Hungary is more than just Budapest. We have ancient castle ruins, the largest freshwater lake in Europe, mountains (not the Rocky Mountains and not the Alps, but covered with forests and crisscrossed with walking trails), rivers, thermal baths, famous wine country, and more.
In Sárospatak and its surrounding area in the northeast of Hungary, you can find a bit of everything.
Rákóczi Castle and Cannon Casting Workshop
The history of the castle dates back to the settlement of the Magyars in Hungary around 895, when an earth fort was built at the side of the Bodrog River. Later it was rebuilt with stone. It took its final form in the 16th century under the ownership of the Rákóczi family. It was at this time that the town grew quickest.
George Rákóczi and his wife, Susanna Lórántffy, cared not only about developing the culture and education of the region, but also about promoting industry. The cannon foundry, which they built in the town, worked from 1631 until 1648. Later the workshop was forgotten and disappeared, but its ruins were found in the 20th century.
You can learn about the process of cannon casting next to the castle in the park, as well as admire a 180- to 190-year-old Japanese pagoda tree.
Sárospatak Reformed College and the Great Library
The college was established by Peter Perenyi in 1531, but it was most successful in the 1600s when Susanna Lórántffy began protecting it. She invited Comenius, the most famous pedagogist in the area, to the institution. He introduced what were, for that time, the most up-to-date pedagogic principles and since then Sárospatak has become a well-known and recognized school town, and counts many Hungarian celebrities among its students.
The College, and its Great Library, trace their modern form to the first part of the 19th century. The library, designed by Mihály Pollack, contains 450,000 books as well as other curiosities. I
n 2016 it was chosen as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world by Atlas Obscura.
Végardó Thermal Bath
The thermal waters of the area were found in 1959 by digging bores. Locals soon began to enjoy the hot water, first only in a pool built of wood, but after two years a stronger, brick wall pool was built.
Now the bath has all you need for an enjoyable stay. Swimming pool, children’s pool, waterslide, bubble bath, and sauna. The thermal bath with 100 degrees Fahrenheit medicinal water is one of the favorites among the wide offerings.
The water contains a considerable amount of minerals that are good for articular and Hemal diseases.
People interested in architecture will enjoy a tour around Sárospatak, visiting the buildings designed by Imre Makovecz, one of the most significant architects of the 20th and 21st centuries.
One can see several examples of his new school of thought, organic architecture, which puts the human and nature at the center of the design. The Community Center (Művelődés Háza), the Árpád Vezér Secondary School, the Repository Library, the entrance buildings of the Thermal Bath all display this eye-catching harmony between humanity and the environment.
Even on the building of the Bodrog Store, one of his first projects in the 1960s, you can see the waves of the nearby Bodrog River.
Comenius Teachers’ College
The Teachers’ College dates back to 1531, and after almost 500 years it still provides instruction for future primary school teachers. The extant building was rebuilt in Upper Hungarian Renaissance Style from an old casern between 1912 and 1913. The architects were Jenő Lechner and László Varga.
One of the most famous teachers of the College was Comenius, who worked there from 1650 until 1654.
On the left hand side of the building you will find the sculpture of the “Student of Patak.”
The square between the buildings of the Teachers’ College and the Community Center hosts some of the town’s biggest events, including candle lightings at Advent time, a starting place for running events, and music concerts for young and old.
Sárospatak Art Gallery
The original collection started in 1968 with a donation from Ferenc Béres, singer, flautist, and Hungarian folk art singer who was once a student in Sárospatak. The repository involves a fine arts collection of 20th century Hungarian artists, including among others László Mednyánszky, Béla Iványi Grünwald, János Tornyai, István Nagy, József Rippl-Rónai, Lajos Gulácsy, and László Holló.
Other interesting sections of the gallery are the wood cuttings of Joseph Domján, whose art can also be seen at the New York Metropolitan Museum and London Victoria and Albert Museum, and the work of János-Andrássy-Kurta, a sculptor, who presented his life-scale collection to the gallery.
Relief of Susanna Lórántffy
The official name of this piece of art is “Referential Relief to the Town.” And that it is, in a highly artistic way. Hidden in the protecting arms of Susanna Lórántffy, patron of Patak, are all the significant buildings, ancient monuments, and historical scenes of Sárospatak.
Originally the relief welcomed visitors at the outer wall of the railway station. Now you can find it on the second floor of the Tourinform Office.
Canoeing on the Bodrog River
The Bodrog River, which crosses the town, is a perfect place for canoeing. Even on a one-day trip, it makes for a memorable experience. You can choose to start upstream or downstream.
Longer trips need more equipment, such as a tent and sleeping gear, but the experience you get paddling slowly between the two green sides of the river, surrounded with peaceful nature, is worth it. Ducks, coots, kingfishers, and with a bit of luck herons can be seen, and the variety of water plants is also a treat for the eyes and the cameras.
Address for the canoe rental office (and also bikes and sightseeing tours with electrocars): Zöldút Turisztikai Központ, Sárospatak, Kossuth Lajos út 50.
Tarn of the Hill Megyer
Just four miles from the town is a little hidden lake. In the Middle Ages it was a millstone quarry; today it is a gorgeous lake from accumulated rainwater, with tall, abrupt, volcanic stone walls and green forest around it.
The deepest point of the lake is 21-feet and the stone walls go up to 230-feet above the water plane.
A new activity in the area is Hungary’s fourth via ferrata (a climbing route) with a 2100-foot-long track in different styles and difficulties. On the nearby rock walls, 37 traditional climbing walls are waiting for the adventurous. You are allowed to use the place with your own equipment, but you can also rent it there.
People who are not interested in this type of fun should climb up to the top of the nearby 59-foot-high observation tower instead.
Wine Cellars at Hercegkút
As part of the World Heritage Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape, the row of wine cellars at Hercegkút is a hidden treasure of the area. Hercegkút, only three miles away from Sárospatak, is a wine-growing settlement established in the 18th century.
The wine cellars, dug from volcanic stone, compose rows above each other in the hillside. There are more than 80 wine cellars at the northwest border of the village, and about 80 at the southeast. Their uniform appearance in a grouped form is unique to the Tokaj Wine Region.
Most of them are only for family use, but some have been developed for guests as well. Sitting at the long tables in the cellar, among barrels full of the famous Tokaier, tasting the wine varieties from dry to the sweetest muscatel, you will understand why, back in the 17th century, Tokaier Aszu was told by Louis XIV of France, ”Vinum regum, rex vinorum,” or “Wine of the kings, king of the wines.”
Zemplén Adventure Park
While wine tasting is only for adults, the adventure park only 7.5 miles away is fun for every age. The 7500-foot-long bob track is the longest one in Hungary. Going through the forest, you will enjoy the sharp twists and turns.
If you like more solid adventures take the chairlift to the top station. From there it is only a few steps to the top of the hill, where, from the observatory, you can have a look at the whole Zemplén area. In good weather conditions, you can even see the peaks of the High Tatras, a Slovenian mountain range.
And the adventure does not finish there. You can fill your adrenaline tank on the 3400-foot-long zipline between Mount Szár and Mount Magas, or try out your climbing skills at the lower station of the chair lift. From spring through autumn in the middle of the hill, where the ski tracks end in winter, adventure tracks offer more fun for children and grownups with four different difficulty levels.
Special to BookCottages.com by Orsolya Harrach.