Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings, Hungary

A living example of rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century

World Heritage site (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Hollókő is a small village in Northern Hungary which was granted World Heritage status in 1987 as the country’s only living example of a perfectly preserved settlement from the last century, where long-gone traditional forms of rural life are maintained to this day.

Old village of Hollókő (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

The story of Hollókő began in the 13th century, when the castle which towers above the village was built in response to the Mongol invasion of the mid 1200’s. The first written record of the village itself dates back to the 14th century and makes reference to the village church.

Castle of Hollókő (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Although, in reality, the castle of Hollókő was built as part of the wave of stone-castle construction that spread across Hungary following invasion by the Mongols, there is a romantic legend attached to the castle that some people today still believe to be true.

Castle by night (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

According to the legend, a lord kidnapped the beautiful wife of a neighbouring squire and imprisoned her in the castle which he was building. However, the woman’s nurse was a witch and, in a pact with the devil, she convinced him to turn his sons into ravens. 

The legend (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

The ravens flew to the castle and began to take it apart, stone by stone, until the woman was able to escape. The stolen stones were used to build a new castle on a nearby rock. The castle, and consequently the village, was named Hollókő, which in Hungarian means “raven stone”.

End of the Ottoman era (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

The castle was abandoned at the end of the Ottoman era (which came in 1683), as was the original village which it had served to protect. The present village was then established, slightly lower down the hill, by Palócz petty nobility from Upper Hungary. 

Originally a one-street village (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Though a second street did develop later on, Hollókő was originally a one-street village, typical of the area. The first generation of inhabitants settled on either side of the street, with subsequent generations building their houses at the back of the narrow family plot.

Traditional Palócz architecture (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Traditional Palócz architecture made use of wood and straw. As a result, the village was repeatedly ravaged by fire and had to be rebuilt numerous times. Eventually, wood and thatched roofs were replaced by mud bricks and tiles, and the houses were built on a stone base.

Palócz building (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Despite this, the buildings retain traditional Palócz folk architectural forms, and the ‘new’ old village, which was rebuilt for the final time in 1911 after the last big fire, today maintains the atmosphere of the village of that time.

Hollókő (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Inevitably, the furnishings and fittings of these turn-of-the-century homes have been modernised somewhat, however the actual rooms and outbuildings have remained unchanged, and continue to fulfill their original functions to this day.

Traditional forms of rural life (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

These unique architectural marvels are not the only amazing feature of Hollókő: the village provides an accurate representation of how people in Hungarian villages lived at the turn of the 20th century, of their traditional farming methods and of living folk culture.

Urbanisation (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

As a result of urbanisation, many Hungarian ethnic groups began to abandon their typical regional folk costumes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For the Palócz, and in Hollókő in particular, this process only began in the 1960s and, even then, very gradually.

Palócz rural architecture (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Typically, villagers wouldn’t go to larger towns and cities to work, meaning that their ancient culture has been sheltered and preserved, although the village does, of course, have paved roads, electricity and the Internet.

Living traditions (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

The current 400, mostly pension-age residents still observe the traditions of their culture, and on festive occasions, for example at Easter, which they consider to be particularly important, even the few young people who live in the village dress in traditional Palócz attire.

Easter customs (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

One of Hollókő's best-known Easter customs is sprinkling, when men soak unmarried girls with buckets of cold well water. According to legend, fresh Easter well water preserves beauty and fertility.

Sprinkling (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Previously, only water was used for sprinkling, but nowadays this custom has changed and men often carry perfume and cologne with them instead. Hollókő is one of the last places in Hungary where young people are still sprinkled with water in keeping with the old tradition.

Easter activities (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

At Easter, villagers also take part in egg painting, and they eat Hungarian ham and other Palócz gastronomical specialties. There are special activities for small children, as well as concerts and performances which guarantee a festive atmosphere for adults.

Exhibitions (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

Hollókő is constantly working to preserve its traditional values and to show them to the whole world. Ethnographic exhibitions and folk craft workshops have been set up in many of the village’s old buildings with the aim of preserving the its culture for posterity.

Gastronomy Experience Center (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

The legendary Hollókő castle has been renovated, and interactive exhibitions and the exciting adventure of an escape room recall the history of the village. In addition, Palócz traditions are commemorated at the Gastronomy Experience Center.

Voluntary conservation (1987) by Old Village of Hollókő and its SurroundingsUNESCO World Heritage

With its spectacular surroundings and the traditional culture that is part of its past, present and, undoubtedly, its future, Hollókő is a real gem, a living community that provides an exceptional and maybe unique example of the voluntary conservation of a traditional village.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the Hungarian Tourism Agency: visithungary.com
 
More on the Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/401

Photos: Hungarian Tourism Agency

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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