Home Uncategorized Taking my Hat off to Hatvan Hungary

Taking my Hat off to Hatvan Hungary

by Roberto
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A travel diary about getting it wrong

Sometimes travel is what you expected, and sometimes it isn’t. Often you expect the world of somewhere, and it disappoints. Then there are others you want to avoid like the plague, but can’t figure out why when you get there. One such place is Hatvan Hungary.

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The Easter celebrations in Holloko were a must for us on our recent trip and after reading up on the weekend’s festivities, the plan was hatched to find accommodation the night before, to make the most of that Easter Sunday. But we left it a little late and all was booked up. A thorough search found the only place nearby with accommodation was Hatvan some thirty kilometres away. It was a place we had driven through the outskirts of before and at that time I thought I would prefer never to come back there again.

Want to see how our trip went to Holloko went? Its the best reason to visit Hungary at easter. More at my blog here.

What is this Hatvan in Hungary place all about?

And yet return I now would. So I made the decision to go there as late as possible, as even Google said there was nothing to be found there. TripAdvisor listed one thing to do there. One. Thing.  Could a town even have that little to do? The castle I found in the nearby village of Tura, Schossberger Castle was closed for years now for restoration. Hatvan is the Hungarian word for sixty, and from what I understood it was so called based on its distance from Budapest. Who calls a place after a number. Maybe number one, but why sixty. Sounds like the kind of place that the best thing in it is the road out of it.

The day of our trip arrived and as there was five of us travelling, I was outvoted and we left early for Hatvan. Fans of taking mum along will be happy to hear that Beata’s mum and dad came with us. So now I was faced with a day spent in a town that I really didn’t want to be. What to do? Desperately I scanned our route to Hatvan in search of respite from boredom. Surely there was somewhere where my unquenchable hunger for history and culture could be satiated.


Hope came in a number of forms.

The town of Polgar had an Archaeopark, an open air museum showcasing village life, buildings and culture. Perfect. Until we arrived and it was closed. Not just for Easter, it’s doors shut for the final time in 2017. Bit late for that so.


More hope lay in the town of Mezokovesed. A bigger proposition, it contained an area called the Hadas District. This is a district which embraces old Hungarian traditions. I deemed it worth a look. On this Saturday, with all its Easter connections, much of the town was closed, and it was a still, quiet place. Easter is celebrated widely in Hungary, and one consequence is you can’t celebrate while working. So for four days towns become ghostly, and homes are the centre of attention.

Mezokovesed as a town was completely destroyed three times over the centuries over the past near 1000 years, by the Mongols, Turks and feuding locals. The current town is from 1784. Our first stroll through the streets didn’t impress. The Catholic Church (closed) could possibly have offered something. The Matyo Museum exhibits include handcrafts of the local people of the same name, but one look inside suggested I wasn’t the captive audience. Across the nearby park the Bardos Lajos Tagiskola a concrete building showed promise. The walls are decorated by graffiti, some of it damaged, but nonetheless offering a glimpse into life in the area. They only date from the 1950’s but look like they could adorn the side of a Roman villa, but don’t seem to have any historical significance.

Mezokovesed Catholic Church
Mezokovesed Catholic Church
Same church different angle
Matyo Museum Mezokovesed
Matyo Museum Mezokovesed
Bardos Lajos Tagiskola
Promising art on the local school

Hadas District

The towns main attraction is the Hadas District, a collection of Matyo homes, dating from the 19th century. They are maintained in that style. The cottages are an exhibit of the crafts that are indigenous to the local people’s such as furniture painting, embroidery, potters and glass cutters. My first impression was an impressed one. Some of the crafts have been practiced here for over 250 years, and the thatched cottages were all quite beautiful. But as it turned out many of the cottages were closed (again), and the area didn’t escape the trap of commercialism. Twenty minutes was enough to happily traverse the streets and realise that it was somewhat limited.

Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Some of the thatched houses of the Hadas District
Hadas District Mezokovesed
Local craft of furniture painting

An ice cream later we were back in the car. Mezokovesed would not prove the answer to a fulfilling afternoon. Hatvan beckoned us despite my reluctance. Further along the motorway signs for Gyongyos, another town I had briefly traversed in the past, and after posing the question if anyone was hungry (I know I was) I was given one more hope other than Hatvan.

We could of course have ventured to Eger, which is my favourite city in Hungary. But its a place for a weekend not an afternoon. Be sure to check out Hungary’s most beautiful city in my blog.

Putting my last hope in Gyongyos

I drove through Gyongyos and after finding myself leaving the town centre as quickly as I drove into it, the old question was posed- is this really where I want to spend my afternoon? Trip advisor pointed us to a good pizzeria, called Casa Valeria on Pater Kis Szalez u. and that was superb.

Casa Valeria, Gyongyos, Hungary
Casa Valeria Pizza

The town has an intriguing narrow gauge railway that travels up to the Matra mountains, which I visited last year on a day trip but the timings were a little random today, so that was a non runner. Maybe another victim of Easter. The nearby Szent Betaltan templom Kincstara caught my eye on my town drive by, so I set off to see alone while the others relaxed in a park. I got there, to find it (yes you guessed it) closed. The gods were not with me today.

Hungary is hardly famous for its road trips but one of the best cuts through the Matra Mountains. From cave houses, vineyards, castles, to salt terraces, its a fascinating drive.

Szent Betaltan templom Kincstara, Gyongyos
The unsurprisingly closed church

So Hatvan it was to be

I resigned myself to the fact. We arrived in Hatvan around 4pm and as we approached our guesthouse I thought to myself, you know what, this doesn’t look as bad as I expected. An inviting church caught my eye. The guesthouse, the SOS Motel was unusual as the rooms were located in the top floor of a car dealership. The standard was good though and it was equipped with full kitchen facilities, a communal sitting room and complimentary breakfast.

My travel companions were happy to relax and Beatas mum got to watch her show on TV, so I ventured back out to explore alone. I do most of my best exploring alone anyway. Despite knowing the castle was closed in Tura, I drove down there anyway, to tease myself with what I missed as much as anything. The Schossberger castle is built in the romantic neo-Renaissance style in 1883, but had fallen into neglect over the years. If had a haunting appearance before its closure, as it was an empty shell. It was also said to be dangerous though, as much as I like being around castles, I don’t like them being down around me. Now it’s a building site with only glimpses of it past diggers and trees to be appreciated. When it reopens it’s going on my must see agenda for Hungary, whatever form it may take.

Schossberger castle, Tura, Hungary
I can just about see a castle

A church that caught my eye

My curiosity somewhat perked by that inviting church, I returned there. The Szent Istvan Király Templom has an attractive yellow exterior, with a single bell tower on one side. After some humming and hawing whether to go in (there were 2 cleaners outside and I wasn’t sure if they had just left the door open) I walked in. Finally I was somewhere worthy of my attentions. The church itself was small but it’s ceiling art was astounding and a credit to its artists.

Szent Istvan Király Templom, Hatvan
Szent Istvan Király Templom, Hatvan
Szent Istvan Király Templom, Hatvan
Szent Istvan Király Templom, Hatvan
Szent Istvan Király Templom, Hatvan
Impressive artwork of the church

But who painted it, when was it built and why was such a church not accredited as being somewhere worthy of a tourists attention? I cannot say and nor could I ascertain any information on the place.

So what if…?

If such a church with gorgeous art could be overlooked then what else could be. Back in my car I took the overpass that lead to the town centre. Again much to my surprise the town had an affluent and well maintained feel to it. A mysterious tower, part of the bus station stood to my right (I would never discover what that was either).

Hatvan bus station
Mysterious tower at the bus station

The town centre welcomed me with the large sight of the large Grassalkovich Mansion to my left. The mansion, built by the family of the same name in the 1750’s, as a castle of sorts, was added to over the years, before looting and damage took its toll in World War II. As repairs helped it gain some of its former grandeur, the decision was made for a national hunting museum to be housed inside. A hunting museum might not always entice me, but the building had a grace, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it. Would. Were it not past 5pm and I had spent my day looking for better pastures.

Grassalkovich Mansion, Hatvan
Grassalkovich Mansion and hunting museum

Hatvan Town Centre

Speaking of pastures, the beautiful park across from the mansion, would be a cows idea if heaven. Green and lush it formed the centre of the town, a focal point for locals and tourists alike. The Hatvany Lagos Museum, a celebration of local culture, formed one side. The museum also came complete with its own brewery, the products of which can be enjoyed in the museum. Not many museums like that, and I missed it.

Hatvany Lagos Museum, Hatvan
Hatvany Lagos Museum- a museum with beer

Oh what had I done? Why oh why was I not made aware of all this before I set out on my journey. For once my over dependence on the internet for information had failed me. Sometimes travelling into the unknown and embracing it gives more reward than clutching at the straws of what you think you know.

The Szent Adalbert Catholic Church stood along another side of this elegant town park, another feature of the town I would happily explore. Beyond the 200 year old Town Hall’s architecture was the final nail in my thoughts that I know better. I thought that I was a seasoned traveler but maybe it’s is I who is just well seasoned. Has the imagination and adventure of my youth departed?

Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Szent Adalbert Catholic Church

More surprises

A little taken aback I returned to the hotel. Or at least I tried. I was distracted by that tower at the bus station, and pulled in for a nosey. The distractions didn’t stop there, I was excited to discover a castle on the way in. A derelict shell, the haunting castle stood enclosed behind fencing, now a ghost of its former self. Kristaly Kastely only dates from 1906, but it’s life saw it spend time as a kindergarten, sugar factory and a hotel. Now it’s stands as a stark reminder of passing time, and a mere ghost on google maps.

Kristaly Kastely, Hatvan
Kristaly Kastely- how haunted does this look?
Google maps
Seriously Google Maps? What is this.

I had time to capture a sunset before returning to our motel. Sunsets- just one more thing Hatvan can add to it’s unexpected repertoire.

Sunset in Hatvan
Sunset in Hatvan
A surprising sunset

An evening in Hatvan

With my tail between my legs I returned to the motel, where no one really cared about my mistakes as they had enjoyed the day anyway. Everyone was still stuffed from their earlier pizzas, and still had leftovers, except Beata and I, who could eat all day and still be hungry. Se we ventured our for a dinner alone, which was a refreshing change on this vacation. Udvarhaz Vendeglo rated well as a good restaurant, so we took a drive there and parked in the free spacing nearby. It was down a dim lit street, but the space and food offering was a delight. Both of us opted for chicken, mine a thigh with spicy sauce. It was perfect.

Udvarhaz Vendeglo Hatvan
Udvarhaz Vendeglo Hatvan
Scrumptious Dinner

The Best Easter Surprise

I kept going on about the nearby town centre to Beata, so with night having already fallen we took a spin into the town. Again Hatvan gave me an unexpected surprise. The Szent Adalbert Catholic Church was commemorating Easter, and our intrigue was heightened by the banners and lamp bearers outside. We had stumbled onto their Easter vigil mass, complete with procession.  It was a beautiful sight as it left the church and completed a full circle of it before returning inside. I’m not religious but the clanging of bells, soft hymns and soothing candle light of the congregation filled my soul. Hatvan had won its place in my heart.

Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Clips of the procession from the church


Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
Szent Adalbert Catholic Church, Hatvan
The Church’s interior wasn’t without its charms too

Hatvan I take my hat off to you. As a reminder that we shouldn’t forget the smaller towns, the ones that don’t present as a destination. Sometimes they bring the greatest joy. Take your head up from the map, it was only ever meant to guide us, and forge your own journey. Hatvan is testament to that. Now I need to return someday and appreciate it.

Go forth and find your own Hatvan.

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