If you’re looking for authentic Hungarian village atmosphere, don’t stop until you reach Őrség and, in particular, Szalafő. In this end-of-the-world region is one of Hungary’s oldest open-air museums. Szalafő has retained the settlement structure from the time of the Hungarian conquest, consisting of several separate rows, Centuries ago, the inhabitants did not build around a specific centre but, taking advantage of the terrain, they erected their structures on hills - 7 in Szalafő - thus creating the rows. This was necessary because the swampy ground of the valley was not suited for construction and also because, up until the 17th century, the king commissioned the people living here to perform border protection tasks, and the hilltops offered a great view of the border region. Pityerszer, with several hundred year old buildings, stands on one of seven slopes.
A foothold in the past
What makes the open-air-museum extra special is that its houses preserved their 18th century state: Pityerszer is the most archaic of the Szalafő rows. Walking around the site, peering into the thatched houses, feeling the scent of the beaten floor and thinking how the villagers once lived here, is a splendid programme. The so-called fenced house and the “kástu” are unique Hungarian structures. Fenced houses became widespread in the 1800s, with a courtyard in the middle of the U-shaped row of buildings. The “kástu” is in fact a pantry, where they stored foodstuffs and next year’s seeds, as well as tools. The house could be single or double storey, there are examples of both on Pityerszer. If you book in advance, you can also try some traditional local activities, such as pottery, baking round pretzels or even getting a glimpse into the process of making pumpkin seed oil. For souvenirs, go to the national park gift shop or the handicraft shop open on the area of the museum. Just a few minutes' walk to the west of the open-air museum are the European bison of the Őrség National Park, where, from the vantage point of a lookout, you can observe not only the largest land mammal in Europe but also the very rare Eurasian wild horses.