Castle, cavern, and church

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April 3rd 2017
Published: September 30th 2017
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Geo: 48.4667, 20.5017

It started as a beautiful day – we had an excellent (fresh veg, two eggs, sausages, bread, coffee, juice) breakfast at the guesthouse. Then we drove 20km to the town of Bódvaszilas to use the ATM … closest one, and clearly one of the few in the region as it was quite popular (all things considered).

Our first walk was from the Salamandar House to Szad Castle. The trail winds first through a very open oak (small oaks) forest, where, apparently in summer, little light penetrates the canopy, so there is no undergrowth. This time of year, however, the leaves are just started to bud, so the forest was light. You then pass through a new-growth forest, where most of the trees, sub-moutainous beech trees, are only 60-70 years old. We wondered if this was due to simplying allowing reforestation after cutting or global warming. Finally, you pass through a karst scrub forest, with no real canopy at all.

The fortress ruins sit on a high prominence, with views in all directions. It was clearly a large castle, but at most a few walls remain. Here's what the downloadable PDF for this nature trail tells us about Szad Castle:

One after the other several fortresses were built in northeastern Hungary (just like in other parts of Hungary) in the second part of the 13th century. After the tartar invasion, King Béla IV. gave an order to build the Szádvár Fortress in the 1250s to be able to protect the Torna region. Later it became the centre of Torna County as well as the most signifi cant fortress with the largest area in north Hungary. The most dangerous and memorable siege of it took place in 1656 when the fortress was defended by Zsófi a Patócsy, the heroic wife of the property owner. According to the order of Lipót Habsburg, it was exploded and demolished in 1685.

From the castle, we circled back down, past a pasture and garden and a small level place where apparently knightly tournaments were held, through more forest, back to Salamander House.

It was now a few minutes before 1pm. We knew the next tour of the caverns for the "intermediate route" that left from the Red Lake, departed at 1pm … and that we would arrive about 1:05pm. And indeed that was the case. Still, we bought our tickets then had a cup of coffee and chatted until it was time to leave.

Despite the fact that 1 April apparently began “high season” – we had two tourguides to ourselves. The tour goes 2.5km underground, starting at the Red Lake and ending near the town of Josvarfo. It was a magnificent tour – amazing and many, many formations. It starts with about 120 steps down, but most of the tour is downhill (a little up to the “observatory, but worth it) and you end with a bus ride back up to the start point. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even if no narration was possible. Both guides spoke some English, and they provided us with a pamphlet in English. We made all of the stops, and the lead guide (who was training the second one) pointed out where we were so we could read the appropriate text … and all of the “fantasy” formations. I'm not quite sure why every cave tour has to tell you what the different formations “look like” … but it's fine. At least it draws your attention to some you might not have otherwise seen.

Around 2:40pm, we were back at our car. We didn't feel like returning to the guesthouse yet, so we looked at the brochure … and decided to walk to the ruins of a monastery. We drove about 15km to reach the town of Martonyi. We then found the small road to … the microwave relay station! Fortunately, has trails, so we found the entrance. It was really another dirt road, but we opted to walk it as it was 1.2km and very pretty. We scared two deer as we walked … and I mean scared!

The monastery seems to be really a single church or chapel. They have begun extensive repairs on the church building itself, but the rest of the buildings are currently piles of rocks. Still, it was very cool to see it. We thought it might start to rain as we returned to the car, but we were almost back to Aggtelek before it began to pour.

Gyro man wasn't around today – and neither were any of his companions! Fortunately, the small convenience store was open, so we bought crackers, cheese, and croissants. (And got cold and almost soaked running from car to the door.) (And w'ere still getting used to saying “Hello” when we leave a place…😉 The back to the guesthouse and the hot tub … while it continued to pour outside.

We worked, read, and journaled until 10pm. Kyla looked up our list of questions on the internet … yay for search engines!

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