Szinva, Miskolc

In northern Hungary where cities are hosting thousands of refugees from neighboring Ukraine, there is the picturesque city of Miskolc. Flowing through its historic center is the Szinva river, which powered mills into the mid-19th century, occasionally caused deadly flooding, and now serves the purpose of a linear park that connects the city’s neighborhoods and hints to its rich history.

This scene is looking downstream from Szinva Terrace Park towards a tunnel at Kazinczy Ferenc Street. The streetscape here represents the spectrum of the last century that includes from the Habsburg period, the interwar kingdom, and communism with the modernist apartment tower overshadowing the stream. This terraced park was completed in 2005, representing the democratic period that began in 1989, when Hungary and its neighbors abolished one-party rule.

Where it Flows

On this map of Miskolc from 1916, we see the Szinva flowing west to east through the city, which grew in a linear fashion along its banks. It is reminiscent of the Huatanay stream in Cusco which I documented earlier. On its left bank, the Szinva had tributary brooks which were hidden beneath the streets in the coming decades.

On this 1884 map the streams are highlighted and it is easy to see how the city can flood when its streams flow parallel to each other. After the mills became obsolete, industries along its banks released pollution into the water. Seeking to control flooding and hide the stench of the stream, its course was transformed into a canal with tunnels in some places.

In this image from 1977, we see a tributary of the Szinva channeled into a sewer, hiding a key element of the city’s natural history.

On a street map closer to the present day the tributaries are invisible and two segments of the Szinva are also hidden beneath the surface. One is a 600 meter tunnel under Kalvin Janos Street, and there is a shorter tunnel under Arany Janos Street. The former is a wide boulevard where there is room to daylight the stream. The latter is a narrow parking lot next to an apartment tower.

Kalvin Janos Street

At the intersection of Kalvin Janos Street and Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Terrace, the stream peeks out from its sewer. Elizabeth Bridge appears historic but it was constructed in 2010, along with this tiny daylighted portion of the Szinva river. The wide sidewalk and parking lane allow room from more daylighting here. The footbridge here lines up with Erzsebet Terrace, which has a monument honoring national hero Lajos Kossuth in a beaux arts block that includes the Hungarian Academy of Science and a bathhouse-turned-clinic.

At the corner of Ferenc Rakoczi Street, this undated postcard shows the Avas Reformed Church in the background. It is the fourth church on this site, dating to 1489. It is a survivor of history, having withstood Catholic-Protestant conflicts, the Turkish occupation, two world wars, and communism. Ferenc Rakoczi was a prince who ruled Hungary from 1703 to 1711, an unsuccessful uprising that sought to prevent the Habsburg family from seizing the Hungarian throne.

The same scene today looking upstream shows the old church, beaux arts on the left and modernism on the right. Janos Kalvin is the Hungarian translation of Swiss theologian John Calvin. His ideas were popular among Hungarians and having a Protestant faith gave them a sense of identity when Hungary was a battleground between Catholic Austria and the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Szinva Terrace Park

On the map of the city, Szinva Terrace Park is the symbolic midpoint of the stream’s urban segment. Its design encourages public gatherings and responds to flooding. Prior to serving as a park, this block was an uninspiring parking lot without any relation to the stream. The park has a cascade where water descends into the stream, sculptures in the park, and above the stream.

Downstream on the Szinva

Downstream from Szinva Terrace Park, Arany Janos Street shows the prewar and postwar streetscape, separated by the covered stream. Janos Arany was a poet whose ballads are comparable to Shakespeare, in the imagination of Hungarians. At Kiraly (Prince) Street, the stream returns to the surface flowing past the Szinvapark shopping center. Can a shopping mall incorporate elements of the stream into its design? Sure, see my earlier essay on City Creek in Salt Lake City.

Continuing downstream, the architecture becomes more functional than historic, the apartment blocks identical to any city in the former Warsaw Pact. At the same time, green space along the stream allows for a bike path and benches to follow the water. The Szinva leaves Miskolc and flows into the Sajo River, which then enters the Tisza River, and then the Danube, which empties into the Black Sea.

Upstream on the Szinva

Going upstream, the Szinva emerges on the surfaces at the eastern end of Kalvin Janos Street, at Bela Bartok Square. The course here runs as a concrete channel in straight segments past small homes and apartment blocks. This undated photo of the steam’s burial is near Bartok Square, named after a famous composer. Facing the square is the city’s music academy.

The most dramatic example of a communist-period complex is a twin row of 40 domino-like towers arranged like a wall in the Diósgyőr neighborhood. An undeveloped lot located between the stream and the apartments was developed in the past decade and named for Pope John Paul II. Its appearance is reminiscent of Szinva Terrace, as the public can come close to the water. It also has a fountain, cascade, and view of the historic Catholic parish church that dates to 1753.

Looking at this site in 2012, the transformation is astonishing. Power lines were removed from sight and replaced with trees, making the prefabricated apartment complex more approachable in its appearance.

Outside the City

Further upstream in the densely wooded hills overlooking Miskolc is Hungary’s tallest waterfall, created in 1928 when the Palace Hotel was built above this scenic cascade. The period, clientele, and architecture remind me of the 2014 film Grand Budapest Hotel, when these palaces for temporary residence hosted former nobility, spies, and other notable individuals.

The designated source of the Szinva River is accessible to the public, carved as a wall with spigots of the stream’s water flowing out of a mountainside. This is where the story of the stream begins as it seemingly comes to life.

Learn More:

In neighboring Romania, there is a similar urban stream, Canalul Morii in the city of Cluj-Napoca.

In the News:

SFGate reports on the master plan for the UC-Berkeley campus that includes daylighting a portion of Strawberry Creek.

Queens Daily Eagle reports on the collapse of a retaining wall at Newtown Creek in Long Island City.

2 thoughts on “Szinva, Miskolc

  1. Andrew Porter April 17, 2022 / 8:59 pm

    Unfortunately, most of the links take you to websites in Hungarian, so not legible to me.


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