We have just spent two weeks in Gyula, Hungary - an idyllic smalltown in Eastern Hungary, close to the Romanian border. It's my partner's hometown, which is why we go there every summer. I consider myself really lucky, I have to say! After all, I'm the girl who used to cry after each and every episode of Dawson's Creek as I was so desperate to live in a place like that. Getting to go to Gyula every summer, therefore, has truly been a dream come true for me! It's definitely a summer town with its castle festivals, spa, quadcycles, pedal boats, the long queues for ice cream and the kids bathing in the many fountains downtown. So, this post is all about the 8 reasons why I love Gyula - and as a bonus, Julcsi is providing you with a local's top 8, too! Enjoy!
Emilia's Top 8
1. The canal
Aah, the canal! It's called Élővíz-csatorna and it flows through Gyula, eventually connecting to the river Körös. The canal is so romantic! There are bridges, fountains, a possibility to rent a pedal boat (and get wet from the fountains being switched on when you're right under them)...You can have a beer or a nice meal by the canal at a pub or a restaurant, or listen to the frog choir sing while jogging along the riverbank...
2. The animals
In Gyula, there are animals everywhere you go! When you walk along the streets, a dog will come and check you out from behind every fence (and bark at you for being suspicious!), cats are wondering around or sunbathing on porches...There are stork nests to be admired, the aforementioned frog choirs to be listened to, horses bringing watermelons to the market place, baby ducks swimming in the canal with their mother, and crickets playing their violins at night...It always takes me forever to get anywhere because I need to stop to meet every cat along the way...Love it!
3. The ice cream
Ice cream is a crucial part of summer in Gyula! There are many places to choose from, but the best one by far is Korzó Fagyizó. You will recognise it from the longest queue in town! A new addition to the ice cream parlours in Gyula is Levendula, which is a chain selling lavender ice cream. Also worth a visit!
4. The spa (especially the sauna section!)
Hungary is a spa country with its thermal waters and mineral pools. The spa in Gyula is called Gyulai Várfürdő and it's huge! There are several outside pools including thermal ones up to 38 C, a wave pool, a couple of slides, and a swimming pool. Inside, there is Aquapalota with lots of slides, and in a separate building there is the wellness pool with bubbles and a stream. And then there is Szaunapark, the most perfect thing that could happen to a person! It has several saunas, an 18 C dipping pool, private jacuzzis outside, sauna huts, buckets of water you can pour on yourself by pulling a rope, and barrels with cool water. AND, they have szaunamesterek, people who'll give you a cool sauna experience of around 20 minutes with essential oils, music and towel waving to make the heat really hit you. It is perfect! And, what's even better, you're supposed to spend the whole day at the spa! You won't hear me saying no to that!
There is something going on at the castle all the time in the summer. The castle area is nice in itself - you can rent a pedal boat from outside the castle, you can visit the castle (completely for free, too, if you're a teacher!), or have a drink at Rondella, the terrace next to the castle. In the summer, there are many festivals at the castle and there's a good chance you'll see some folk dancing, taste some Hungarian specialities or even see some fireworks.
6. The coffee shops
Gyula is the promised land of cute coffee shops! My personal favourite is Százéves Cukrászda, the oldest coffee shop in Gyula and one of the oldest in the whole country. Delicious cakes, romantic interior design...what more can you ask for?
7. The narrow streets lined with cherry and plum trees
No explanation needed - just look at the picture!
Házi limonádé is one of the best inventions in the world! You can get homemade lemonade from pretty much any coffee shop in Gyula, or Hungary in general, in the summer, and it's gooooood!
Aaaand, here's the local's take on the matter!
Julcsi's Top 8 (in Julcsi's words)
1. Hamburger Bár
"It has always been there, and it's The Thing to Do with family and friends. It's the only place where I've ever had a chicken liver hamburger. When I was small, the queue was so long that I couldn't see the beginning of it (which probably means that I was very small, but still). Also, when I was small, it was just a window of a kiosk, but now it's this proper restaurant where you can actually sit, too."
(And by the way, it's good to know that you can only pay by cash.)
2. The Market Place
"It's a big enough market place so you can find anything you want from fish soup to watermelons to shoes. In some families, it's a tradition to go there together on Sunday mornings to get lángos, fish soup or sausages."
3. The spa
"Since I used to be a swimmer, I technically grew up there. I think nowadays my favourite is the sauna section. There are more than 20 pools, so when you haven't been at the spa for a while, it feels like being at an amusement park - you just go from pool to pool!"
4. The fountains
"It's a new thing, meaning that they came when I was in high school maybe. Before that, we didn't have the pedestrian street, the World Clock or the fountains. I think the fountains have made Gyula really pretty compared to what it was before!"
5. The products of the sausage factory in Gyula
"I especially like Gyulai kolbász and majorannás kenőmájas (a kind of oregano-flavoured spreadable liver sausage)."
"Póstelek is an area between Gyula and Békéscsaba - there are ruins in the middle of a forest. What people do is that they bike there, they have a picnic, and there used to be drive-in cinema, too...It's a place where you go with your friends on day trips. It at least used to be a place where teens went."
7. Swimming in the river
"There are two major beaches - Szanazug and Városerdő. Both of them are a bit further away from the town so usually you go by bike and you spend the whole day there. It was always fun to watch kayaking schools' training sessions there."
8. Végvári esték
"When you live in a small town, it's very exciting when something finally happens. I guess this is why there are these small happenings from time to time such as Pálinka festival, Gyula days, a sausage festival...Végvári esték, in other words the Castle Days, is the biggest of these. The activities that you can do during those days are mostly related to the medieval life of the castle. You can for example try archery or take part in a cooking competition. There are also usually two nationally well-known bands having a concert, too."
So there you have it! I hope this post has inspired you to visit Gyula - it's definitely one of my favourite places ever :)!
This summer, I've made two Gyula videos as well, so if you feel like watching, here they are!
Thanks for reading and/or watching :)!