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200 Years in the Making – Simonyi Road

Debrecen – On August 6, 1820, an alley just off the road leading to the Great Forest was inaugurated as part of a folk festival. Over the years the trees had to be replaced several times for various reasons, but fortunately, we can still enjoy the shady foliage today.

In the early 1800s, more and more people visited the Great Forest. During this time Baron József Simonyi of Baréz Vitézvár, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, settled in Debrecen in 1818 with his hussar regiment. He also took his soldiers to the Great Forest for practice. At this time the road between the city and the forest was still an unmanaged area and when the regiment withdrew, the area was covered in a cloud of dust.

József Simonyi

Under the boarding decree, the deployment of the military was a heavy burden on the city’s population. In order to remedy the dislike that existed in 1819, Simonyi made a proposal to enclose the road to the forest, to the cost of which he offered a contribution of HUF 200. The proposal was welcomed by the council, but the offered HUF 200 was not accepted on the grounds that afforestation of the road was also in the interest of the city, and it wished to do so at its own expense.

The proposal remained just a plan because the council did not provide for afforestation. Therefore, in the autumn of 1819, Simonyi planted the 600 fir seedlings he had bought with his hussars, and so the following year the road led to the forest between four rows of fir trees. According to legend, Obester Simonyi set up a hussar next to each tree as a guard.

On August 6, 1820, Simonyi organized a folk festival for the occasion of the inauguration of the road. This was also attended by Captain Count István Széchenyi, who had entered the service of Regiment Simonyi two days earlier.

Before leaving Debrecen, he asked the youth of the College to preserve and protect the rows of trees.

Great Forest Walk before 1907 (Photos: Méliusz Photo Gallery)

However, many of the seedlings planted in the sandy soil were destroyed. The city replaced them with fast-growing acacia trees, so a few years later there were already four rows of acacia trees next to the promenade called Simonyi Dam by the population. The hurricane of August 2, 1925, battered the tree line, twisting sixteen waist-thick trees, and the road was covered with broken branches along the way. One of the falling trees broke the roof of the tram as it passed by.

Today’s Simonyi út was planted in 1931 with pre-grown linden trees, replacing aged acacia trees. The alley is under protection today.

The road was recorded as “the alley leading to the Great Forest” from 1822 but is referred to as the “Simonyi allele” and in many descriptions as the “Simonyi Dam” It is mentioned on the 1813 map as a “road to Nagyerdő”.

Simonyi út anno

The name Simonyi allele is also published in the farewell poem of József Bogya (1800–1830), a student poet, published in the mid-1820s, and the tombs of Debreczen cry…:

” In the allele of Simonyi, in which we found great pleasure in
the wasteland of Tóczó, which we enjoyed in
my absence.

They will only come to my mind.”

József Bogya (1800–1830)

The road went uninterrupted, from today’s Poroszlay road to Nagyerdei körút. The area on both sides was called the Promenade, the designated plots were planned to be sold as orchards. In 1826, some viewed the offer, the price “dearly, no one subscribed to the purchase.”

Between rows of trees giving shade

The area “On the two sides along the promenade leading to the Great Forest” was auctioned on March 17, 1841, but even then only a part of it was sold. Finally, during the 1842 auction, all plots were allotted

The name Simonyi út officially commemorates Baron József Simonyi’s hussar colonel, “old master”, the hero of the Napoleonic Wars, from 1899 onwards.

Between 1951 and 1954, at the request of the Debrecen organization of the Hungarian-Soviet Society, it was renamed Gorky Alley, commemorating the popular Russian short story, drama, and novelist Maxim Gorky (1868–1936). The ally regained his former name in 1954 and still bears the name of “Obester Simonyi” today.

The cobbled Simonyi Road on November 18, 1971

As we walk among the most beautiful alley of Debrecen, let us remember it is 200 years in the making and preserve and protect this alley of such admiration so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy its shady foliage!

This article was written by local history researcher Imre Nyul and translated by the Visit Debrecen team.