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Stay Home in Debrecen but Travel Back in Time

It is astonishing that some places have completely disappeared, such as the Royal Hotel and the Margaret Bath, and others have undergone massive changes, such as the Dósa (formerly Dégenfeld) square and Hal köz.

Today’s  Petőfi Square was called the Népkert (People’s Garden) around 100 years ago. The Royal Hotel shone on the old Deák Ferenc Street, on the northern edge of today’s Petőfi Square from 1907 to the airstrikes in 1944. This lavish building had electric lighting, bath, and central steam heating. Its foundations still lie in the ground and were seen in the lastest landscaping.

Royal Hotel

One of the most fantastic places in Debrecen was the Margaret Bath on today’s Füredi út (originally on Károly Ferenc József Avenue), built on 12 acres. The water adventure and spa park were built by Gyula Szikszay, a rich farmer and large entrepreneur, according to the plans of Lajos Szikszay. The magnificent spa, which opened in the summer of 1887, was named after his wife. The Margaret Bath had the city’s first sports pool. In addition, there were men’s and women’s bathtubs and steam baths, bubble baths, showers, buffets, and lounges.

Image Source Dehir

In the park, bathers were greeted by a breathtaking beach, where you could go cycling in summer and ice skating in winter. On or adjacent to the sandy beach, there were swimming pools, and a diving board, as well as gym equipment, awaited those wishing to relax or work out. The spa also had an ornate foyer, statues, and a hydrotherapy facility. However, an “inhaler”, as well as a doctor’s office, a hairdresser and a manicure-pedicure, could be used. Gyula Szikszay agreed with the steam railway company, so those who bought tickets to the spa could travel for free on the flights.

The Strand. Source: Dehir

During World War II. the building was used for workers, and then completely destroyed. A Few years later the remnants were demolished and a residential house was built in its place. Anyone who visits the property opposite the Parish “Szent László” can see a memorial plaque inside the block and some trees and a mysterious turnstile from Andaházi Street. Magda Szabó also included the bath in a novel; and the reason for that was that Margit (wife of Gyula Szikszay) was her maternal grandfather’s sister, Margit Jablonczay. 

We can’t go to the baths just yet, even if the threat of coronavirus seems to be waning; but the good news is that we all have something to look forward to because Debrecen’s newest spa, featuring 15 pools, eight slides, a 12-meter-high sun terrace, and a “children’s world” on 5,700-square-meter is likely to open this summer, pending the lifting of coronavirus rules.

In addition to the Margaret Bath, the former Dégenfeld Square (today’s Dósa Nádor Square) and Hal köz have also changed a lot in recent decades. Fairs and markets were very popular in Debrecen, but the proliferation of trams increasingly forced them out of the city centre. 

Merchants’ pavilions for selling fish, dairy products and meat operated for a long time in Hal köz, while you could also get huge round loaves of bread and barrel cabbage on the Dégenfeld Square (today’s Dósa Nádor Square). 

Old Hal Köz – Source: Epiteszforum.hu

Today, Hal köz is one of Debrecen’s most pleasant downtown piazzas for cafés, terraces,  and it has a spectacular fountain; while Dósa Nádor Square will soon be turned into one of the prettiest places with a  fountain, benches, bike storage as well as drinking water taps, three unique wooden play blocks and twenty landscaping plant beds.