March for Szeged people normally is the time to remember and celebrate the River Tisza. March 22 is World Water Day and March 12 is Flood Day in Szeged. This March we’re so preoccupied with the COVID-19 epidemic that we seem to have forgotten about the anniversary of the 1879 Great Flood of Szeged.
I’d like to bring the Szeged story as example for hope and rebirth after times of trouble. In Szeged paprika history the Flood was crucial: when people were resettling Szeged, they found a new source of income in paprika cultivation and production. Without the Flood this probably would not have happened. There was indeed a silver lining in the tragedy.
The rising sun found only ruins
The Great Flood destroyed Szeged 141 years ago. In our post last year we explained why and how the flood happened flood happened. The damage was unimaginable: apart from the few streets in the very centre of downtown the entire city was flooded and stayed under water for three long months. 140 deaths, a minimum of 5400 houses collapsed and of the city’s 75.000 inhabitants 60.000 became homeless.
Prime Minister Kálmán Tisza and Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, visited the ruins of the town and started discussions to arrange financial and physical support for the rescue work and reconstruction. Well-known Hungarian artists like Franz Liszt, Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, Mihály Munkácsy, Mór Jókai, Kálmán Mikszáth used their resources and voice to gather support and help. Novelist Mikszáth, who happened to be in the city, was eye-witness to the tragedy: “It felt ages before the sun started rising. And why would it rise? It found the city no more, only its ruins.”
New hope for the new city: a silver lining in disaster
What followed was a miracle. The story of the reconstruction of Szeged after the Great Flood is a story of rebirth and starting a new life for many. New customs and professions emerged. On the modern paved streets women could wear their Szeged slippers outside their home and it became a popular city footwear. Szeged-Alsóváros known as Paprika Town was also born after the Great Flood, in the wake of the reconstruction years. The houses decorated with the sunbeams on the house-gables were all built at this time, giving home to people who found a new source of income in growing and producing paprika. They invented Szegedi paprika.
I personally see a parallel between how people today react to the COVID-19 virus situation and how people after the Flood rushed to aid each other and how they found silver lining – oportunity for positive change, learning from mistakes and finding new inspiratons – in the tragedy. People in the past cared and they care exactly the same way today.
Today we’re lucky to be able to access information online. I’d like to encourage people to use time at home to visit museums online. Take virtual tours in galleries and museums and read the Paprika Museum’s Blog on all things related to paprika.
Tetszett a cikk? Ha szeretne még paprikás és fűszeres témában, heti rendszerességgel cikket olvasni, hírt kapni az ÚJ paprika elkészültéről, iratkozzon fel hírlevelünkre. Subscribe to our Blog and enjoy our Paprika Poster.