No doubt, if you spend some time in my country, Hungary, you will definitely meet one of our most typical souvenirs, namely “kalocsai paprika”. As its name reveals, it is a dried paprika, red like blood, and you can find them at every corner of tourist spots. They will be laced up onto some string, looking like a grape-inspired, paprika garland. My article will tell you one thing or two about Kalocsa, which is the true home to the widely famous Hungarian souvenir, but will drop a few lines also about the local traditions of growing paprika and needlework. I believe, they belong to the most straightforward associations, when Hungary comes to one’s mind, at least red paprika, alongside with Puskas, the world-famous football legend, Goulash soup or Lake Balaton.
You may ask: what is Kalocsa exactly, and where can I find it? Well, obviously it’s a town, nay, one of the most typical Hungarian cities. Even though, it’s not considered as one of the biggest ones, its true character hides firstly in its more than a thousand-year-long past. Kalocsa has roughly the same age as the Hungarian state itself. To give you a hint over its location (just to prove we can handle life without Google), Kalocsa is halfway between Budapest and the triple border of Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. Back in the 9th century, the town was the seat of Árpád, a Hungarian conquest lord. Kalocsa was also the home to one of the first bishoprics in the country’s history. Even though, Székesfehérvár counted as the main seat of the Catholic religion, Kalocsa fulfilled the significant roles as well for the Hungarian nation.
Photo © Credit to DonaldMorgan
The city thrived and thrived throughout the centuries, but the death of Mathias Corvinus, at the end of the 15th century, sealed the fate of Kalocsa too. The Turks completely destroyed and demolished the town after they occupied Kalocsa in the summer of 1529. After the Ottoman Empire spent a fleeting one and a half century in my country, the city of Kalocsa found it really hard to develop again. It says it all that in 1500, the population of the city was hitting 10000, while directly after the Turk times, only 150 people lived here. One thing is sure though: Kalocsa has never lost its charm in the eyes of Hungarian citizens.
Kalocsa is famous for its red paprika, which is mainly used dried and grounded. Over the times, the locals perfected the technique and specialties of growing their beloved paprika, which became even a notable export item for Hungary. Being an edible Hungarikum (officially accepted object or concept that represents Hungary), it is widely liked not only by my compatriots but by foreigners too. As you might know, Hungarian dishes are pretty much spicy, so actually it’s understandable, that it came such a long way.
Photo © Credit to Vén Anita
The other instant image, popping up immediately for any Hungarian when hearing the word Kalocsa is undoubtedly the needlework and the Richelieu-embroidery, or “kalocsai hímzés” in the Hungarian language. Their particular pattern and colours make any textile unique and fabulous in a traditional way. The patterns of Richelieu-embroidery (getting its name after a French statesman) can be such beauties, that already multiple celebrities, for example, Nicole Kidman, were photographed wearing spectacular dresses with kalocsai embroidery on them.
Photo © Credit to redbubble.com
Kalocsa is more than one thousand years old, it serves as home to the widely famous Hungarian souvenir - the paprika garland. Kalocsa can offer you much more than just a present T-shirt with a kalocsai embroidery. The city has a historic old town and even a thermal Spa, among others, and I firmly believe it possesses everything you need for a relaxing stay.
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