Equidistant from the Danube and the Tisza, Kecskemét is the principal town of Bács-Kiskun County. Kecske means ‘goat’ in Hungarian, and it is said this derives from the peculiar practice of the 13th-century bishop in presenting an animal to each convert to Christianity. History does not record how successful he was in appealing to them with the Father, the Son and a holy goat … Youthful in feel, architecturally adventurous in look, it isn’t hard to see what people like about Kecskemét. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to what at first feels a confusing centre – a merging cluster of squares – it’s worth putting aside a couple of days rather than hours to gape at some beautiful buildings, peruse a good selection of museums, shop from a decent range of boutiques and eat in some above-average restaurants. Kecskemét will keep you busy.

Youthful in feel, architecturally adventurous in look, it isn’t hard to see what people like about Kecskemét

Kecskemét was a prosperous market town by the 15th century, and its layout – surrounded by a belt of farmsteads that give way to gardens and orchards – is typical of such settlements on the Great Plain. It suffered less than most during the Ottoman occupation, governed as it was directly by the sultan and enjoying his  protection from the Turkish officers that intimidated and exploited the unfortunate towns that fell under their administration. Turning in earnest to viniculture in the 19th century, the citizens were fortunate once more when the rampant phylloxera louse decided it disliked the area’s sandy soil. The luck ran out in 1911 when an earthquake caused severe damage. ‘Twas but a temporary set back; today the town rivals Szeged and Debrecen as the region’s major educational and cultural player, and its apricot orchards yield renowned, throaty bottles of brandy (barackpálinka).

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