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Around 120km south of the capital, KALOCSA makes a pleasant and convenient stopover, with regular buses passing through en route to Baja further south. The town is promoted for its flowery embroidery and "painting women", who made it their business to decorate everything in sight, and also as Hungary's "paprika capital". If you happen to be here around September 8, when the harvest season officially begins, head out to the surrounding countryside to see the paprika fields transformed into a sea of red.
Nearly all of Kalocsa's sights are located along Szent István király út, the town's main street running from the bus station through to the cathedral and archbishop's palace at the other end. Starting at the bus station, you can't miss the 22-metre-high Chronos 8 light tower, a bequest from the locally born Parisian conceptual sculptor Nicolas Schöffer, some of whose smaller kinetic works are exhibited in the Nicolas Schöffer Museum at Szent István király út 76 (Tues– Sun 10am–5pm; 300Ft). Continuing five minutes up the road, to the pedestrianized stretch of the street, you pass a row of seven small statues commemorating the town's famous archbishops – starting with Asztrik, who brought Pope Sylvester II's gift of a crown to King Stephen in 1000 AD, thereby setting the seal on the deal between the new king and the Christian West. A couple of minutes further along on the left, at no. 25, is the Viski Károly Museum (April– Oct Tues– Sun 9am–5pm; 300Ft), which has a dazzling collection of nineteenth-century Magyar, Swabian (Sváb) and Slovak (Tót) folk costumes. The overstuffed bolsters and quilts on display were mandatory for a bride's dowry. Fifty metres on at no. 6, the Paprika Museum (April– Oct daily except Tues 10am–5pm; 200Ft) is an exhaustive presentation of the nation's favourite powder, with piles of the stuff filling the building with its pungent smell.
Carrying on to the old main square, Szentharomság tér, you'll find Kalocsa's Baroque Cathedral, designed by the prolific András Mayerhoffer in the early eighteenth century. Don't miss the richly attired embalmed bishop that adds a bizarre touch to its pink and white interior, nor the ornate gold pulpit. Across the road from the cathedral, at Hunyadi utca 2, is the Treasury (Ęrseki Kincstár; April– Oct daily 9am–5pm; 500Ft), which keeps a dazzling assortment of vestments and monstrances, including a beautifully embroidered, three-inch high reliquary from the sixteenth century. The most important item on display, however, is a twelfth-century processional bronze cross with traces of gold. On the other side of the cathedral, and dating from the same period, is the Archbishop's Palace (April– Oct Tues– Sun; Hungarian-only tours begin at noon, 2pm & 4pm; 500Ft), whose grandeur recalls the medieval heyday of Kalocsa's bishopric, when local prelates led armies and advised monarchs. Its 120,000-volume library contains medieval illuminated manuscripts, a Bible signed by Luther, and impressive frescoes by Maulbertsch. The library was founded by Archbishop Patachich, who was transferred to Kalocsa from his previous post as a punishment for founding a theatre there, and henceforth stuck to books. His apartments were lodged between his chapel and his library, with a door connecting the two, as can still be seen.
Following Kossuth utca off to the right as far as the hospital, you'll see a signpost for the thatched Folk Art House at Tompa utca 5–7 (Népművészetek Háza or Tájház; April– Oct daily except Tues 10am–4.30pm; 250Ft). Several of its rooms are decorated with exuberant floral murals, traditionally found in the tiszta szoba or "clean room" of peasant households, where guests were entertained. In Kalocsa, almost uniquely, these were painted by groups of women who were respected artisans. Also displayed is a host of Kalocsa embroidery. This has changed considerably over the decades, with embroiderers working entirely in white in the nineteenth century, until blue and red slowly crept into the designs; then, in the 1920s, when the Kalocsa folk dance troupe became more widely known, it was decided to brighten up the costumes so that they would be more startling on stage – hence the present multicoloured, rather twee, designs.