The Zemplén District: the characteristics of the central Zemplén highlands
sometimes resemble those of much higher mountains. Its cool climate, its
animal and plant life, as well as its natural history show similarities to what
is found in the Carpathians. Anyone who sets off without adequate preparation
through the deep valleys and over the steep hills on the trail of former
gold mines, secluded forest springs or forgotten monastery ruins, can easily
get lost. The area is a hiker's paradise and Hungary's most popular designated
tourist route, the "Kék Túra" or Blue Tour sets, off from here. It is also
good cycling country and ideal for exploration on horseback. Another option
is the charming 115-year-old narrow-gauge railway (Hungary's oldest) that
runs from Pálháza (G2) to Kőkapu (G2).
The Zemplén District is also known for its chain of mediaeval castle ruins,
the majority of which are perched on the tops of hills in storybook fashion.
One of the country's most beautifully situated ruins, the thousand-year-old
Füzér Castle, is visible from a long way off. The area in the vicinity of the
ruins contains a microcosm of Carpathian flora and is protected.
In equally beautiful surroundings on another hilltop is the Ruin at Regéc (G2).
This was originally built in the thirteenth century, but its heyday was the 150
years during which it was the Rákóczi family seat. It too was destroyed by the
Austrians, this time in 1715 after the failed Rákóczi-led War of Independence.
It is also worth climbing up to Boldogkő Castle (G2) to learn what those frontier
soldiers would have seen and felt as they guarded the road running
along the Hernád Valley. Boldogkőváralja (G2), the castle village, is known for its mansion and
"tájház" or village museum. The exhibition there is about the protected natural features of the
Zemplén Hills. But one of these features can be seen in real life and quite close by: beyond the
boundary of the neighbouring village of Boldogkőújfalu (G2) is a thousand-feet-wide sea of stone
formed in the last Ice Age.
Sátoraljaújhely (H2): this is the largest town in the Zemplén area, and the only settlement where a
church has been erected in honour of wine. The white walled, five towered so-called "Wine Church"
near the railway station was built above the largest of several wine cellars that are to be found near
the spot. The town itself has been an important settlement since the Middle Ages, due to its position
on ancient trade routes. Two of its most outstanding monuments are the Pauline monastery – now
used as a Piarist student hostel – and the Town Hall. This was where the leader of the 1848 Hungarian
War of Independence, Lajos Kossuth, began his political career. It was a civic building even then, and
he made his first public speech from the balcony in 1831. There is a story that as a child, Kossuth was
once cured by Sátoraljaúhely's own tzaddik or "miraculous rabbi". He is supposed to have told the boy
"you will be a standard-bearer for the people". The rabbi's grave in the town's Jewish cemetery is these
days a place of pilgrimage.
Füzérradvány (G2): the elegant appearance of the Károlyi Mansion dates back to the mid-nineteenth century
when the building was re-fashioned in neo-Renaissance style. It is approached along an avenue of
hundred-year-old pines, and in the protected park there are giant plane-trees. Inside there is a museum
on the ground floor, and receptions and formal balls are occasionally held in the grand drawing rooms.
Hollóháza (G2): hidden away in the woods, this is the most northerly settlement in Hungary, and is
known to porcelain collectors the world over. There is a fascinating museum in a part of the factory.
Vizsoly (G2): the name of the village is famed for the fact that the first complete Hungarian language
version of the Bible was printed and published here in 1590. This was a major development, not
least from the technical point of view. One of the original copies of this beautifully illuminated book
is kept in the historic Calvinist church in the village.
|Vizsoly, Calvinist church
|Kőkapu, Károlyi Mansion