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Old Village of Hollókő and its surroundings (1987)

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Getting there: from Budapest take the M3 motorway as far as Hatvan, then take route 21. Before Pásztó the road branches off towards Hollókő.

Hollókő hides among the undulations of the Cserhát hills about 100 km from Budapest in a picturesque setting. The history of the village goes back to the 13th century, when after the Mongol invasion the castle was built on Szár Hill.

The name (holló=raven, kő=stone) comes, perhaps, from the legend in which the lord of a castle stole a pretty maiden, whose nurse was a witch. The nurse made a pact with the devil to rescue the girl. The devil's minions, disguised as ravens, took the stones of the castle away and the castle of Hollókő was built on top of the rock here. It is well worth walking up to the ruins; there is an exhibition of the remains of weapons found here, cannonballs and rock carvings. And there is a beautiful view over the surrounding protected area, which is a part of the Bükk National Park.

The settlement burnt down several times, because the buildings were covered with flammable thatched roofs until the beginning of the 20th century. Following the last fire in 1909, the houses were restored to their original form, but now with clay-brick walls and tiled roofs. The traditional medieval village structure can easily be seen; the single long street has thin lots running off it at right angles. In the middle of the settlement, as if on an island, stands the village church. The wooden towered, tile-covered Roman Catholic church was built in 1889.

The village's 67 protected buildings are characteristic peasant houses with stepped gable roofs and porches with wooden breast walls decorated with open-work carvings. The interior layout faithfully retains the 17th century Palóc style; it consists of 3 distinct rooms. From the porch you step into a cooking-dining room, but in winter it was also the best place to sleep - on the bench around the stove. The kitchen was joined to the larder, where the cereals and the agricultural equipment were stored, and also served as the bedroom for the old folk. The so-called clean room on the street front was the jewel and decoration of the house, which in Hollókő was not only kept for guests, as in other regions, but was occupied by the man of the house and his family. As the family got larger, the houses were extended lengthways; the buildings that we see today (one of which is in the Village Museum) were formed in this way. Here you can also have a look at the interior of the house, its furniture, decorations and tools. Of the traditional folk crafts, textile production is shown in the Loom House, where, in addition to the ancient techniques, craftspeople work on a weaver's loom that has a flying shuttle.

In other buildings there is a village house, a post office and a nursery school; in other words, this is not an open-air museum, but a real, living village. There are also accommodation and restaurant facilities.

The residents of this village of 400 are the Palóc people. Besides their special dialect, they retain their traditions and their colourful, richly decorated folk costumes. At the more important festivals they still wear these traditional folk costumes (which they usually make themselves). The most beautiful is the dress for special occasions worn by young girls and brides; under the red or blue silk skirt you can see 6, 8 or even 10 snow white, starched underskirts. Perhaps the most spectacular festival at Hollókő is Easter, when they display not only the clothes, but also the Easter customs and folk crafts. The Raspberry Festival in July attracts many visitors, as does the Nógrád Folklore Festival and the August Castle Tournament. In September a grape harvest procession is held and there are concerts in the castle and church.

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Recommended Excursions:
Treasures from a 23 million-year-old tropical sea and rain forest - sharks' teeth, leaf prints and petrified trees and more than 3000 foot prints of 11 animal species - can be seen in Ipolytarnóc (its application for inclusion in the World Heritage list is in the preparation stage).

In Szécsény, you can see an exhibition of hunting and agricultural history in the 17th century baroque Forgách Castle. The baroque Franciscan Monastery standing beside the castle was built on Gothic foundations. The Szirák Castle is one of the most beautiful examples of higher Hungarian castle architecture - and today operates as a hotel.

Famous for its colourful folk costumes is the nearby settlement of Buják. Today, only a few dilapidated walls remain to remind us of its castle.

There are plenty of opportunities for hiking on the marked hiking trails in the Cserhát Hills.

More information:
Foundation for Hollókő
3176 Hollókő, Kossuth u. 68.
Tel.: +36 32 579-011, tel./fax: +36 32 579-010
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