár Oswald, but it was 1806 before it was completed. The group of figures above the entrance shows Christ handing the Keys of Heaven to Peter. The faces on the niche-sculptures on the front of the building are those of SS Stephen and Ladislaus, Peter and Paul. The Hungarian artist József Ferenc Falkoner was responsible for the painting of the Ascension on the high altar.
House of Science and Technology
Directly opposite the Citra Palota stands the former Synagogue, built in 1871 in the Moorish style to the designs of János Zitterbarth. Since 1973 it has been the "House of Science and Technology" (Tudomány és technika háza). The onion tower was destroyed in the 1911 earthquake, and the building suffered further damage during the Second World War. Extensive renovations in 1973 to plans by József Kerényi helped to restore it to its former glory. In the foyer stand copies of fifteen Michelangelo sculptures.
Piarist Priory and College
In addition to the church, this complex of buildings embraces a priory, a college and a school in Classical style. Built c 1730, the Baroque church is the work of the well-known architect Andreas Mayerhoffer. The front is embellished with statues of SS Stephen and Ladislaus, as well as with figures of the Virgin Mary and the founder of the order, St Joseph Calasanz. Inside can be seen some beautiful original altars. Note also the paintings on the pastoral side-altar in which the figures display the traditional hairstyle and clothes of the Cuman settlers.
Zoltán Kodály Institute of Musical Education
In 1975 the Institute of Musical Education (Kodály Zoltán Zenepedagógiai intézet) was opened in the former Franciscan priory (built in 1702-36) on the pedestrian walk called Két templom köz. Its aim was to preserve the name of Zoltán Kodály as a teacher of music and to develop further the instruction methods he had devised. Concerts are regularly performed in the old refectory and in the cloister courtyard. A permanent exhibition in the cloisters documents the life of the composer.
Surrounded by beautiful houses and with lush green swards, Szabadság tér is like a small oasis in the very heart of the town. In the famous Café Szabadság the visitor can relax with a cup of excellent coffee while enjoying the view of this spacious square. On its south side stands the massive art nouveau building of the New College (1911), which also houses the Library and the Ráday Ecclesiastical Museum.
As well as his extensive work in Budapest, the architect Miklós Ybl designed the Evangelical Church (1861-63). Its ground plan is in the form of a Greek cross. Built in Neo-Romanesque style, the church contains two beautiful late 19th C tiled stoves made in the Zsolnay factory in Pécs.
Built in 1683-84 and extended in the late 18th C., the Reformed Church stands on the remains of a medieval church. The choir is Classical in style whereas the pulpit shows Rococo characteristics.
Toy Museum and Workshops
"Sorakatenus" is the name given to the Toy Museum founded some ten years ago. The special thing about it is that it combines a museum and a workshop - not only are toys dating back to the early 19th C exhibited but also children and young people can try their hand at making toys in the workshop, under the guidance of skilled teachers.
Museum of Hungarian Folk Art
An old 19th C. building now houses the Museum of Hungarian Folk Art. Its exhibits include pottery, carvings in wood and ivory, weaving and crochet work from about 1960 onwards.
Hungarian Photography Museum
József Katona Museum
The József Katona Museum is located in the park of the same name. It provides detailed information on the history of the region (archaeology, ethnology, local art).