Hortobágy National Park - the Puszta
Inscribed on the World Heritage List: 1999
The territory of the Hortobágy National Park of about 81 thousand hectares is situated on a large plain and presents a unique example of the harmonic interaction of man and nature, manifested in keeping livestock adapted to the natural environment (saline pastures, steppes, meadows and wetlands).
The unbroken horizon of the Puszta is only rarely interrupted by trees or clumps of trees, line facilities or settlements. Roadside inns, called “csárda”, bridges and shepherds’ facilities fit harmonically into the seemingly monotonous landscape. The trees, burial mounds (“kurgán”) and shaduf wells (“gémeskút”) sparsely scattered on the infinite horizon, as well as the “csárdas” and bridges built in the 18th and 19th centuries also contribute to the distinct feature of the cultural landscape. For the most part, the Puszta is still uninhabited, but, preserving pastoral and social traditions, in the period from April to October several hundred animal keepers graze their grey cattle herds, Racka sheep flocks or horses on the grassland. The plain dominated by saline soils and grassland acquired its present profile by the end of the Ice Age, when River Tisza, appeared in its current riverbed, and thus cut it off from the Northern water catchment areas.
The presence of man in the region can be proved since the early Stone Age. The 1 to 9 meter-high burial mounds, “kurgáns” (also called Kunhalmok in the vernacular) contain artefacts predominantly from the Copper and Bronze Ages. As a result of historic and social processes culminating by the end of the 16th century, the Puszta, sparsely populated in the Middle Ages and presumably used for extensive grazing, became – for the most part – uninhabited. The existence of former settlements can only be witnessed through a few church ruins. Mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries, “csárdas”, typical of this cultural landscape were built along trading routes across the uninhabited plains, at every 10 to 12 kilometres – at a distance of changing horses, so to speak –, as well as a number of bridges, the most famous of them being the Nine-Arch Bridge built in 1827, one of the symbols of Hortobágy.
The most typical natural habitats of present-day Hortobágy are saline pastures, meadows and marshlands which occur mosaic-like – according to the various micro-configurations of the terrain, soil and hydrology conditions –, sometimes with loess land in between. In spring and autumn, the special wildlife habitat offered by the Puszta is a site of European significance for the roosting and migration of water fowl. The largest flock of spoonbills is to be found here, as well as domestic species of herons, egrets, ibis, cormorants and a number of songbirds. The hundreds of thousands of cranes and wild geese migrating through Hungary take a rest here twice a year, offering a spectacle of international fame for birdwatchers.
World Heritage Management Body: Hortobágy National Park Directorate
Contact: Zsuzsanna Tolnay, heritage coordinator
Address: P.O.Box 216, 4002 Debrecen, Hungary
Telephone: +36 52 529 920
Fax: +36 52 529 940