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Home, Home on the Puszta

08
November
2012
 

When you think of Hungary you may not think of wide open spaces but just as Russia has its Steppes, Argentina its Pampas and America its prairie, Hungary has its Puszta which translates as “empty, bare grassy plain”. This great plain stretches from the Danube to the Eastern border and, with a land mass larger than Holland takes up about a third of the country.

As with all plains it is home to horses and expert riders and this has led to the development of tourist areas close enough to Budapest to make an ideal day trip from the capital. While there may be a little Branson about the venues there is no denying the skill of the horsemen or the thrills to be had in watching their performances. Many people are thrilled to visit the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to see the famed Lipizzaner stallions and assume that the horses are Austrian but they are actually from the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the breeding areas are on the Puszta.

A day trip to the Puszta could start with a scenic drive to the town of Kecskemet which represents the northern city of the plain while Szeged is the southern city. It is equidistant between Budapest and Szeged and also sits between the country’s two major rivers of the Danube and the Tisza giving it a central location. Since it was spared the worst of the attacks by Tartars and Turks in days gone by the city has a large amount of charm and is worth the investment of some time to admire its architecture particularly from the Art Deco period between the two world wars.

 After your visit you continue to the village of Lajosmizse to the Gypsy village of Tanyacsarda. Upon arrival you are offered traditional hot scones and a shot of the local brandy to set you up for the festivities ahead. You have a chance to wander through the Gypsy village before boarding a horse drawn carriage for a ride on to the Puszta to experience its vastness where the flat plains are dotted with the t shaped wells continually pulling up water for the local livestock.

 Returning to the village you take your seat in the outdoor arena and the show gets underway starting out with a parade of the magnificent Lipizzaners. You get to see skilled riders drive a coach and five and complete an obstacle course with a coach and four.   Other displays of horsemanship and skill with the whip are also exhibited and this part gets dangerously close to Branson and Orlando. Despite this the horses and the riders’ skills more than compensate

After the show you walk to a nearby tavern for a filling and authentic meal washed down by Hungarian wine. Adding to the ambiance are a  spirited group of Gypsy violinists whose dexterity and musical talent grow in proportion to the amount of Hungarian wine consumed both by them and you.

 After the lengthy lunch it is time to return to Budapest by a different route giving you a drive through dunes of sand, waterways lined with reeds, vast stretches of grass and tiny farms set among rolling fields of wheat. As you return to the outskirts of the city you will look back on the day as one of scenic contrasts, magnificent animals and warmth from the people rising above the mantle of tourism.