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Hungary, where colourful folk traditions live on to this day

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Eger region

Hungary has a very rich repository of folk traditions, whose heritage is well worth exploring. We’ll show you all that makes up the country’s fabulous folklore legacy.

Hungary is rich in preserved and living folk traditions, as well as valuable intellectual heritage, which are certainly important parts of the cultural tourist attraction of the countryside. Just to name a few: the Busó festivities, falconry, the Matyó embroidery or even folk dancing and folk music; but when it comes to distilling pálinka and winemaking, it’s safe to say that they all form part of the country’s authentic image. Let's take stock of what constitutes the complex world of Hungarian folklore.

 

 

Guardians of community folk art: folk houses

The main ‘duty’ of folk houses is to preserve and present local culture of the past, along with the folk art produced by the community; to show the general public the architectural masterpieces of folk culture and to present authentically furnished house interiors, together with the everyday life of a given social stratum. As a result, if you visit the country’s individual folk houses, you can travel back in time from the period following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867) up to the 1950s.

 

Another way to protect folk monuments is to relocate valuable buildings to open-air ethnographic museums and allow a glimpse into the habits of the peasant way of life.

Ethnographic village

Jump headfirst into the world of traditional folk building styles: Hungarian open-air ethnographic museums

Open-air museums and village museums are created with the aim of presenting folk building styles and methods through buildings, tools and equipment that fall within the conceptual scope of original ethnographic material. You have plenty of open-air museums to choose from in Hungary if you want to get to know the world of folklore up close.

 

This is Hungary's largest outdoor collection, often just called the ‘Szentendre skanzen’. Come and see in detail the folk architecture of the country’s characteristic regions, the way of life and the housing culture of village and market town social strata here.

 

  • Göcsej Village Museum:

This was the first open-air museum in the country and opened in Zalaegerszeg, in 1968. On display are wonderful examples of Göcsej folk construction in a 19th century village setting: farmhouses, a church, a blacksmith's mill and farm buildings await you.

 

  • Folk monument ensemble:

You can visit the museum village in Szalafő, which is 8 km from the centre of Őrség in south-west Hungary. The village was built on seven mounds (the local idiom is "szer" for the mound phrase). So you can check out eight distant street rows, stunning open-air village museums, all of which have preserved the old way of life unadulterated.

 

In this museum located in Ópusztaszer, you can see – among other things – the ever-so-famous Feszty Panorama, the fabulous 120-metre long and 15-metre tall panoramic painting by Árpád Feszty, which brings to life some imagined scenes of the Hungarian conquest.

 

Gain insight into the life of a three-member family from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Catch a glimpse of the types of furniture, utensils and tools used at the time so you can imagine what the Palóc way of life might have been like then.

 

  • Szenna Open-Air Ethnographic Collection:

The aim of this collection is to preserve the most beautiful memories of wooden architecture in Somogy – this is the only village museum in the country that was established in a living village.

 

  • Sóstó Village Museum:

In the largest regional open-air ethnographic museum in Hungary, the truly diverse folk architecture and housing culture of the Nyíregyháza region is on display in a uniform framework.

 

  • Vas Museum Village:

The village houses erected here present the folk architecture of the whole area of Vas county. This museum in Szombathely also serves as a venue for many fairs and activities, so it’s worth going at a time when you can also catch an exciting event in addition to the display of folklore.

 

  • Tihany Open-Air Ethnographic Museum:

A multitude of folk architectural monuments in their original location combined with an exhibition await you. Peek inside the house of the fishing guild, the pottery house or even the house of a farmer.

Windmill in Szentendre open-air museum

Hungarian intellectual and cultural heritage also recognised by UNESCO

Any mention of true Hungarian heritage is sure to include Matyó folk art. This folk art is characterised by floral, space-filling embroidery, which dates back to the end of the 19th century and is used, in the main, on textiles for household use and with decorative functions. The various patterns, such as the famous Matyó rose, also play a major role in other craft activities. This characteristic folk art and costume has become world famous over the years, and has also been added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 

 

Matyó folk art is not the only Hungarian particularity recognised by UNESCO: falconry is also on the organisation's highly prestigious list – as are the Busó festivities of Mohács, the costumed end-of-winter, greeting-of-spring, protecting and fertility-conjuring carnival; and the indigo dyeing process, which was the dominant fabric dyeing method used for Hungarian folk costumes and home textiles.

 

 

National treasures of the Hungarian Treasure Depository

Several Hungarikums, i.e. Hungarian specialties, exist, and are included on the national list of intangible cultural heritage of the Hungarian Treasure Depository. Examples include, but are not limited to:

 

the living tradition of lace-sewing in Halas, where the production of this immensely fine lace requires incredibly meticulous freehand work;

 

hen beating’ in Moha, named after the ‘beating of hens’ by young bachelors while collecting egg donations (this is just a symbolic act: the backs of hens are symbolically tapped with a stick to promote fertility);

 

the tradition of the miller's cake in Borsodnádasd, where the folk cake is made with a unique, round-plate, scissor-like baking iron

 

or the world-famous Kassai Valley method of horseback archery, a traditional sporting and leisure activity, in which the archer must be able to make as many accurate shots as possible from the back of a galloping horse.

 

Do you fancy exploring and experiencing the folk values of Hungary? Discover these unique national values; no matter where you go, a fabulous Hungarikum awaits you everywhere.

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