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  Eger-Tokaj Hilly Wine Region | Directions | Map
  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
 
     

Tokaj-Hegyalja: the whole world has heard of Tokay wine; it's one of the first things everyone knows about Hungary. It was already known far and wide in the twelfth century. Its admirers have included the Sun King Louis XIV, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, the Tsar Peter the Great and Tsarina Catherine. The Russian Tsar even stationed a small garrison in the Tokaj (G3) area so that supplies of the prized wine could be secured. It is recorded of Pope Pius I that he took a sip daily on doctor's orders for the preservation of his health, and it is known also that Beethoven, Schubert, Voltaire and Goethe were all fond of the Tokay nectar. Tokay wine plays a part in countless Hungarian literary works; it is even commemorated in the Hungarian national anthem. It is no exaggeration to speak of it as, "The wine of kings and the king of wines".
2002 was another milestone in the life of Tokaj and its region, when the historic wine growing area was added by UNESCO to its list of protected World Heritage sites.
Grapes were found growing in the 27 square miles of the Tokaj-Hegyalja district at the time of the Hungarian Conquest. Perhaps it is not so surprising, as the volcanic soil of Kopasz Hill and the sunny south-facing slopes in general make ideal conditions for viticulture. The extra ripening of the grape on the stem, the unique handling of the wine and the noble rot which develops in the cellars all contribute to the production of the special liquid. Hegyalja offers more than visits to the cellars. Many are also attracted by the wine harvest. The harvest festival closes with a procession, folklore programmes and other entertainments.

Szerencs (G3): this has been the home since 1923 of Hungary's best known chocolate and sweet factory; the sugar refining division is even older, having been set up in 1889. After those in Berlin and Belgium, it is also the home to the world's third oldest chocolate museum, containing, amongst other things, eight hundred different types of sweet wrappers from all corners of the world.
Szerencs is sometimes called the gateway to Hegyalja, and it has often played a part in the history of Hungarian independent movements. Its most famous building is the square-built fortified Rákóczi Mansion, erected in the sixteenth century over an earlier Benedictine monastery. Today it houses a library, a museum of local history and a cultural centre.

Tállya (G3): after extensive measurements and calculations, the result of a geographical survey published in the 1990s showed that the geometric centre of the continent of Europe was exactly here at Tállya. Of course one can't see this remarkable fact, but there are other sights that one can, including a mineral collection, a baroque mansion (now functioning as a school), and a mediaeval church. The Rákóczi cellar, with its many branches, had other uses than wine making; in stormy historical times it offered people a place of safety.

Sárospatak (G2): Sárospatak, on the shores of the River Bodrog, is sometimes thought of as a mini- Athens. It is proudly rich in cultural history, and historical traditions. It has also long been an important seat of learning. The reputation of the Calvinist College goes back to its inception in the sixteenth century; while in the seventeenth century the highly influential Czech educationalist John Amos Comenius wrote and taught here. The town possesses several famous churches, including the Roman Catholic castle church in Saint Elizabeth Square, regarded as one of the most important examples of Gothic hall church architecture. In the centre of the town, on the banks of the River Bodrog, stands one of Hungary's most spectacular fortresses, the now beautifully restored Rákóczi Castle.

Pácin (H2): to the east of Sárospatak (G2), and on the upper course of the River Bodrog, you come to Pácin. Its famous monument is the perfectly restored, white walled Renaissance mansion, in which can be seen the apartments of the one-time squire and his family, complete with richly carved furniture and fireplaces, as well as the more modest servants' quarters and their characteristically rustic furniture.

Sárospatak, Rákóczi Castle on
the banks of the River Bodrog
 
Tokay aszú
 
Pácin, Interior of the Renaissance mansion
   
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