Rise and shine! My morning began very early on the day I had planned to visit Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park in Hungary. The neighbor’s rooster “went off” at 4:30 am at dawn’s first light so I got up and prepared for the day. The hotel’s cook-to-order breakfast was a wonderful start to a day I knew would include a significant amount of walking in the large park.
My primary reason for wanting to visit this specific park was to explore more about Hungarian history, specifically Arpad. The park is located on the grounds where the Magyar chiefs founded Hungary in 896. I also was interested in several other facets about this place.
The small village of Ópusztaszer is about 2 hours south of Budapest by train and then by bus. The village has one very good and reasonably priced restaurant (which may be closed when it advertises to be open), two bars, a bakery, and a grocery store about half the size of a 7-Eleven in the USA. Each weekday morning a van arrives selling fresh meat and cheese. This is a farming area similar to the “plains states” in the USA.
The Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park is big. For me, the principle attraction is the monument constructed in 1896 as a 1000 year anniversary memorial to Arpad. The park is a favorite field trip for school kids as well to learn more about their heritage.
In 896 Arpad led the seven Magyar chieftains to conquer the inhabitants of the Carpathian Basin. In doing so they claimed an area larger than modern-day Hungary. Over the years the park has also become home to a grand building housing the huge 15m by 120m circular Feszty Panorama (see photo) called “Arrival of the Hungarians.” It was created in 1894 to also celebrate the millennium.
It was decided in the 1970’s that Ópusztaszer was going to be expanded. While the Arpad memorials remain central, the park now provides much more about the nation’s heritage. A park brochure explains that “it is the place where all Hungarians can turn to in order to strengthen their national identity, to remember and preserve their history, culture, and traditions.”
In some ways, the park is an outdoor museum that continues to evolve. More than just the founding of Hungary occurred here. The fierce, nomadic Cuman population, considered to be pagans in Catholic Hungary made peace with each other here.
The grounds at Ópusztaszer are also a sacred place where once stood a large Catholic cathedral. During the Ottoman invasion of Hungary in the 16th century the cathedral along with most of the Christian churches and memorials in Hungary were destroyed. Today, the cathedral is also remembered by its ruins.
The park also maintains buildings relocated from other parts of Hungary as an historic ethnographic museum similar those one may see in the USA (see photos below)
There are archaeological digs in the park and many other exhibits depicting the historical roots of present day Hungary. The day at the park was well worth the time.
The history of this nation and the trials through invasions by Monguls, Ottomans, Nazi’s and Soviets have left their marks on Hungary but through this park you can find the determination for Hungarians to remember their heritage as they move forward to the future.