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Kecskemét is the capital of the Bács-Kiskun region of Hungary and has a population of 85,000. Coventry has been twinned with Kecskemét since 1962.
The agricultural city of Kecskemét lies next to some major road and rail arteries about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Budapest. It is the capital of Bács-Kiskun, and has marketing and processing facilities that serve the whole region. The sandy area around Kecskemét produces about one-quarter of the fruit in Hungary. The area is well known for the locally produced apricot brandy that carries the city’s name. Residents are also employed in factories producing leather goods, textiles, and agricultural implements.
Originally the site of a Magyar settlement, Kecskemét was founded in the 10th century and by the Middle Ages was a thriving market town. It was spared by Turkish invaders in the 16th century because of protection granted by Ottoman rulers. Peasants planted large vineyards and orchards in the area in the 19th century, and by the early years of the next century these were the economic backbone of the growing city.
The city’s architectural heritage reflects these periods of prosperity and good fortune. A Franciscan church dating from the Middle Ages still stands near the centre of Kecskemét, and the Ornamental Palace, with its plunging windows and colourful ceramic trim, is one of the best examples of Hungarian art nouveau in the country.