When you think of Hungary do you look beyond buzzing Budapest and chilling Balaton? Well, you certainly should push a bit more to the west and just before you cross to the other side and find yourself in Slovenia or Austria there comes this region where every corner speaks a tradition dating back to hundreds of years and where tradition means not only past but real time. 3 hours drive from Budapest, Orseg is quite a hidden gem in the country and does not see flocks of tourists, which makes this ethnographic treasure not only one of the most welcoming district in Hungary but also affordable and livable. So here’s what you should be up to when you are around for a short while.
Far from the traffic and city noise – Accommodation Multidezo Porta, Szalafo
Book one of the traditional houses at ‘Multidezo Porta’ in Szalafo with fireplace, hand-crafted, hand-painted furniture and scenic interior. Far from the city noise in the middle of a meadow, surrounded by domestic animals you can live the real villager lifestyle. The landlady is eager to keep the old way of living alive and in return for some help around the house she will treat you with her oh-so-mouthwatering porcini mushroom soup served with fresh bread and home-made Palinka (local short drink – not to be missed!). You won’t find a place better reflecting the local lifestyle in the area, perfect base for your holiday and your good-night sleeps.
Your very own village home, at least for a few nights – Multidezo Porta, Szalafo
Nostalgic porcini mushroom soup – Multidezo Porta, Szalafo
Waking up fully rested take an energizing walk around the early morning farm enjoying the total serenity of nature. Getting the atmosphere? Then just drive (or walk) 3 km to the heritage museum village in Pityerszer to get even more immersed in the living circumstances of the 18th century people in an entire township settlement.
Living 18th century style – Heritage museum village, Szalafo
Taking the same road back, drive towards the center of Szalafo until you reach the small village library (btw, on the way don’t miss to pick up a bottle of black gold, which stands for pumpkin seed oil very typical of this region). Take the road up to the left to encounter some fascinating things in literally every corner. Check out the tree of life, an 8-meter high oak tree with meaningful signs carved into it representing life and growth and the 7 divisions of the town.
Details of life – Tree of life, Szalafo
Right from the tree is a mysterious dark hole. At first blink it might look like some exiles’ prison site but before your mind projects horrifying images into the shack… the place is simply an ice-pit, a predecessor of today’s fridge way before electricity was in use. The pit was filled up with ice from the river to keep meat fresh and beer cold even during the hottest summer months.
Dark and mysterious underground hole – Ice Pit, Szalafo
Climb a bit more up on the road to see the 19th century reformist church to the right and the rather old – out of use – rectory of the village to the left. Make a short stopover at the hand-carved wooden memorial, which has been set up remembering the expellees forced into labor camps far away from their family and homes in the 50’s.
All roads lead to… Szalafo
Worn and torn – old rectory of Szalafo
Walk back from past to present towards the main road and take the small winding road behind the library. If your eyes are not spotting anything extra, your nose will definitely do so, as the road is leading to the rather old but still functional Palinka distillery. One man at a day runs the whole show turning crushed fruits into strong and delicate alcohol drink. The whole process can be seen on spot completely free of charge and if you are lucky you even get to taste some fresh end product right there. Bad news for drivers, good news for travel companions!
Palinka production the traditional way – Szalafo distillery
Driving out of the village, head towards Oriszentpeter to visit the Roman Catholic St. Peter Church from 1230(!) surrounded by an old cemetery. With its simple and peaceful interior the small church is not to be missed during your tour around history.
Old cemetery around St. Peter Church – Oriszentpeter
If you want to carry something more durable than the black gold home or just want see how one of the most outstanding pottery maker gets his living pay a visit at his small workshop (Oriszentpéter, Kovacsszer 70). From the raw material to the colorful glazed ceramic dinnerware and other innie-minnie accessories you definitely want to take home as much as your luggage carries.
From the beginning to the end everything is undoubtedly handmade – Zsohar Gyula workshop, Oriszentpeter
Queuing to be glazed – Zsohar Gyula workshop, Oriszentpeter
Color up your home – Zsohar Gyula workshop, Oriszentpeter
Another 12 km to reach Magyarszombatfa, a village with just 260 inhabitants but all the more free-entry pottery making homes. The best you can do is to hop from house to house for some more gem pottery hunting.
Village fire station – Magyarszombatfa
Open to public pottery makers’ workshop – Magyarszombatfa
The small-small towns and the surrounding environment with all the flora and fauna make the Orseg region a wonderful place for camera lovers. When the sun is about to go down, take a few shots to capture this amazing place from a complete different angle. Before you return to your village home, stop at Orszem restaurant for a hearty game stew or potato dumplings with sour cream, both are signature dishes of the area. What a rewarding finale of the day.
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