Are you keen on trying a peasant holiday? Sky Europe’s Budapest flights are your easiest way to delight in a few-days experience with enchanting horses, grey cattle and other ethno-cultural attractions of puszta or the Hungarian Great Southern Plain.
While the shimmering hot air of the pastoral fields that we pass on the way creates mirages, the crossroad city of Kecskemét, the gateway to puszta, surprises us with Art Nouveau architecture and the top-rated Hungarian panacea apricot brandy or barackpálinka in the old Zwack distillery.
But let’s hit Bugacpuszta nearby Kecskemét first! The attractions are typically Hungarian: delicious food with live cymbal and violin music and equestrian presentations such as a riding school, theatrical performances of studs, donkeys and oxen. To top that, the World Four-in-Hand Driving Championship held in August attracts dozens of skilful riders to the Bugac area showing their craft while driving a carriage pulled by four horses.
Getting to the heart of the Bugacpuszta, which is the most visited part of the Kiskunság National Park, we discover rustic houses scattered on sandy plains and randomly appearing vine-yards and apricot orchards. One could find a signboard with the name of a farmhouse rather than of a village or city here.
Bugaci Karikás Csárda is an ideal place for renting a holiday peasant house with a thatched-roof and an open-air fire for cooking goulash, a traditional shepherd’s soup with meat and potatoes. Besides baked specialities, you can try also a refreshing cold soup of raspberries, apples and apricots served by a waiter dressed in the clothes of Sándor, the Hungarian Robin Hood, who used to rob carriages.
One excellent party with friends can be made in the guesthouse, once visited by Queen Elizabeth II, where the manager himself, Zsolt Tóth, can prepare some palatable meals upon request. As he says, amateurs can learn to ride a horse in 2 weeks and then explore the plains from the saddle, while others prefer a trekking tour and watching pheasants and falcons. A top attraction is the horse show and open-air cattle-shed.
An exclusive farm party/show worthy to be booked in advance is the one in Tanyacsárda (near Lajosmizse), where the innkeeper welcomes with a shot of apricot brandy. At first, dozens of galloping studs leave you with the taste of dusty soil whirling in the air. Then a performance of artistic horse-riding lifts everyone’s expectation for amusements including overturning of a bottle by a whip, or an outstanding ride of Puszta Five, the show of an equestrian riding 5 horses.
While delighting in goose liver and grilled/fried vegetables, you are whirled to the rhythm of folklore songs, music and dances of cheerful girls, who a man can kiss under a scarf. The nourishing dinner ends with a flat cake made from milk and eggs covered with apricot marmalade and brandy and served a la flambé.
Some 10 kilometres of the farm, you can get accommodation in the Gerébi Kúria mansion tucked in a grove of the plain, where you can experience also horse-trekking and panorama tours with carriages and join numerous horse shows. The calm environment is an excellent venue for conferences and weddings.
Looking for both accommodation and horse-riding entertainments, also hit the road to Varga-Tanya Pension (on the way to Lajosmizse) – simply there is a countless choice of venues, and it is only up to you how your ethno-cultural weekend or holiday will look like.
While returning from the puszta weekend tour, we stop in Kecskemét, named after goats gifted by bishops to the new Christians – Hungarians – many centuries ago.
It is a place for exploring splendid Art Nouveau buildings with folklore motives and artisan craftsmen products. See also various sacred places such as the former synagogue, the Big Church and the Franciscan Church.
As our tour goes through a row of colourful and bright buildings, we enter the tile-roofed town hall, with floral decorations and relax in the courtyard, the stage for classical concerts in summer. The New College of Calvinists, recognizable by its high spire and Transylvanian motives, as well as Cifrapalota with charming folk and majolica ornaments and curves, are one of the top attractions in Kecskemét.
If you visit the town on August 24-29, see the presentation of traditional products and peasant cuisine represented by salty, flat home bread or langos, baked in a stove of clay and straw and served with garlic sauce or sour cream. September is devoted to folk musicians and during non-rainy weekends the promenade is full of stalls selling handmade craftsman products.
An inside look into Hungarian rural life would miss a spark without learning how the tasty and aromatic sunshine distillate of Fütyülos barackpálinka or “whistling” apricot brandy is made. A tour of the old distillery from the beginning of the previous century and the plant’s latest production lines acquaint you with the history of the Zwack family, producing brandy as well as other spirits such as the well-know Unicum. Of course, the end of your tour will be product tasting and potentially a purchase of a small souvenir bottle, or even a bigger one.
When you make your way to the plains around Kecskemét, there is no doubt that hosts of farmsteads will welcome you with their traditional hospitality and show you the Hungary from the past centuries. Furthermore, autumn is the best period to experience peasant life amongst friendly horses.