Welcome back Friends, in my new guided tour...today's destination is a small medieval town near Lake Balaton (Plattensee in German) which is the largest lake of Middle-Europe and carries not only small boats but sweet summer memories for many Hungarians (including me). However it's named "poor men's sea" for a long time, nowadays Hungarians and tourists begin to discover its harmony and unique natural scenes again - and nightlife of south beach, too. :) Our tour leads to the more calm and peaceful north side of the lake - let's discover the Tihany Peninsula with its shining jewel, Tihany.
Tihany was inhabited in prehistoric times. Impressive evidence of a Bronze Age settlement is provided by the massive earth-fort in the northeast of the peninsula, which was later also used by the Slavs. Archaeological finds have also confirmed the presence of Celts, Romans and Avars.
The ancient Tihany village was founded in the Middle Ages when King Andrew I. founded here a burial-place for the royal family in 1055 and built a monastery, where Benedictine monks were settled. The monastery's deed of foundation is the oldest Hungarian linguistic record. The grave of the founder of the church is covered by a tombstone ornamented with a carved spiral-notched, long stemmed cross.
The monastery had already been fortified against Mongol attacks as early as the 13th century, and with the advance of the Ottoman armies it was converted into a fort, and monks moved elsewhere. After the withdrawal of the Turks, the Habsburgs razed the building to the ground so that it should not fall into the hands of the insurgents. It was rebuilt between 1719 - 1754, and the two-steeple abbey church became a symbol of Tihany and Hungarian Baroque architecture. A few years ago, the Benedictine monks were again put in charge of the monasetry and the Abbey Museum.
Visitors entering the church are welcomed by the characteristic splendour of Baroque. The frescoes and the furnishings were created by outstanding artists. Though the organ chest is nearly 250 years old, the organ itself is new, providing the opportunity for outstanding summer concerts, featuring highly acclaimed artists both from Hungary and abroad.
When you're in Tihany, there's not only the abbey you must see. There are several attractive traditional houses and cellars in the settlement. It is worth looking at the decoration, inscriptions, plaster ornamentation and verandas. Some of the protected houses are still inhabited, though others are open to visitors. There is also an open-air ethnographic museum with fishermen's guild and pottery, and you can visit lavendula fields, monk's caves and Benedictine Abbey Museum, too.
If you're keen on nature - like me :) - , you won't miss the Inner Lake and Geyser Field inside peninsula. Volcanic activities during the Quaternary geological period resulted in the deposition of calciferous and siliceous slurry into the open which gradually hardened into rock. This explains the formation of the around 200 cones of the Geyser Field. The peninsula's surface is both unique and fascinating, and it's becoming the first landscape protection area of Hungary in 1952.
Sites for more information:
hungarystartshere and planetware
Photo credits: Aginger, Andras Csontos, Elemér Sági, Petr Sedivec, Pablo Boris Debat.