Basalt cliffs, wine terraces and Muses’ kisses

Badacsony. Our peculiar-shaped butte brings up a great deal of positive associations in our minds: a holiday at Lake Balaton, the taste of Badacsony wines (kéknyelű, szürkebarát), a joyful compotation with crackling cones, a walk on the mountainside covered with vine-plants, a tour among the basalt cliffs. All these will be evoked during a virtual trip on the slopes of Badacsony in our current exhibition.


The volcanic hill heightens between two bays of Lake Balaton to 438 metres. It is an excellent vine-bearing area and wine country due to the volcanic characteristics and the quality of the soil. According to certain sources, even the Celts grew vine on the Badacsony in the 4th century B.C. History science mentions Roman Cesar Probus (276-282) as the domesticator of Pannonian viticulture.

The first written appearance of the name Badacsony remained from 1263: the registry book of Bishop of Veszprém Pál Széchy’s visit calls the mountain Bodochun. But the origin of the name is unknown.


Sándor Kisfaludy and Róza Szegedy

The Badacsony was the scene of several legendary events, including one of the most famous romances of literary history: poet Sándor Kisfaludy (a leader of the language reform) and his future wife Róza Szegedy fell in love there – but their relationship was rather rhapsodical until their marriage. The handsome young guard Sándor and the beautiful Róza, who was adored by many, had already known one another and bantered as well. They confessed their feelings at a vine-harvest on the Badacsony and on a trip to Szigliget. Later, the girl became not only the wife but also the Muse of the poet; the Róza-love inspired the ‘Himfy poems’ too.


One of the most famous buildings of the town Badacsony is the Szegedy Róza House – a museum presently. It was built by her parents, magistrate and sub-prefect Ignác Szegedy and Katalin Rosty at the end of the 18th century. Their land on Badacsony served for grape-growing and the building was the accommodation of the family during summers and vintages. The Kisfaludy House, the poet’s press-house, is not far from it. It has been functioning as a restaurant with a wonderful panorama to the Balaton for a long while. A bit higher above that, you can find the Rose Stone – named after Róza. The legend says: if a lass and a lad sit on the flat basalt stone, they are going to get married soon.

Tales, legends, wonders


Károly Eötvös, a writer, a lawyer and a member of the Parliament was also a great tale-teller of stories about Lake Balaton. His string of narratives Utazás a Balaton körül (1901) and anecdote collection A balatoni utazás vége with historical, cultural historical background can be defined also as a travel diary, because he enriched the stories with so spectacular landscape descriptions. He wrote about the Badacsony as well.


‘Iron Gate! It is an odd name. Maybe even Herodotus knew an Iron Gate. Porta ferrea was a common noun as early as in the antiquity. The Asian Turanians also know the Demir Gate. There is an Iron Gate towards the Syrian Desert too. There is one in the Caucasus, one on the Balkan Peninsula and one on the Lower-Danube. I know one in the Bakony Mountains in the Nagy-Esztergári frontier, and see, there is one on the top of the Badacsony. The road narrows between two steep cliffs: this is called an Iron Gate everywhere in the world. Why is it a gate? Why is it iron? As these narrows have never seen a gate or iron. The ingenuous vine-cultivator from Badacsony did not read Herodotus’ book in original nor in translation. In addition, he never heard about him. Two giant basalt towers hardly four-five metres far from each other: it is the Iron Gate of Badacsony.’


The typical stone cross, called Ranolder cross can be found atop Badacsony hill. Allegedly, its parts were hauled up to almost 400 metres highness by 40 buffalos. It is covered by trees mostly, but from the stone cross you can see a unique panorama. The cliff below that is called Harangozó Börc (Chiming Crag), because it sounds like a bell when you hit it.

‘The Cross stands on the southern edge of the plateau, just opposite Fonyód. A huge crucifix erected from rectangular carved stones. In order that travellers can see it from the coast and sailors can see it from the water. And so when they look up to the mountain, they can remember that beyond the crag, the cliff and the peak, above the sky, the earth and above all highness there is another highness, the real one: the Saviour. Bishop János had the Cross built and he consecrated it personally. It was stood there on the Chiming Crag.’

A gloomy legend is linked to the Chiming Crag, focusing on the ancient topic of fratricide and in which the toll of Chiming Crag dispenses justice. You can read the story in Eötvös’s book – together with other legends about Balaton.


We finish our exhibition with Eötvös’s words who admires the view from the top of Badacsony like this: ‘From the chiming cliff we walked on to the western edge of the plateau. The field is already smooth and grassy here. From here, you can see that mountain range starting at the coast of Balaton at Dragon Forest and goes towards Rezi Castle, Tátika, Szentgyörgy and Sümeg. Until Ság Mountain, Kemenesalja and the worshipful figure of Somlyó Mountain. The rays of the rising sun overclothed with splendour the whole valley of Szigliget and the glorious beauties of the far distance.’


Translated by Zita Aknai


Jankó János: A Balaton tudományos tanulmányozásának eredményei III. kötet - A Balaton környékének társadalmi és embertani földrajza. Budapest. Magyar Földrajzi Társaság Balaton-Bizottsága, 1902

Kisfaludy Sándor: Kisfaludy Sándor összes költeményei. Budapest. Arcanum, 1998. Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár

Eötvös Károly: Balatoni utazás. Budapest. Neumann Kht., 2004. Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár


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