The area of Debrecen was inhabited even in ancient times. Up to the Hungarian conquest many nations (Vandals, Goths, Sarmatas, Gepids, Avars and Bulgarians) inhabited and ruled this area. The city's name could be read first in the form of "villa Debrezun" in the Váradi Regestrum dated 1235.
The letter of privilege awarded by King Lajos the Great in 1361 was an important stage of the city's development, which raised Debrecen up among the free market-towns.
The religious reform movement, breaking out at the beginning of the XVI century soon took root in Debrecen, which rapidly became of exclusively protestant population, already from the middle of the century.
In 1693 - in acknowledgement of the very many services and donations - Lipót I. raised Debrecen among the Hungarian free royal cities.
It was obliged to regularly protect its City Autonomy against the endeavours for centralisation by the Vienna court, at the same time it was present in the Hungarian Diet. In the XVIII century however it was characterised by a kind of rigidity and defence in both the economic, political and religious cultural areas. An important change was that a significant part of the commercial capital accumulated in the XVII century passed onto the feudal land estates, which reacted indirectly onto the city's social-economic life, making it become extremely rigid.
From among the schools of Debrecen the predecessor to the universities of today, the Reformed Church College operating without break for more than four and a half centuries, also acknowledged in the foreign countries was outstanding. Within its walls very learned professors passed on their knowledge to many famous scholars of the future.
The Hungarian revolution breaking out on 15 March 1848 had a big effect on Debrecen also. The fight for freedom in the wake of the events destined a unique role for Debrecen: in the first half of 1849 the country's government moved here for five months, thus it became Hungary's temporary capital city. The leader of the fight for freedom, Kossuth Lajos declared the dethroning of the Habsburgs and Hungary's independence in the Great Presbyterian Church.
After the stormy events at the middle of the XIX century the situation of the city was slowly consolidated. The railway line reached Debrecen from Pest in 1857. In the city quickly becoming a rail junction, big industrial developments began: The Agricultural Higher School and the Agricultural School, predecessors to today's higher agricultural education and the agricultural secondary school at Pallag were opened; flour mills, gas factory, sugar factory, brick factory, railway wagon repair factory and tobacco factory were built; banks and insurance companies settled in the city.
In the city devoting more and more on outward appearance the Csokonai Theatre of today was opened in 1865. Hospitals, religious and undenominational schools, barracks and churches were built. The Royal County Court began operation in a new building.
Under the First World War, then the country borders formed with the peace treaty closing the World War Debrecen - not for the first time in its history - was swept to the edge of the country. Under the altered circumstances the city leaders saw and found the development of tourism as one way out of the economic crisis and escape from the indebtedness. At this time - among others - construction of the university was also completed.
At the end of World War II the bombing and other military actions practically destroyed the city. In the senseless destruction 70% of the buildings suffered some kind of damage (more than half were ruined or seriously damaged). In 1944 when the restoration started Debrecen was once again Hungarian's capital city for a short time: the Temporary National Assembly held its meetings here.
After the battles subsided, the city's proprietors, tradesmen and traders set about restoring the state before the worldwide catastrophe. This time however history took another direction: the alteration of the proprietorship system meant the compulsory relinquishing of centuries old traditions and customs. The "council leadership" directed out from the county and national centres resulted in splendid creations and in the same manner incomprehensible negligence and omissions. However in spite of the fact that Debrecen's historical boundary was broken up in 1952, due to its role as a school city, its industry, trade and last but not least its administrational centre character, the regional role of the city increased in the last decades. In 2000 when the country's territory was organised into seven regions Debrecen worthily and formally became the centre of the North-Lowlands Region, including Hajdú-Bihar, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg Counties.
The city's climate is continental, with rather extreme features. Although it would not be guessed from the yearly mean temperature (+10 degrees Centigrade) the temperature, the moisture content and the quantity of rainfall fluctuate strongly. The summer is mainly hot and dry, and even the small amount of precipitation is given by a few cloudbursts. The 500-600-millimetres a year quantity of precipitation is just sufficient for the agriculture, although drought is not unusual in the city. Debrecen is the sun-blessed city: the sun shines for 2060 hours a year (most often in August, most rarely in December). At the same time the winter is colder and more severe than the rest of the country.
The middle-ages village was formed at the meeting of three regions, the Nyírség, the Hajdúság and the Hortobágy, on a slightly prominent and dry area of the Lowlands at one time covered densely by catchment areas. This on one hand contributed in a significant measure to the continuous increase in the population, what is more the excellent arable land (chernozem), together with the proximity of the Hortobágy suitable for keeping animals provided a good opportunity for making a living; while on the other hand its lying along the trading route connecting Transylvania with Upper Hungary and Poland raised the community to an important centre.
Debrecen is not an over-grown village, but an area where so many intellectual organisms find shelter - the home of contemporary European culture. This is the mission of the Civil City.
The past and heritage of Debrecen, its role played in European and Hungarian history obliges it to become Europe's cultural centre. During the past five hundred years such a rich intellectual spirit has grown up in this city, which as characteristically civil culture, determines the character of Debrecen even today.
For many Debrecen people the protestant tradition is some kind of trust-capital, which serves as cover for the city's endeavours for self-restraint. Perhaps the most well known manifestation of this civil community-forming tradition is the naming of Debrecen as the Calvinist Rome, which was spread about by Kazinczy Ferenc. The story started four hundred and fifty years ago, and even then it was not just about religion, but rather about culture in the wider sense.
Today almost three thousand registered civil organisations are on record in Debrecen. The foundations and associations are characteristically related to sport, culture, the social sphere, public health, together with the nature- and environment protection areas. They are mainly active for young people, but frequently in the interest and with the co-operation of the families, or the elderly. There are some organisations established by artists, some serving goodwill purposes - in the interest of operating a narrow-gauge forest railway for example - and there are those which are organised expressly for the benefit of women.
On 16. December 2004 the local government established the Debrecen Cultural Centre, which as the biggest institution of this kind in the country coordinates the professional work of seven larger community centres, two artist galleries and two folk-art houses.
The Riding-Hall Cultural and Conference Centre - converted in 1999 from the hussar riding school built in the previous century - found on the university campus territory in Kassai road, offers cultured artistic and entertainment opportunities in an area of 3000-square metres.
The Cívis Promenade last for the entire summer in the city centre, combined with folk and arts-and-crafts shows. The Summer Theatrical Evenings held in the age-mellowed courtyard of the old City Hall is mainly popular with the lovers of lighter theatrical performances. With its accompanying musical programmes the Debreceni Wine Carnival is a populiser of cultured wine consumption. The Poetry Festival, the public reading evening of the greatest contemporary Hungarian lyrics attracts hundreds of interested listeners. An event with a great past is the Literary Days , at which the literary men, aestheticians and critics of the country and over the border debate the current literary themes. The Spring Festival is held with putting mainly foreign artistic groups and authors in the forefront - at the Debrecen Autumn Festival however, mainly artists having links with the city take part. A unique gastronomic experience is offered year after year by the Debrecen Savoury Days programme. In harmony with the characteristic holiday atmosphere of the last month in the year the city-centre passers-by on the Holiday Promenade also providing space for the Advent Fair, are entertained by traditional theatrical performances, tradition-preserving events and musical programmes. Numerous youth and alternative festivals are also held in Debrecen. Among the former are the nationally famous Vekeri-lake rock fesztival and the Debrecen World Youth Meeting, while among the latter the Snowdrop Carnival and the Debrecen Underground Fesztival are popular with many people. Profession music making has traditions stretching back over several centuries in Debrecen.
The kántus (protestant college choir) the first Hungarian youth choir was established, and is still operating today. From 1868 singing competitions are held regularly in Debrecen - the BartĂłk BĂŠla International Choir Competition is based on this tradition, which since its commencement in 1961 has become one of the most high ranking review for the world's singing ensembles.
The City undertakes an initiative role in such programmes which serve the integration of the region and the Hungarian people. The co-operation to be formed with the Romanian, Ukranian, former Upper Hungarian and former Southern Hungarian intellectual workshops and economic undertakings also gives a greater chance for successful participation in the European Union Funding applications. With the joining of Romania Debrecen could form an axis with its twin city Nagyvárad lying at just 70-kilometres distance, which provides a perspective for the close-on two million people living in the region in regard to the economy, the social life and the cultural development.
Debrecen has a fundamental role in the development and preservation of Hungarian popular erudition. The peasant culture, which is the breeding-ground for popular culture was kept alive artificially for a long time in the civil city - we could say, it was archived. It managed to maintain its important role as holder of fairs, culture-creater and school city, while at the same time it was the centre of popular erudition. Debrecen is an organic union that was capable of displaying in itself, the often opposing folk and urbanic duality. The school city famous in far off lands created - among others - the ceramics of Debrecen, the clay pipe of Debrecen, the small fur-coat of Debrecen, the gyöngyös-bogláros headdress, and the embroidered cloak of Debrecen as well...
Sports life of Debrecen
Debrecen can surely be named as a sport-centred town, since besides the fact that its teams are competing among the leaders in numerous sports, significant facilities have also been established in recent years.
Its football team, DVSC established in 1902 has been playing in Division 1 of the National Championship stably since the nineties. The club won the Hungarian Cup three times (1999, 2001 and 2008), won the championship title also three times in the 2004/2005, the 2005/2006 and the 2006/2007 seasons, and participated in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. The stadium holding 8,000 spectators has already been proved to be too small, thus the town is planning to build a new stadium.
The Debrecen Wild Cocks Basketball Club has also been playing in Division 1 of the Hungarian Championship for more than a decade. In recent years they were considered to be among the best teams (silver medal in 2004-2005, and the team played in the Hungarian Cup Final in 2004). In 2004/2005 they competed in the ULEB cup, while in the 2005/2006 season they attempted to find international success in the FIBA Challenge Cup.
Handball also has a long history of successful in Debrecen, as DVSC womens and mens handball teams have been among the countries leaders for decades, and achieved historical success in international cups.
Besides the team sports the town is also proud of the success achieved in wrestling and badmington. Less traditional sports have also been introduced such as ice hockey, American football and baseball.
The Főnix Hall built in 2002 - which with its capacity for holding 7,000 people is the largest provincial programme centre - has already been the host of innumerable international sports and free-time events (Gymnastics World Championship, boxing galas, basketball matches, pop and rock music concerts, etc.).
The athletics sport centre located in the Great Forest was the venue for the World Youth Athletics Championships in 2002, and operates as an international coaching centre since then.
In 2006, the Debrecen Competition Swimming Pool, one of Hungary's most modern sport facilities was opened. A special feature is the moving wall which can be used to adapt the 50 metre pool to 33 or 25 metres. In addition to the 50 m competition pool, the complex has a 25 m training pool, a teaching pool, a Jacuzzi, a Finnish sauna and outdoor thermal water pool. The pool is ideal for competitive swimming and synchronised swimming events and for waterpolo competitions, as well being the perfect location for training camps.
Up until today, business tourism in Hungary was concentrated almost exclusively in Budapest since in the provinces there was no high quality establishment having sufficient capacity for receiving programmes of this nature. With the opening of the Főnix Hall, the programme space-selection was altered significantly, while the opening of the Kölcsey Centre broadened the range of supply on the business tourism market at the European level.
Demolition of the building complex of the former Kölcsey Ferenc County Cultural Centre was started in the summer of 2003. After clearing away the ruins, construction of the new Kölcsey Centre was started in 2004, the work of which took two years to complete.
In the multifunctional centre constructed by the summer of 2006 - besides many other items - is located the most modern conference centre in Central Europe, an art-gallery type exhibition gallery and a museum as well. A public sculpture displaying the national anthem is to be located on the site of the former residencial house of Ferenc Kölcsey.
Room is also provided in the Kölcsey Centre for one of Europe's conference centres. This building complex will be suitable for holding congresses, conferences, courses, seminaries, organising study courses, balls, festivals, concerts, musical concerts, prize-awarding galas, show-programmes, celebrations, theatrical performances, occasional film projection, fine arts and other exhibitions, international and national shows, gastronomic demonstrations and other programmes.
Another flourishing branch of tourism today is wellness tourism in which field high-quality standard services can be found in Debrecen. Aquaticum Mediterranean Pleasure Baths is located in the heart of the Great Forest of Debrecen, under a dome of 66-meter diameter. The abundance of tropical plants and adventure elements of this special facility makes summer out of every day of the year. The water paradise means full-day relaxation and entertainment for each generation.
Debrecen was the first in East Hungary to develop such a complex wellness offering in the eastern part of Hungary whose pillars are simultaneously operated supervision by experts of natural therapy and various services including treatments pampering the body and soul from the traditional refreshing massages and special Far-Eastern treatments, wellness baths as well as Eastern and other movement therapies. When conceiving the wellness department, the aim was to create a complex wellness concept.
The inner city
The main square and surroundings renewed in 2001 provides an excellent opportunity for a pleasant storoll or conversation over a coffee. The material relics of past times and the famous MunkĂĄcsy trilogy can be viewed in the DĂŠri Museum. The Presbyterian College Library looking back on a past of several centuries has a unique collection. The Great Church built in the classic style at the beginning of the XIX. Century is Hungary's biggest Presbyterian Church. The City Hall and surrounding renovated buildings create a harmonious street image. It is also worth while viewing the Csokonai Theatre, the Saint Anna Cathedral and the County Hall because of their imposing building complexes. During the stroll there is also the opportunity for shopping in the multitude of small shops in the city centre.
The Great Woods
The city's other pole of tourism is the Great Woods. In the forest park often referred to as the lungs of the city, innumerable family programmes are offered by the Botanical gardens, the Zoological and Botanical gardens, the Funfair and the Boating-lake. Here can be found the Debrecen Medicinal Baths and Mediterranean experience park, with several pleasant restaurants in the neighbourhood. In the heart of the Great Woods lies the main building complex and park of the University of Debrecen also, which is considered to be the most beautiful university in Hungary.
Debrecen's most significant tourist programm is the Flower Carnival held every year on 20th August and drawing several hundred thousand visitors, which has grown into a real carnival over the decades: The procession of fifteen-twenty "flower bedecked vehicles" each depicting a figure is coloured by Hungarian and foreign marching-dancers, majorettes, folk dancers and bands. The Debrecen Spring Festival offers a rich musical and theatrical programme for two weeks in March of every year. An outstanding event is the Debrecen Jazz Days, which since 1972 year after year invites to the city, besides the domestic elite of this artistic form, some prominent artists on the international jazz scene also.
The Bartók Béla International Choir Competition held every two years generally in the first week of July is a musical event of European rank. The Military Band Fesztival is similarly held every two years and similarly in the even-number years, the general time for which is the end of June.
The Summer University of Debrecen looking back on traditions of many decades is worthy of special mention. At the courses organised jointly by the University of Debrecen and the City, several thousands can get to know the basic of the Hungarian language, or perfect their knowledge of the language, in the meantime the can hear lectures on the life of the country and the social processes in progress here.