Ipolytarnóc (B3): it's true that fossilized remains have been found all over
Europe, but only in Ipolytarnóc have examples been discovered that so completely
represent the diversity of creatures living at any given period in prehistory.
Walking down the pleasant main street of this tiny place at the
extremity of Nógrád county, one is stepping back in time by something in
the order of twenty million years. The area at the foot of Karancs Hill was
declared a protected site in 1944, and in 1995 upgraded in significance by
the award of a European Council natural heritage diploma.
One enthusiastic Viennese scientist likened the Ipolytarnóc discoveries to
the city of Pompeii. The accepted theory is that this is the site of a river flowing
into the tropical sea, and it was used by animals as a wading and drinking
place. But the Eden of 20 million years ago was by no means a wholly
peaceful or safe place – due to the activity of volcanoes. Experts think that
one such warning caused all the beasts to flee, but that it was the huge
quantity of volcanic dust rather than lava that enveloped and buried the
ancient world. In this way the muddy river banks solidified, and so preserved
for all time the patterns of the plants, the three-hundred-ft (100
metre) giant pines, and the prints of the animals that range from the tiniest
birds' claw to the paws of big cats. Archaeologists have discovered to date
over three thousand fossilized footprints from twelve species of animal.
You can visit the Ipolytarnóc Park and its raised observation pavilion in the company of a professional
guide. The giant tree trunks can be seen in situ in the bed of the Borókás stream as well
as in the exhibition houses. In the largest building where the majority of the footprints are displayed,
imagined sounds of the ancient world are played in the background. Here you can see
sharks' teeth and the remains of other forms of marine life, as well as pieces of ancient trees polished
naturally so they look like marble.
Somoskő Castle (C3): one of the most interesting sights here on the largest basalt plateau in all
Europe is the seven-hundred-year-old pinnacle towered Hungarian castle. Today it stands in Slovakian
territory, but can still be visited from Hungarian soil, the border indeed straddling the very hill on which
the castle stands. On the northern (Slovakian) side a noteworthy basalt deposit can be seen.
Kazár (C4): at the edge of Kazár is a seven-acre site of special interest, compared by some to the
American Zabriskie Point, familiar to film goers. The unusual geological formation is interesting both as
a natural and as a scientific phenomenon. The wasteland, according to some scientists, is the product
of millions of years of rhyolite tuff erosion. The snow white surface with its crumpled appearance is
completely devoid of vegetation. However, Kazár is famous not only for this colourless marvel, but also
for its extremely colourful traditional folk costumes and rich folk-inspired architecture.
Nógrádszakál (B3): head west from Ipolytarnóc (B3) and you come to Nógrádszakál, also on the River
Ipoly. An impressive, natural phenomenon awaits here – a river bed that has been dubbed, with a measure
of poetic exaggeration, the "Nógrád Grand Canyon". The Páris stream runs through a ravine 50 to
65 feet (15 to 20 metres) deep with almost vertical sides.
Salgótarján (C3): one of Hungary's most beautifully situated modern towns lies at the junction of three
ranges of hills. At the time of the Hungarian conquest the Tarján tribe settled here and gave the area
its name; later, protection was afforded by Salgó Castle. From 1845, when brown-coal was discovered,
it grew into a mining town. This period is now evoked in Hungary's first Museum of
Underground Mining, where visitors can see 300 yards (280 metres) of tunnel, with shafts and
equipment preserved in their original condition. The museum is known throughout Europe.
|Kazár, rhyolite tuff erosion
|Salgótarján, Underground Mining Museum