Sátoraljaújhely: former county seat of Zemplén county and one of the sites where the linguist Ferenc Kazinczy worked and the future prime minister Lajos Kossuth studied law, rhetoric and politics. The considerable number of bourgeois intellectuals that lived here were able to preserve their identity and intellectual culture.
Sárospatak: Home town of Saint Elizabeth, canonized princess of the House of Árpád; the famous scholar Comenius; and Lord Ferenc Rákóczi II. Thanks to its cultural and artistic traditions, the old school and the reformed college, the town has been referred to as the Athens along the river Bodrog. The Sárospatak castle is also considered a remarkable site, both because of its architectural value and the amount of famous Hungarian figures who used to live there.
Although the two rival towns of the Zemplén Mountains have distinct characteristics of their own both had an intellectual influence on the neighboring settlements. The smaller villages, however, were preserved by nature itself: the river Bodrog, the mountains and, of course, the vineyards. The towns are located in the protected UNESCO World Heritage site and many cellars are classified as part of the core area: the Ungvári cellars of Újhely, the Rákóczi cellar of Patak, and the cellar rows of Hercegkút, Kőporos and of the Gombos mountain.
In addition to the Trail of the Wonder Working Rabbis, a number of trails pass through this region: the nationwide Blue trail, the Rákóczi trail, the Saint Elizabeth pilgrimage, and a section of EuroVelo cycle route.
The origin of Hungarian Hasidism
Jews were attracted to Sátoraljaújhely by the same thing that attracted them to the other regions of the Zemplén mountains: wine. Thanks to the trade routes to Russia, Poland and Transylvania passing through the town, Sátoraljaújhely became one of the hubs of wine trade in the Hegyalja region. Jewish traders played a significant role in wine trade and are believed to have settled in the town as early as the middle ages, although no source mentions them before the last third of the 18th century. The Jewish settlers arrived mainly from Poland, Galicia and Subcarpathia. Sátoraljaújhely is the first major town that with its mixed population and uniquely liberal thinking promised Jewish settlers a good life.
Mose Teitelbaum was born in Przemyśl in 1759. He was the descendent of an old rabbinical family which produced several scholars. In 1808 he was elected the rabbi of Sátoraljaújhely, where he taught at a yeshiva for 33 years and attracted students from far and wide. Even non-Jews turned to him for his talismans and advice, and according to an urban legend even Lajos Kossuth paid him a visit. The rabbi is famous for spreading Hasidism in Hungary – his pupil became the wonder rabbi of Olaszliszka, whose pupil later became the wonder rabbi of Bodrogkeresztúr. Their graves – covered by ohels (tabernacles) – are important stops along the Trail of the Wonder Working Rabbis pilgrimage. Next to rabbi Teitelbaum's grave there is a ritual bath house.
In Újhely one can visit the new Jewish cemetery, the old prayer house with its Holocaust memorial plaque, and although the building serves a different function today, the former school. The building of the former bath house in Patak is also marked with a Holocaust memorial plaque and the cemetery is open to visitors. Its oldest tombstone dates from 1780, around the time when the congregation was formed.
As Újhely used to be a town of many nationalities and religions, it is worth visiting the memorial sites of the different communities and groups: many significant ones survive to this day.
Prison, wine jar, saint and the most beautiful wonder
But first, let's take a look at the towns! The former county seat, Sátoraljaújhely, was an ‘officially sanctioned’ town. The present town hall is the same building that was once the county hall. The Baroque style structure was built in the 18th century and is the home of the archives of Zemplén County. The archives are unique in Hungary and perfectly preserve the atmosphere of the archives of the 18th and 19th century . The building also holds memories of Ferenc Kazinczy who held office here. The former town hall was the Classicist style Sennyey Mansion that used to function as a casino and is today the home of the Ferenc Kazinczy Museum. The exhibitions depict the history of Újhely, the life of the Casino of Zemplén and the natural treasures of the Zemplén mountains. The other exciting museum of the town is also connected to the authorities. The Museum Exhibition of the Hungarian Prison Service, also known as the Prison museum, is located next to the Sátoraljaújhely Penitentiary and Prison.
The town's largest church is the late Baroque style church in the town center, the most valuable church is the 14th century, early Gothic style Pauline-Piarist church and ancient monastery located at Barátsor and the most unique church is the Wine Temple, not an actual church but rather a tower built above wine cellars. And one shouldn't forget the Calvary Chapel on the Szár Hill, which can be reached by visiting a series of stations along the route that symbolize the towns ceded by Hungary as part of the Treaty of Trianon. The chapel's shape resembles the Hungarian royal crown.
Since 2015, the memorial site is also accessible for physically disabled visitors thanks to the "Dongó" closed-cabin cableway. Today the Zemplén Adventure Park makes the Magas Mountain a popular site for adventure lovers and hikers. The viewpoint on the peak can be reached by Hungary's longest chairlift from which one might even feel they can slowly ‘glide’ down over the side of the Szár Mountain. The country's all season – and longest - bobsleigh run, the adventure courses, the climbing wall center, the ski courses, ice-skating rinks and snow tubing courses – open during the winter – are also worth a visit. The nearby walking trails offer a great opportunity to slow down and enjoy nature.
If one walks on towards Széphalom, one will soon reach the former property of author and language innovator Ferenc Kazinczy, a graveyard and a memorial hall which have long been favored pilgrimage destinations of enthusiasts of the humanities and the Hungarian language is also found there More recently, however, the Museum of the Hungarian Language in the former orchard has been open to all who like or would like to know more about the Hungarian language and invites visitors to a playful, interactive, amusing and yet serious adventure.
Sárospatak is both a royal and a school town. Saint Elizabeth of the House of Árpád was born in the royal manorial center in 1207. The foundation walls of the small round temple where she was christened can still be viewed next to Northern Hungary's greatest Gothic hall church, the Castle Church. The plot of the manorial house is today home to the Saint Elizabeth House , which is the exhibition hall of religious art treasures and the starting point of the Saint Elizabeth pilgrimage trail that runs towards Kosice (Kassa in Hungarian) and passes through the towns of Bodrogolaszi, Komlóska and Füzér.
Opposite the Saint Elizabeth House is the Gallery of Patak, and at the other end of Szent Erzsébet utca is the Rákóczi Castle – which is spectacular both in its entirety and in detail. The robust yet ornate Renaissance-style Red Tower contains not only the Bokályos House decorated with beautiful Turkish wall tiles, but an elegant knight's hall complete with late Renaissance furniture and an Orchestral Niche. Outside, the treasures of the Lorántffy Loggia, the Renaissance kitchen (offering welcome relief to tired visitors), and the unique cannon caster workshop, and inside the castle the exhibits of the Rákóczi Exhibition provide for a beautiful and informative experience, enjoyable by everyone, regardless of age and gender.
Zsuzsanna Lorántffy and her husband, György Rákóczi I. – great-grandparents of Ferenc Rákóczi II. – were the primary supporters of the reformed college of Patak. Later, however, the school faced many difficulties, but in the end was able to preserve its fame and spirit in its entirety, as well as much of its valuable library. The famous Grand Library was designed by Mihály Pollack and is located in a 19th century Classical building. The spectacular library holds some 25,000 rare and antiquarian book The only older building was built in the 18th century and houses the museum of the school. A walk near the college will lead visitors to the former residences of students and teachers, to the gymnasium and the boarding school and will yield a lively picture of the former college town and the life of aristocrats in the castle.
Walking towards the city center, one will come across buildings designed by Imre Makovecz, and along the way leading out of the town are excellent resting spots and excursion destinations. The thermal pools of the Végardó Bath, for example, are an excellent place to relax during any season. Travelers are encouraged to pay a visit to the fishing paradise along the bank of the river and the mountain lake on the Megyer Hill, which is considered the most beautiful natural wonder of Hungary.
But you've mentioned wine cellars, haven't you…? – one might ask. Indeed we have! Let's take a closer look at them...
Cellars and hospitality
In the north-eastern region of Sátoraljaújhely, on the original, fenced territory of the Ungvári cellars there used to be 27 separate cellars. Later, however, most of these were vertically and horizontally connected to compose a four-level, almost 16 kilometer long, labyrinth-like cellar system.
In Sárospatak, the entrance of the Rákóczi cellar on the castle grounds is located behind the only remaining farm building of the Rákóczi family which, until the early 18th century, was a Trinitarian monastery (The Temple of Muses). The winding passages total about 600 meters in length. What makes these special cellars even more exciting is that visitors can taste the wines stored there.
The same applies to the 130 cellars on the two sides of Hercegkút that form a wolf tooth pattern. Besides the multi-story cellar rows which are considered masterpieces of vernacular architecture, the wines, and the labyrinth-like cellars the hospitality of vintners and the must-try, specially fermented Swabian bacon make for an unforgettable experience.
Characteristics of Nationalities – Unmissable tours
Of course, it's not only the bacon that is a testament to the Swabian origins of the residents of Hercegkút. The village emptied during the Kuruc Uprisings, but later resettled in 1750 when peace returned. The ancestors of the current residence arrived from Germany, from the Black Forest region, and Hercegkút remained a closed Swabian community until the last decade of the 20th century. To this day, the residence are proud of their origins and preserve their traditions not only through the Swabian country houses that resemble and are furnished like old farmhouses, but also through their everyday life and their hospitality towards guests.
A bit further along, hidden at the foot of the mountains, the picturesque town of Makkoshotyka offers excellent opportunities for accommodation. The Village Museum is located in a nicely furnished 19th century farmhouse, and a trophy collection, which is part of a private exhibition, is also open to visitors. The greatest treasures of the village are, however, the peace and quiet and the forests which are rich in mushroom and fruits. Children who love hiking and open air cooking are also welcome. Especially since the village lies along the Nationwide Blue Trail.
The village in the neighboring valley, Komlóska, is located along the main hiking trail of the Zemplén mountain, the Rákóczi trail. To this day, the village preserved the Ruthenian language and culture of its 18th century settlers and shows similarities with the towns of Slavic people inhabiting the north-eastern Carpathians. Visitors can learn more in the Ruthenian country house, where the country's only oven with a traditional mud smoke bell, or kabola, is displayed. The starting point of the Telér trail is located nearby and a perfect trail for short day trips. If one leaves Komlóska on the Rákóczi-trail in the direction of the mountains, one will happen upon the 1-1.5 meters high ruins of the wall of the 13th century Pusztavár castle and the breathtaking panorama next to it. Walking on towards the river Bodrog, hikers will soon reach Bodrogolaszi.
It is no surprise that the main livelihood of the current residents of Bodrogolaszi, a town originally settled by wine-growers, is still provided for by grapes grown on terraces of the favorably situated hillside. Naturally, wine tasting and visits to wine cellars should be part of every visitors program. But one should also pay a visit to the small Roman Catholic church and its ruined stone wall on the hill above the Bodrog River: the Roman style church was built in the 12th century.
But there is another fantastic tour in store for visitors. The Hegyköz region can be even more amazing than the beauties of nature mentioned so far, and in this context the town of Füzér stands out. One of Hungary's natural wonders, the Castle Hill, and the castle itself that sits like a crown on top of the protected volcanic cone are both marvelous sites to behold. (The Hungarian Royal Crown was guarded here for a year, but this is a story for a different time.) Most hikers know that the nationwide blue trail and red path of the Rákóczi trail meet here.
The town beneath the castle attracts visitors with its fragile, Slovakian country houses with their colored plaster walls and the Roman style Reformed church with its painted, coffered ceiling. And there are, of course, numerous other programs.
Zemplén all year round
The Nagy-Milic Nature Park Visitor Venter and Castle Curatorship is not only the home of modern exhibitions but also the venue for concerts – for example during the Zemplén Festival. This series of events extends to several other towns of the Zemplén mountain, like Sátoraljaújhely and Sárospatak. In Füzér, the ceremony of the Castle opening in spring, the Castle days in August and the Szabad Pálinka Day in October are well worth the visit. In Sárospatak, the events one should definitely not miss are the Saint Elizabeth Celebration at Pentecost, the Sárospatak Dixieland and Blues Festival in July, and the Sárospatak Wine Days in August. And in Sátoraljaújhely the most popular events are the Zemplén International Folk Dance Festival in the middle of August and the Zsólyomka Open Cellars event in October.
Must see attractions:
– Rabbi Mose Teitelbaum's grave in Sátoraljaújhely;
– Rákóczi Castle in Sárospatak;
– The Museum of the Hungarian Language and the Kazinczy memories in Széphalom;
– The Ungvári cellars in Sátoraljaújhely and the rows of cellars in Hercegkút;
– Castle Hill and castle of Füzér;
– The mountain lake of Megyer Mountain;
– Zemplén Adventure Park in Sátoraljaújhely;
– The Castle Church in Sárospatak;
– The Grand Library and museum of the Reformed College in Sárospatak; and,
– Hungary's only traditional oven with a separate smoke bell (kabola) in Komlóska.
– Ferenc Kazinczy Museum in Sátoraljaújhely
– Prison museum in Sátoraljaújhely
– Exhibitions of the Saint Elizabeth House in Sárospatak
– The Hungarian Calvary in Sátoraljaújhely
– The Pauline-Piarist church and monastery in Sátoraljaújhely; and,
– The Gallery of Sárospatak
And if time permits:
– make as many tours in the mountains as possible
– pay a visit to the Roman style church of Bodrogolaszi; and,
– visit the nature trail of Komlóska.