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Photo Gallery

Welcome to the photo gallery, a continually updated collection of photo contest entries and our personal and visitor photographs.

Come and see the thousand faces of Hungary and the Hungarian culture

Meanings of the word ‘puszta’

The most common meanings of the word ‘puszta’ in Hungarian are: desolate, dreary, barren, treeless flat country. However, it also has a number of associated meanings to it:
  • In a geographical sense, it is most often used to describe the steppe;
  • In an ethno-historical sense, it means uninhabited place;
  • And also the fields once belonging to the city of Debrecen, which were used for extensive animal husbandry and herding.
Photo: mokus – Cattle-watching (Marhalesen)
Photo: mokus

The puszta was most likely created by historic catastrophe (the Tartar invasion), heavy taxes, and epidemics. It is interesting to know that in foreign references ‘puszta’ often means “traditional, typical Hungarian country”. Some expressions referring to the puszta in other languages are: desert (in English), die Pussta (in German), plaine (in French), and puszta (in Polish).

The most famous Hungarian puszta, the Hortobagy

Besides the popular, but lesser known Bugac- and Apaj-, Hortobagy is Hungary’s most renowned puszta, Europe’s most expansive grassland. Shaped by a pastoral society, its plainness is far from boring. The Hortobagy landscape is a colorful habitat for various plant and animal communities on the saline grasslands and loess fields, in the floodplain (riparian) forests, marshes, and the artificial water habitats, the fishponds. These latter bear added significance for the local birdlife, and also for Europe's migrating birds, which rest here on their way south.

Photo: sergeant – Good birds flock together (Sok jo madar egy helyen)
Photo: sergeant

The birds of the Hortobagy are internationally acclaimed. The endangered Great Bustard (Otis tarda; tuzok) has become a symbol of the landscape; the wetlands house Europe’s largest Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia; kanalasgem) population; tens of thousands of migrating Common Cranes (Grus grus; daru/darvak) flock to the Hortobagy wetlands in the fall; and numerous rare bird species nest here, which cannot be found anywhere else on the continent.

In protection of its unique landscape, flora and fauna, Hortobagy National Park was established in 1973 as the first national park in Hungary. Then in 1979 Hortobagy National Park was declared a biosphere-reserve by the UN, and in 1999, the Puszta was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

History and formation of the puszta

When in the 9th century the Magyar tribes arrived to the territory of today’s puszta, they found woodlands and loess fields rich in wild game, and moorlands abundant in fish. The forests and the settlements established in the following centuries by the conquering Hungarians were devastated in the 13th century, during the invasion of Batu Khan’s hordes. The destruction caused by the Tartars burning the woods and the villages was further escalated by epidemics, and the occupation by the Ottoman Empire (1541-1699) also brought wars and disaster on the region.

Photo: mokus – Old John is cooking cowboy soup (Jozsiba slambucot foz)
Photo: mokus

The 17th century saw an upsurge in animal husbandry: herdsmen (csikosok), shepherds (pasztorok), and cowboys (gulyasok) grazed horses, sheep, and gray cattle on the fields. On the long roads connecting two villages or cities, roadhouses (csarda) were built, which operated as news communication centers. One of the still remaining roadhouses, Meggyes csarda now operates as a museum.

The most significant change in the landscape occurred in the mid 19th century, when as part of the Tisza River Water Management Plan, over 100 curvatures of the river were cut off, and the water was enclosed between dams, the drought thus creating a large-scale salination of the land. It is at this time that homestead farming (tanyasodas) becomes popular. The little white houses, the well sweeps named after the spoonbill or the blue heron (gemeskut), the characteristic shops, barns, and sheds necessary for animal husbandry, and the roadhouses awaiting the weary wanderer have become integral parts of the puszta.

Photo: BPart – Homestead (Tanya 1)
Photo: BPart


Where the Land Meets the Sky

Puszta on Wikipedia

Hortobagy National Park on the US National Park Service’s Homepage

Hortobagy National Park Home – English, German, Hungarian