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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 49: Hive-Stone Day at Bükk National Park

kaptarko napjaThe Minister of Agriculture declared 2015 the Year of the Local Producer, and has chosen to highlight Hungaricum and national park certified products at 5-6 events this year. We already manned a stand at the Vajdahunyadi Var, Pig Killing Festival and the National Travel Fair. Last weekend we were in Szomolya in the Bükk National Park to celebrate their unusual hive-stone rock formations on Hive-stone Day.

The Koltays from Royal Treats in Aggtelek represented Aggtelek National Park. The Fruktarium from Trizs was busy organising a special charity concert on National Poetry Day in the Baradla Cave, so could not promote their national park certified palinkas. The Koltays had a colourful table full of their jams, drink syrups and dried mushroom products, all made from fruit and mushrooms gathered in the national park. This left Kata and I free to be tourists.kaptarko napja

The weather was gorgeous, and we took an easy stroll a couple kilometres through the village and up to the hive stones early to beat the official crowds scheduled for a guided tour later in the day. The hike is unchallenging, well marked with "Szomolya Kaptárkö" signs, and well maintained. Lizards sunning themselves scattered out of our way through the leaves as we admired the blooming trees, the view back towards the village and the wild flowers. The hive stones do not really look like hives, but rather boulders and eroded cliffs with niches carved out for statues of saints or the Virgin Mary. The thing is, these deep, regular, symmetrical, arched depressions were made by volcanic processes and not by human hands. There are about 82 hive-stones in the Bükk on which there are 479 niches; but only 1 in Aggtelek National Park, in the Zemplén Nature Reserve. There will be a tour there on June 13 (Zemplén Nature Reserve Regional Office - Tokaj Bodrogzug Nature Reserve, Tel: 30-693-4376, Email: Detailed info about the hive-stones can be found on the Kaptárkö Nature Protection and Cultural Association webpage (in Hungarian).

On the way back to the main square we stopped by the double line of wine cellars. An old woman gardening across the street yelled over for us to take a look in a particular wine cellar through the door grill. She cannot see it, but her husband swore there are interesting columns and a heart inside. Indeed, there are two beautiful swirly stone columns carved into the door frame, with a large heart and a crown flanking either side.

Our first stop at the namuvesztanyational park certified product stands was at some painted wood carvings, boxes and small cabinets whose patterns reminded me of the painted wood cassetted ceiling in the Jósvafő and Gömörszöllős churches. I was right on target. The patterns actually come from another church though. The young artist and his parents from Művésztanya in Királd displayed wooden buttons (we bought one which Kata now uses as a keychain), textile zipped purses, little key holder cabinets, earrings, jewellery boxes and tea boxes.

Just across the way was a man we think we saw at the Diosgyor Castlebumblebee hives Festival last year, but we could be mistaken. He makes bird feeders out of woven reeds. One in particular caught our attention, for on its roof he had created a small garden of stone roses. To the side he had some odd wooden objects full of holes of different sizes. When we inquired, they turned out to be artificial hives for bumble bees. He then proceeded to tell us about his life and the life of bumble bees. György Mészáros from Harsány had a stroke some years back and he had a lot of time on his hands to observe nature around him. Of particular interest was the bumblebee. We did not know that the bumblebee pollinates peppers and tomatoes, not other bees. One can place one of these artificial hives in the garden and increase the pollination of your vegetables by attracting more bumblebees to the immediate vicinity. They may be big, but they do not sting.

When we were at the Pig Killing Festival a couple weeks ago, I wrote that we had passed the town of Poroszló that bore more exploration. I am even more convinced now. We stopped at a table of homemade cheese offered by the Aranyosidombi Udvarhaz. Instead of pounding out a flat piece of meat and stuffing it with cheese, they rolled out a piece of cheese flat and then stuffed it with mangalica and other things before rolling it back up, breading it and frying it. For vegetarians, none of the usual boring fried cheese/fried mushroom/fried cauliflower "choice," but are on the menu roasted pumpkin and oat burgers instead.

Not being in the official retinue, there were no lunch options or food sellers available to us. Someone mentioned a pastry house down a side street which we investigated with Krisztina Koltay. There were no signs because it was actually the local museum making cherry pastries just for tasting. They were very good, and represent just a fraction of what goes on in June every year at their Cherry Festival. The local museum has been wonderfully renovated with bright, detailed wall and ceiling patterns rolled on to the whitewash. Kata spotted a copy of her own baby carriage, and the male version in the design of a white convertible was in the next room, both in pristine condition.

We still had some time, so we went down the road to a potter's workshop we spotted on the way into town. Just as we went in, a man in folk costume also pulled up in a car and went into the house. I thought he was the potter, but it turns out he was just a good friend of the potter come to visit. He came out with the actual potter Emese Kovacs saying that we "must be Americans babakocsibecause we did not go first to the house to announce ourselves but went straight to the gallery." Introductions taken care of, they went back to the house and left us to browse. The beauty and variety of patterns was too much and we had a very difficult time making a choice, so we bought two bowls of different designs, patterns and glazes. She has a great eye, both in her pottery and in the arrangement of display of her work and front garden. No business cards were available, she does not do festivals, and I doubt she has a webpage, so I guess you will just have to search her out in person.

On the way back we stopped at a lovely church of the former Cisterian Monastery in Bélapátfalva originally built in 1232. It nestles at the base of a mined out mountain, and somehow survived the continual mining explosions through the years. Musical events are sometimes held here. The grounds are well kept and feature a babbling brook through the trees that has been split by human intervention so that one branch runs along the stone path downhill.

belapatfalva monostorWe knew our route home passed through Eger, and we cheekily packed a couple bottles to fill up in Valley of the Beautiful Woman at one of the Eger wine cellars. My boss Zsolt was not hard to convince, and he also managed to secure a couple water bottles from lunch. We bought a litre of sweet Kékfrankos Siller for 750 Huf at the wine cellar of Tamas Sike, but I passed on the Cabernet Sauv. and instead purchased a litre of a dry red cuvee at the Juhász wine cellar next door for 500 Huf. Siller is not a grape variety, but rather a colour deeper than rosé, brought about by leaving the grape skins in longer.