Kiskunhalas

Travel Guide

Dear Reader,
Allow me to draw your attention to a few – but by no means all – of the sights of our town. I hope that this short virtual stroll will inspire your interest and that one day we may be able to personally welcome you to Kiskunhalas, the Town of Lace.

 

Arrival

Kiskunhalas (known by most as ‘Halas’) is a traffic junction and the last town before the Serbian border. It is crossed by main road number 53, which leads to the border crossing point of Tompa, and also by the international Budapest to Belgrade railway line. The roads and railway lines from Kiskunfélegyháza and Baja also end here. Travellers can progress from the railway station by bus or taxi. Town maps can be found at both the bus and railway stations.

Accommodation, Meals, Currency exchange See the appropriate pages on this web site.

 

Sights

Our starting point is the junction of road 53 and Kossuth utca, which leads from the railway station to the town centre. If visitors arrive by car, they can find a parking space here and also buy refreshments from the Park supermarket or the ‘Kisbosnyák’ market.

We must begin our tour with our town’s most famous sight, the Lace House (37/a Kossuth u.), the entrance to which can be found at the aforementioned crossroads. Here we can see the statue of The Lacemakers (Ilona Mózer and Károly Barth, 1994), which depicts Máriá Markovits and Árpád Dékáni. At the end of the well-kept park is the Lace House, which was built in the style of a traditional peasant house with a veranda in 1935 as a lace workshop and which today is also a treasury for lace samples and designs, and for the heritage of the world famous Halas Lace. The building was extended in 1939 with two wings and received a fan-shaped extension in 1997. It houses a museum, work, exhibition and conference rooms. Inside we can admire the ethereal masterpieces of lace, see how they are made and also buy some for ourselves. (The museum is open from 9 to 12 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.; lacemaking can only be viewed on weekdays.) For more details see: Culture / Kiskunhalas, the Town of Lace on this site.

From the rear of the Lace House a short walk takes us to the Municipal Library (1969) in Szövetség tér, where we can browse not only 100,000 books, but also the Internet. In the park in front of the library is a statue named Young Girl with a Bird (Ferenc Simon). Returning to Kossuth utca and crossing the road, we can walk through Hősök ligete (‘Heroes’ Park’) and see the Equestrienne statue (Iván Szabó, 1953). If we head down Kossuth utca in the direction of the railway station, we can visit the Collection of Hunting Trophies at the II. Rákóczi Technical School (39 Kossuth u.; open on school days, tel.: 77/422-433). In front of the school stands a bust of Ferenc Rákóczi II, the Hungarian patriot (Andreas Papachristos, 1976). Not far away is the Observatory (43 Kossuth u.; open from 6 p.m., groups can also visit at other times by arrangement, tel.: 77/423-355). If you arrive in Halas between the middle of May and 10th June, it is well worth seeking out the country’s largest collection of iris breeds (1001 types) at the student hostel of II. Rákóczi Technical School (contact: 06/20/591-7292).

    

Opposite the northern side of the railway station is the Old Reformed Cemetery with its many interesting old tombstones. This is a protected area which is part of the so-called National Pantheon. In his 1937 work Shifting Sands, author Ferenc Erdei wrote, “The traveller to Halas arriving by train first meets with the dead. This ancient wooded cemetery has taken in the townsfolk for centuries. It is a garrulous guardian of the town’s 500-year-old past.”

Turning back towards the town centre, on the corner of Kossuth utca and Bercsényi utca we come across the statue of The Sorrowful Kuruc (József Damkó, 1904), which commemorates the Battle of Halas, fought on 3rd October 1703 as part of the Rákóczi War of Independence, in which 234 lost their lives.

Further on, on the left, is the General Cultural Centre and Sports Hall (ÁMK), with the Boroka Community House in front of it. In the hall of the cultural centre is a statue of the Hungarian artist Mihály Munkácsy (Pál Paczay). Outside is a stone commemorating the Hild Award (1988), which Halas received for its harmonious town planning. Close by is the Szilády Áron Reformed Grammar School (14 Kossuth u.), which was built in 1892 in Neo-Renaissance style (József Kauser). The school’s famous teachers include the literary historian Áron Szilády (1837-1922), and József Thúry (1861-1906), a linguist and Turcologist. The Szilády Gallery hosts temporary art exhibitions, while in the library rare editions may be discovered. (Open from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., tel.: 77/421-215.)

  

Now following the yellow brick road of Árpád utca towards Szentháromság tér, our destination is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. First built in late Baroque style in 1770, the church was extended between 1937 and 1940. The altar picture shows The Farewell of Peter and Paul before their execution. The richly ornamented frescoes are the 1944 work of two Polish refugees, the husband and wife Karol Malczyk and Pawlik Milanda. Outside is the Folk-Baroque Calvary (1825) (note how the two thieves are bound to their crosses with rope) and statues of the Holy Trinity (1910) and Saint John of Nepomuk (1928). Heading down Szent Imre utca will take us to the Synagogue (1 Petőfi u.), built between 1857-1861 and still in use today. This protected building is late Classical, although its window arches are recognizably Romantic.

From the Synagogue we arrive at the protected building of the Szűts József Primary School on the left side of Köztársaság utca. From 1913, its red brick facade with twin towers combine folkish and traditional styles with modern functionality.

The Thorma János Museum is to be found at 2 Köztársaság u. The two-wing Classical building from 1887 is entered through a garden and portico. The museum’s permanent exhibitions are: Kiskunhalas, the Lesser Cumanian Market Town (14th-19th century local history and ethnography); the paintings of János Thorma; Hungarian currencies; Medals and badges of Kiskunhalas. In the garden there is a 17th or 18th century cart, a wine press and old agricultural implements. (Open from Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., tel.: 77/422-864. www.muzeum.halas.hu)

Opposite the museum, the Town Hall commands our attention. This protected building is perhaps the most characteristic of Halas, and its most valuable monument. Its Classical wing facing Köztársaság utca was designed by Ágoston Fischer and finished in 1834. The town hall was later expanded in Secession style according to the plans of Rezső Hikisch and Henrik Kotál in 1905 and 1906. We can see Hungarian decorative motifs on its lively facade. Above its crenellated roof rises the fire watch tower. The wing built as a theatre has allegorical figures from Greek drama on its facade.

  

Bethlen Gábor tér, on the east side of the town hall is the true centre of the town. Its green park is decorated by a fountain, a 1956 memorial, the ‘Well of the Ravens’ sculpture and a bust of politician Sándor Garbai (Ede Kallós). The square is fringed by shops and supermarkets.

Although short, the pedestrianized Bokányi Dezső utca has several attractions. The Cultural Centre (8 Bokányi u.) often houses exhibitions by artists of national renown. At the House of Collections (4 Bokányi u.) we can see a permanent exhibition of the works of Munkácsy Prize artist Viola Berki (tel.: 77/420-864). On the wall of the bank opposite there is a bronze memorial plaque to Hungary’s ‘Blood Witnesses of Arad’, executed by an Austrian firing squad towards the end of the 1848-9 War of Independence.

  

On the north side of Bethlen tér is ‘Hősök tere’ (Heroes’ Square), which leads us to the Calvinist Reformed Church, designed by János and Frigyes Schwörtz and built between 1813 and 1823 in Classicist / late Baroque style. On its southern facade is a relief commemorating the visit to Halas of poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz. The ‘Sinners’ Stone’ outside the church recalls the public punishments in practice until 1792 – wrongdoers (for example those who worked on a Sunday, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, liars, blasphemers, or those who injured or abused their fellows) were sat or stood here to endure public shame. The presbytery (2 Hősök tere) was built in 1777. Its garden facade with a veranda and its Classicist gate both date from 1850 and are nowadays protected.

  

The square is adorned with a bust preserving the memory of the greatest citizen of Halas, Áron Szilády (István Szentgyörgyi, 1926) and a Second World War memorial. Next to the Reformed House of Prayer we can see a statue of the Hungarian national poet, Sándor Petőfi (Gábor Mihály, 1978).

It is from the town hall that the Thermal Baths (1 Nagy-Szeder István u.) is most easily reached. It is open all year round and has three indoor pools of different temperatures. The 48° curative thermal spring water is iodiferous and alkaline. Doctors recommended it for the treatment of locomotor and gynaecological disorders as well as for those recovering after accidents. (Tel.: 77/422-590) By the baths is a 100-space campsite. For more details see: Tourism on this site.

The north-eastern part of Halas offers some sights a little way out of the town centre. Leading from the Reformed Church, Szilády Áron utca is fringed with several protected buildings featuring Eclectic facades, for example the ‘Gál House’ (number 14), the ‘Péter-Monszpart House’ (17) and the ‘Rocsek House’ (31). At the nearby 5 Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca we can find the 1840 Classicist-style Végh House, which is a protected building. Inside is an exhibition of paintings by Balázs Diószegi, a Munkácsy Prize winner. (Open: Thursday to Saturday, 2 to 6 p.m., tel.: 77/422-350.)

From the Végh House it is worth walking down Hold utca to 1 Marx tér where there is a protected thatched peasant house with an open chimney and hidden ethnographical treasures. This is also the seat of the Municipal Protection Society. Visitors are welcome if an appointment is made in advance (tel.: 77/421-646). Going to the end of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca, we come to Szabadság tér where we can see the Roman Catholic Church of the ‘Upper Town’, built in 1934. Turning right from here into Kölcsey utca and then crossing the main road takes us to the Sáfrik Windmill (on the corner of Kölcsey u. and Szélmalom u.). The mill was built of sun-dried bricks by Antal Hunyadi in 1888 and was first worked with a lower grindstone. It received its brick apron in 1892 and its upper grindstone in 1901 after being bought by József Sáfrik. This protected monument was in use until 1950.

North-east of the town, on the left side of road 53 is the Fejetek Marshes – an important conservation area, which is part of the Kiskunság National Park (a sign shows the way, it can be visited at any time). After the draining of the so-called Nagy-tó (‘Great Lake’) a drying out marshland was created. From the rare and protected plants to be found here, Menyanthes trifoliata and Pedicularis palustris are the most valuable. The orchids of this area are also under protection. Sadly, due to long years of water-shortage, the natural vegetation is vanishing. The marshes provides a habitat for some amphibians and reptiles, and many birds which are dependent on reeds. From the crossroads of Tinódi utca and Kopolyai út, 500 metres to the left in the direction of Fehértó, we can find fifteen protected marsh cypresses.

  

It is well worth seeking out Sóstó (‘Salty Lake’), 1.5 km north of the town on the right side of road 53. This is an excellent spot for fishing, while its forest park is nice to wander or picnic in, and swimming and sunbathing are also possible. The lakeside look-out point gives a fine view of the surroundings. At the entrance to the forest park is a column with a mythical Hungarian falcon perched on top, which marks a Hungarian Conquest-period burial ground. A pleasant spot to finish our tour of Halas is opposite the lake at the protected Classicist-style Sóstói Inn, where, entertained by gypsy violins and reinvigorated by delicious dishes, we can watch the moonlight dancing on the water.

Source: Kiskunság és Felső-Bácska (FRIGORIA Kiadó “Tájról Tájra” travel guides)
Photographs: The archives of the Mayor’s Office of Kiskunhalas, Károly Szűcs