Hiking in an idyllic environment, shopping for pottery, visiting Hungary’s smallest church, tasting the flavours of the countryside, getting to know the Hungarian folk culture, relaxing in thermal water, and enjoying an aromatic sauna. Where? In the Őrség, a story-book come to life. Travelo.hu collected some programme ideas which you can enjoy in the postcard-like landscape of the region.
The Őrség is an ethnographical landscape unit in the upper-western corner of Hungary. Its name means guard, which comes from the time of the Hungarian settlement in the Carpathian Basin when the settlers set guards in the region to protect the western gate of the country.
The region has become a popular hiking destination in the last couple of years, but Travelo found that it is the most beautiful in the autumn. The landscape seems like the illustration of a Hungarian folk-tale. Eddying steam from chimneys, quirky roads leading through valleys and mountains, church towers showing among the canopies of the colourful forest, softly falling mist, peacefully grazing cow and sheep herds, hay bales – this might sound too cheesy, but it is actually perfect.
Visit the village of potters
Magyarszombatfa, lying on the Slovenian-Hungarian border, is dwelled by mostly potters. You are allowed to watch them while they are working and buy beautiful pottery as well. They don’t only make decor ceramics but also the most unique baking and cooking pots, dinner sets. They have a wide variety of classic, folksy decorations and sophisticated, modern shapes, special colours. One thing is for sure: these potteries will definitely brighten your dining table. If you want you can also try this art yourself and learn about the basics of the Őrség pottery.
Find spiritual peace in Velemér
The village of Velemér and its small Catholic church lies close to Magyarszombatfa, at the edge of a forest, in an idyllic environment. The village, populated by 66 people, is a popular wedding venue, it welcomes a surprisingly lot of couples from Szeged and abroad. However, they only have a traditional mass twice a year: on the 20th of August and on Trinity Sunday.
The church is one of the oldest and most special churches in Hungary. Its frescos were painted by János Aquila in 1377 in a way that the rising sun always shines at the saint just celebrated on a given day. For instance, the sun will shine on Saint Nicholas on the 6th of December, and it will shine on the little Jesus at Christmas. The church only has one wall which is never brightened by the sun. That it where hell is depicted with little cat-like devils.
Another curiosity is that, if the sun shines very brightly and we put a buoyant coloured cloth in the light, then the colour will overcast the whole church. Moreover, there is one casual figure on the wall among the devils, angels and saints: the painter himself. Which means that this is Europe’s oldest self-portrait. Painters liked to hide themselves in their painted scenes, but János Aquila was the first to write his name and admit that he occurs on the painting.
There is one last thing you should pay attention to: inside the church, the halos of the angels are not only painted but also carved into the wall. If you go out and stand in front of the church, you can even see a big, carved halo on the right side. The painting wore off throughout the centuries, but the carved halo remained.
Sightseeing, splashing and pub-crawling in Szentgotthárd
It is probably the Opel factory that comes to most people’s mind when thinking about Szentgotthárd, although it has much more to offer. For instance, a lovely little, colourful housed old town, Hungary’s third biggest baroque church with a onetime Cistercian monastery, and a thermal bath with a four star hotel (Gotthard Therme Hotel & Conference) can be found as well.
The bath has indoor pools, outdoor pools, slides, a sauna world and a gym, and these can be used by both the guests of the hotel and other visitors. The bath is very spacious and bright, has a fun central beach pool, relaxing jacuzzis and healing thermal water.
Travelo’s favourite is the sauna world in the basement, which is a strictly bathing suit-free zone due to the closeness of the Austrian border (naturally, you get a sauna towel). It welcomes guests with a silent relaxing zone, neat saunas, an outdoor dipping pool and Finnish saunas in a lovely hut. They frequently organise sauna seances in the latter.
Quite surprisingly, the small city also has night life. The Klub 9-12 is full of partying young adults on a Saturday night – probably everybody goes there from the neighbourhood. Don’t expect a fancy place, it is much more of a rock pub with magically affordable drinks (especially compared to Budapest prices).
Discover the peculiar landscape of Őrség
The folk monument ensemble of Pityerszer is a must-see sight when touring in the Őrség. But if you desire a longer excursion, the Szentgotthárd Tourinform has a great map with eight hiking paths. It is very practical, because it contains information about the length, duration, level and starting points of the routes. This is a big treasure for hikers who prefer public transport. So get one of these maps and discover the unique landscape of Őrség, a magical region in West Hungary.
Photos: www.orseg-szallas.hu, www.facebook.com/AlbertKerámia, VelemériTemplom, GotthardThermeHotel&Conference
Copy editor: bm