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  A Past Full of Life
  Events in Geological History
  On the Roof of the Country
  Everlasting Heritage
  From Nature to City
  Musical Stalactites
  Castles and Mansions
  The Wine of Kings
 
     

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.

Somoskő Castle
 
Kazár, rhyolite tuff erosion
 
Nógrád
 
Salgótarján, Underground Mining Museum
   
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