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Old Village of Hollókő and its surroundings

The main square of village
Hollókő
Eger region

Hollókő in Nógrád County in Northern Hungary has been a UNESCO World Heritage site. This small village is sought out by tourists from all over the world, as this is currently the only Hungarian settlement whose residents still use the built environment as they did in the past century.

Hollókő is a one-street village, meaning that most houses have their entrances from the main street, with long gardens stretching on to the hills at the back. Even if the furnishings and equipment of turn-of-the-century homes have been modernised somewhat, the original rooms and outbuildings have remained, fulfilling their initial functions to this day.

 

The legend of village

The story of Hollókő began in the 13th century, when the castle towering above the village was constructed following the Tatar invasion. The first written record of the village itself dates back to the 14th century – telling us that Hollókő already had a church at the time. A romantic legend is also attached to the castle that people still consider to be true, although the castle of Hollókő was in reality most likely built as part of the wave of stone-castle construction across the country following the Mongol invasion. According to the legend, the lord building the castle kidnapped the beautiful wife of the neighbouring squire. However, the girl’s nanny was a witch and was on good terms with the devil, convincing him to turn his sons into ravens, who then stole the stones from the new castle until the woman was finally set free. The stolen stones were then used to build a new castle, which is why the medieval fort was given the name Hollókő, which stands for Ravenstone.

 

 

The archetype of Palócz architecture

The village was depopulated during the Turkish occupation, and settled by Palócz petty nobility from Upper Hungary (Felvidék), a fact we also know from medieval documents. The agricultural and natural characteristics of the region did not allow for settlers to live prosperously, on top of which the Palócz social structure is also decidedly ancient, not facilitating social mobility and modernisation. Hollókő, already a town difficult to access, started to lag behind other regions in terms of development over the centuries.

Traditional Palócz architecture made use of wood and straw and, as a result, the village was ravaged by fire on numerous occasions over time. The last and most severe of these fires dates back to 1909 and, in the reconstruction of the village, the residents switched from wood to mud-bricks and from thatched to tiled roofs, building the houses on a stone base. However, the buildings retain traditional Palócz folk architectural forms, meaning that the ‘new’ old village completed in 1911 was a perfect imprint of the atmosphere of the beginning of the century and of traditional Palócz architecture as well.

Traditional Palócz wooden-based architectures

The living folk culture

When visiting Hollókő, these unique architectural marvels are not the only things to be amazed at: if we arrive at the right time, we may also gain insight into how people in Hungarian villages lived at the onset of the 20th century. As a result of urbanisation, Hungarian ethnic groups in general started to leave behind the folk costumes typical of their region at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. For the Palócz, and in Hollókő in particular, this process only started in the 1960s and then only very gradually. Typically, village residents wouldn’t go to work in larger towns and cities, meaning that they voluntarily preserved their ancient culture. Of course, the village has paved roads, electricity and Internet, but the current 400 mostly pension-age residents still observe their traditions, be they gastronomy, religion or folk art. On the occasion of festivities, for example at Easter, which they consider to be particularly important, even the few young people dress in traditional Palócz attire.

Given its spectacular natural surroundings, Hollókő is ideal for a one-day hike at any time of the year.

 

 

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