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The spectacle of the infinite horizon, the heat mirages, the peacefully grazing herds of cattle and horses, the sweep-pole wells, the water habitats teeming with flocks of wild fowl, and the undisturbed wonder of the starlit night sky; the sweet scent of the gently undulating sees of camomile, mint, and artemisia: all of them are still important ingredients of the phenomenon called Hortobágy. Let them set you free in the largest flat grassland of Central Europe.
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Hortobágy is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe. The Hortobágy National Park, established in 1973 is the country’s largest protected area of 82 thousand hectares. Hortobágy has outstanding landscape features and is a unique example of the harmonic coexistence of people and nature based on the considerate use of the land, maintaining great biological variety in respect of species and habitats. However, at first sight there is nothing here. If you look around, the most conspicuous thing is that your eyes are not arrested by any buildings, hills or mountains. The mirage can be a spectacular sight on hot summer days, where you see something that is not in fact there.
A major part of the area of the National Park is formed by natural habitats, alkaline grasslands, and meadows, smaller and bigger marshes enclosed between them. Some artificial wetlands covering a much smaller area are of considerable importance: these are the fishponds, situated on 6 thousand hectares. The marshes and fishponds are breeding habitats of birds and important sites for the migrating birds. So far the appearance of 340 bird species has been registered in Hortobágy, of which 160 species nest in the National Park. It cannot be doubted that one of the most spectacular sights is the migration of the cranes in the autumn. Tens of thousands of Cranes, which is also the symbolic bird of the Park, can be seen every October as they fly above the grasslands to their overnight roosting places.
The Hortobágy National Park has been inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO on the 1st of December in 1999 in the category of cultural landscapes, since the Hortobágy Puszta have been used by humans for grazing their domestic animals for more than two millennia.
A large number of tough, undemanding local breeds can be found here: the Hungarian Grey Cattle, Water Buffalo, Raczka Sheep. Less ancient species are the curly bristled Mangalica Pig, which gives good bacon, and the Nonius horse.
The visitors are amazed at the skills of the horsemen and at the sight of the galloping herds of horses. The herdsmen living on the grasslands do not have permanent buildings for themselves or their animals. Most of the ancient herdsmen’s buildings are very simple but also practical, made chiefly of reed. The sweep-pole wells for watering the animals have become symbols of the Hungarian grasslands. Inns were built 10–12 km apart along the commercial roads crossing the plains, where travellers could rest and the herdsmen turn in for the night. Tourists still like to visit these inns where they can taste the excellent herdsmen’s dishes and other specialities of the cuisine of the Great Plain.
It is worth getting information on the areas open for visits at the Visitor Centre of the National Park, before setting out on your journey.
HNP Visitors’ Center
4071 Hortobágy, Petőfi tér 9.
Call: +36 52/589-321, +36 52/589-000, +36 52/369-140
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
January, February, March 1-11: weekday: 10:00-14:00; weekend: 10.00-14.00
March 12-31, April: weekday: 8.00-16.00; weekend: 10:00-16:00
May: weekday: 8.00-17.00; weekend: 9.00-17.00
June: weekday: 9.00-17:00; weekend: 9.00-17:00
July, August: weekday: 9.00-18.00; weekend: 9.00-18.00
September: weekday: 9.00-17.00; weekend: 9.00-17.00
Oktober, November: weekday: 8:00-16:00; weekend: 10:00-16:00
December: weekday: 10:00-14:00; weekend: 10.00-14.00
The entrance is free.
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