The Debrecen Flower Festival is a grand celebration that includes a parade featuring flower-adorned floats. The week-long merrymaking culminates with a show involving thousands of dancers and performers. Some of the performers are from overseas or from Budapest. However many are also locals paying homage to their beloved city.
We arrived the day before the annual flower festival in Debrecen, the second largest city in Hungary, and the excitement was so heavy in the air that everyone felt it. We sat at a sidewalk table at Ikon, the best restaurant in Debrecen, feasting on sautéed foie gras and glasses of Tokaji Aszú.
I was trying to enjoy this pairing of foie gras with sweet wine, but I could only think of flowers — masses and masses of them wherever I looked. There was so much gaiety that we could hardly hear ourselves above the clatter and chatter. However, we did not minded since this was all part of the experience of attending one of Hungary’s most famous events.
The 50th Anniversary of Debrecen Flower Festival
This year was most auspicious as it was the 50th anniversary of the flower festival as well. The evening program included some of the biggest stars in Hungary for a one-night show in the festival.
The day of the festival, we made our way through the massive crowds to sit in a grandstand with the mayor and his guests, including famous celebrities from Budapest.
From here we saw perhaps 20 delegations of performers waltz and parade in front of us. Meanwhile, local shops handed out everything from cocktails to ham sandwiches to keep us happy and full until the afternoon.
Amazing Performances of Hungarian Musicians
Then it was time for the show to begin. So we made our way to our seats in the row just behind the lights and sounds operators. I thought I would get bored watching two dozen musicians belt out Hungarian hits everyone else knew by heart. But this was not the case at all. I did not take my eyes off the stage even once because every performance was truly enthralling.
Yes, we were watching this wonderful show with lively songs and energetic dancing and we had copious amounts of good local wine to go with it. Obviously life could not have been better. Or so I thought.
Then one of the most famous sopranos in Hungary sang an emotional aria about hope and waiting for the sunrise. Tears welled in everyone’s eyes, and some switched their mobile phones to flashlight mode and waved these in the darkness to join the song in spirit.
The night concluded happily with a finale worthy of the Olympics opening. Close to a thousand singers and dancers suddenly appeared on the lawn of Debrecen stadium and they began to perform a song that the audience enthusiastically sang along with. In fact, many still hummed the tune as we filed out of the stadium. It was a memorable evening. But the night’s not over yet.
SOMETHING BETTER, SOMETHING NEW
The esteemed University of Debrecen, established in 1538, was central for all the cutting edge art, complementing the shows organized by the city. As part of the celebrations, they’d draped the historic main building in a kaleidoscope of colors.
It was one step further than a light and sound show with its laser-focused lighting and technology. I was mesmerized and breathless. In fact, this was how I felt about the intriguing country that is Hungary.