All travelling stories need a beginning and ours started with a trip to Debrecen in December 2013.
Still young in the relationship, G and I were about to get separated for the winter holidays. G already had his flights booked to spend Christmas with his family, in Debrecen, whilst I was merely getting ready for a solo Xmas roast and lots of gin & tonics.
On the train from Budapest to Debrecen, G decided to buy me a last minute ticket to surprise me for my birthday. And so, my first ever travel story to Hungary began to shape up with G wanting to show me what are the top things to do in Debrecen.
I was set to travel from Bristol to Budapest on the 21st of December. The joy and anticipation got the best of me, and whilst admiring the British countryside through the car's frosted windows, I couldn't stop thinking about stepping out of the plane, seeing G, and travelling by train on our way to Debrecen. I don't know what you think, but I've always been fond of train travels. It's something romantic about the slow rocking, the strangers who you became friends with for the duration of your trip, the specific background noise. Sometimes I fantasise about taking the train from London, all the way to Tokyo.
The trip to Debrecen was an amalgam of emotions: people around me were speaking a completely different language which made me a little anxious, but at the same time I was incredibly excited. It has been such long gap since I travelled to a foreign country, as at the time I was mainly visiting either Bucharest, Brasov, or places within the UK. To read about why I think you need to visit Brasov, click here.
Once we arrived in Debrecen, it was too late at night to make sense of any of my surroundings. The air was cold and there was a deep silence, which was so unfamiliar to me. A closer look at my watch, and I realised it was just past 2 in the morning. I was tired, excited and cold, all at once. Little I knew that it was during our trip to Debrecen, that we would decide to lead the travel lifestyle we unknowingly craved for so long.
Alas, the morning rays playfully woke me up. Although still tired after a long train ride and too little sleep, I was ready to explore Debrecen, which I soon learned, was the second largest Hungarian city after Budapest.
We started with a tour around the city square when I got to see The Great Church. Also known as the Reformed Great Church and located between Kossuth and the Calvin square, it represents a symbol of the Protestant Church in Hungary. It is precisely because of this very church, that Debrecen is sometimes referred to as the Calvinist Rome.
During my first day trip to Debrecen, we went to the University of Debrecen, one of the best universities in Hungary and incredibly sought after by medical students. This majestic building deemed to be the best spot for a break accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate.
Since we were sat on a bench, in front of the university, I decided to learn a little more about Debrecen, and so, I found out that the city’s name comes from Turkish “debresin” which means live and move. There are other theories according to which the name Debrecen comes from Slavic. The spelling of the city varies greatly in other languages, although the pronunciation is very similar: Romanian Debreţin, German Debrezin, Serbian, Debr(e)cin Slovak Debrecín.
We continued our journey around Debrecen back towards the main square, where, at twilight, the Christmas market come to life. No winter trip to Debrecen could be complete without trying some local specialities, including the famed Lángos or Kürtőskalács (literal translation: chimney cake). Lovely decorations and lights, frosty air and an inviting looking ice skating rink positioned in front of the Great Church, made Debrecen look and feel wonderful.
The winter holidays are all beautiful no matter where you chose to celebrate them, yet it's rather magical about feeling festive as you walk along the streets of a new city, hand in hand with your better half. And yes, I a total sucker for any winter wonderlands.
Beyond street food, I remember trying one very good restaurant: Csokonai. Csokonai had met and exceeded my expectations. The staff were great, made the effort to speak English which I always appreciate. The food came in great quantities and it tasted amazing. Csokonai is situated underground, rather unusual but very nice, clean and comfortable, with good quality live music. I would most certainly recommend this one!
We continued to explore Debrecen and the surrounding areas for days to come. We didn't catch snow, but it was cold and crisp throughout our stay. A spontaneous journey, with no pre-plans, my trip to Debrecen proved to be everything I hoped for and more.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay and adventure in Debrecen. I bought myself a book to learn Hungarian and I can only hope that eventually, I will get the grasp of it. I cannot wait for the next time I'm going to set foot in Hungary and explore even more of this little gem of a country.