THE SAINT MARTIN PILGRIMAGE ROUTE ON THE GREAT HUNGARIAN PLAIN

 

The Saint Martin Pilgrimage Route on the Great Hungarian Plain connects Kunszentmárton and Tiszapüspöki in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, the two Roman Catholic churches beside the Tisza and Körös rivers dedicated to the veneration of Bishop Saint Martin. The trail is marked with the letters St M for Saint Martin painted in red on a white ground. This is the first cultural route with a trail marking in the county region, it was signposted in 2016, for the 1700th anniversary of the birth of Bishop Saint Martin. There are many settlements and churches in Hungary named after Saint Martin because Martin was born in Savaria, today’s Szombathely.

The route passes through settlements along the Körös and the Tisza, from Kunszentmárton to Tiszapüspöki (Kunszentmárton – Szelevény – Cserkeszőlő – Csépa – Tiszasas – Tiszaug – Tiszakürt – Tiszainoka – Nagyrév – Cibakháza – Tiszaföldvár – Martfű – Kengyel – Szajol – Törökszentmiklós – Tiszapüspöki, and Kunszentmárton – Öcsöd – Mesterszállás – Kunszentmárton); it offers a wide variety of natural, architectural and cultural sights and many opportunities for active recreation.

The route covers a distance of around 100 km, on flat land all the way making it especially suitable for older people and families on excursions with young children. There are no difficult sections on the route. Walkers can start at any point along the route that passes through 18 settlements, and it can be done in stages. Because it runs across flat land it is a good choice for bicycle tourists and some stages can even be covered on horseback. The settlements along the route can be easily reached by car, bus or train. The pilgrim cards can be stamped at the local authority offices or in the churches.

 

Natural sights

 

The route passes along levees, through plough lands, fields, vineyards, forests and beside the rivers. The patches of open woodland, streams, ponds and lakes and the backwaters of bigger rivers add great variety to the landscape. The arboretum in Tiszakürt is especially beautiful. Visitors can see and admire the very rich flora in this natural environment, delight in the waterfowl and if they are lucky, they can also catch a glimpse of small game: roe deer, hares and pheasants. Hunting is a big attraction here.

The sight of the rivers is beautiful in itself. A unique attraction of this region is the “flowering” of the rivers. Every year in late June or early July hundreds of thousands of long-tailed mayflies crawl out of the mud along the riverbanks, spend the few hours of their life mating and then die.

In the old days many fishermen made a living from the Körös and Tisza rivers. Now angling has become a hobby. Everywhere there are angling associations and fishing waters rich in fish. There are opportunities everywhere for fishing and, after the required organisation, even for hunting.

The region is largely agricultural; small industrial plants are found in only a few settlements. The flour-milling industry is based on arable farming. A few of the old windmills can still be seen here and there. Sheep and cattle, especially the “Hungarian grey cattle” are the main animals seen grazing. Grapes and fruit are grown on the sandy outcrop in the centre of the region. 

 

Special Features of the nutrition culture

 

The distinctive nutrition culture of the region has been and still is based on these products. Besides fish dishes, birkapörkölt (mutton stew) is popular; csíramálé rich in vitamins is made from crushed wheat sprouts and baked, wheat flour is used to make bodag (a puff pastry with pork crackling and pepper), barátfüle is a pastry filled with plum jam. Both jam and brandy are made from the local fruits. Famous brandy distilleries and wineries are found all along the route.

 

Tangible and intangible heritage, cultural values

 

The settlements in the region were repopulated in the early 18th century after the long years of Ottoman Turkish occupation. Some original inhabitants returned, but many settlers also came from what was Upper Hungary at that time. As a consequence of internal migration we find here former serf villages, settlements inhabited by members of the minor nobility, market towns and small towns. The architectural culture of these settlements differs. The places of worship of the religiously mixed Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran and Jewish population were built in the 18th to 20th centuries. Some are listed historic buildings. Many wayside crosses and statues can be seen, especially in the streets and fields of the Catholic settlements.

Most of the settlements have a village museum showing the old way of life, and the three larger towns have their own museums (Kunszentmárton, Tiszaföldvár, Törökszentmiklós). The museum of geography in Tiszaföldvár presents the natural values of the region and the permanent exhibition in the Kunszentmárton museum preserves old tradesmen’s workshops from the region and material relics of traditional peasant culture.

 

Sport, amusements

 

Walkers can stop to rest at bathing beaches in many places beside the Tisza and the Körös rivers, cycle or ride on horseback along the levees, and stroll around the inner areas of settlements. There are also thermal baths in several places (Cserkeszőlő, Tiszaföldvár, Martfű).

 

Accommodation and meals

 

Reservations can be made for accommodation and hot meals at many places along the cultural route. The pilgrim’s card/walker’s card can be obtained in Kunszentmárton, in the information office of the Saint Martin’s Parish Visitor Centre. Information on all other details of the Saint Martin Route can also be obtained here. A detailed guidebook covering the natural and cultural sights as well as the services (shops, restaurants, pharmacies, etc.) is to be published soon.

 

 

Recommendation

 

We recommend the Saint Martin Great Plain Pilgrimage Route to the attention of all those in Hungary and abroad who seek peace for the soul, who would like to withdraw from the bustle of everyday life for a few days, who are able to find delight in the beauty of the riverside landscape, and who want to learn about the cultural heritage left to us by our predecessors. Or who would simply like to spend a few days angling, riding or hunting, who like walking, cycling or horseback riding. We can also warmly recommend the easy terrains of the plains to members of the older generation and families with young children.

 

Contact:

Saint Martin Foundation, Visitor Centre

H-5440 Kunszentmárton, Köztársaság tér 3, Hungary

Kovácsné Szabó Katalin sze.pleb@gmail.com

Tel.: +36-70-554 6005 (Hungarian only!)

 

Gábor Barna 

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