Claimed By History
The westernmost portion of Hungary may well be its most beautiful. Hugging the Austrian and Slovenian borders, the Őrség Region is home to timeless villages and a charming landscape of valleys, meadows and forested hills.
If you want to step back in time to experience Hungary the way it was in past centuries, the Őrség region is the place to do it. To get an idea of the rural flavor of this area consider that the Őrség’s main town, Őriszentpéter, has a population of only 1,200. It is not often that a region’s most sizeable settlement can also be termed a village.
Őriszentpéter’s layout is a unique introduction to the Őrség, the people and their history.Groups of houses known as szer are bunched together across nine separate ridges. Szers were constructed by clearing the forested hilltops. This configuration protected these dwellings from flooding in what is the wettest region in Hungary.
Speaking of protection, the name Őrség translated means defense or guard. Following the Magyar conquest, the region’s inhabitants were given the duty of protecting the borderland from Germanic peoples.
For this service, they were exempted from taxation and allowed to elect their own leaders. These special privileges lasted until the 16th century. The inhabitants of the Őrség did not yield easily to the strictures of serfdom.
They retained a proud, defiant attitude for centuries to come.The village is home to many delights that are best experienced with a relaxed stroll. Old thatch roofed peasant homes abound.
Amazingly the wood and thatch material stays together decade after decade despite the fact that much of the material is not even secured by a single nail. Take some time to visit the village’s namesake, the 13th century brick Romanesque St. Peter’s Church.
An external wooden stairway will take you up to a gallery where you can still see faded medieval frescos in its interior. Since the Őrség is known for defense it seems fitting that a defensive moat still surrounds the structure.
It is as though the church and its surroundings have changed little over the past eight centuries. Due to its isolated geographic position the Őrség is the only region in Hungary still populated by the ancestors of its original Magyar inhabitants.
The village’s greatest attraction is the atmosphere of peace and serenity that permeates the area. Őriszentpéter is a place that seems to be permanently claimed by history. Here the modern world does not just seem far away, but hardly to exist at all.
The rich culture of the village is displayed in the folk architecture, pottery and its integration with the natural surroundings. Őriszentpéter takes you to a different world, where nature and history live forever.
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