Author: Dániel Ercsey
Let’s start with Somló, the hat that God left behind, where steep vineyard roads lead past old press houses and wonderful little chapels and where there is a place, a small shop and guest house, on the hillside, where they know everything, and I mean really everything, about the hill, the people who work on it and, of course, the wines. The Kitaibel nature trail leads you through the sights of the Somló Landscape Protection Area. But, if you want to enjoy a really authentic experience, you should come to the hill during the Night Cellar Tour.
You can relax the next day, then have lunch at the bottom of the hill, in the region’s most modern winery, where you can sip sparkling wine with your food, and continue to plan your trip around Somló. For example, you can climb up to the ruined castle and lookout at the top of the hill. You can either drive over to Kissomlyó to taste wine or just take a dip in the beach-like pools of the Borgát thermal baths. You could also head to Egyházashetye, where the birthplace of poet Dániel Berzsenyi has now been converted into a museum.
Few people know it, but Celldömölk also belongs to the wine district, more precisely to Ság Hill, which stands alone next to it. The town also warrants a full-day’s visit, as its old town is really beautiful, while the framework of the Parish Church of the Virgin Mary boasts Dorfmeister frescoes. Moreover, there is the Kemenes Volcano Park, with perhaps the most informative display in the country. If you get tired of visiting museums, volcanoes and churches, then you can head to the Volcano Thermal and Leisure Spa to relax!
Speaking of spas, if you like quiet places, you should also take a look around the neighbouring town of Mester, as there is also a thermal bath.
For lovers of motorsport, near to Celldömölk, more precisely near Ság Hill, the Pannonia Ring beats its heart on Orstffyasszonyfa. It’s also not far to the Sárvár Thermal Bath and the Nádasdy Castle, while neighbouring Csönge is famous as the birthplace of Sándor Weöres. His birthplace is now a museum. You can head back from here towards Somló via Pápa. There’s everything you could wish for here: an exhibition of the mill industry, Ezterházy Chateau, a thermal bath (called Várkertfürdő), an indigo dying museum, the Pannonia Reformata Museum and an intact synagogue. Nearby Bakony is an appealing excursion destination, but you can also spend an entire day in the Sobri Jóska Adventure Park on the outskirts of Városlőd.
When there are clear night skies, you could visit the Pannon Csillagda in the depths of the Bakony. It is perhaps the most modern planetarium in Hungary, and you can scan infinity through a telescope. Even in bad weather, it’s worth visiting its exhibitions, although it’s better to come during the day then. You could take a tour of nearby Zirc, where the Cisterican Abbey Visitor Centre houses an exhibition of church history, the historic Cistercian library, the wonderful basilica and even the arboretum.
The Porcelanium Visitor Centre in Herend is open to visitors all year round, offering a glimpse into the mysteries of porcelain making; you can even have a go at porcelain painting yourself. After the visit, pop into the café or restaurant for some refreshment. Ajka is not too far away and is worth a visit for its mining museum, where you can learn about the historical and technical monuments of coal mining in Ajka at an open-air exhibition. Last but not least, one of the sights in the Bakony-Balaton Geopark, the Úrkút primeval karst, which won the Geological Value of the Year award in 2013, deserves a mention. The route of the National Blue Tour also takes you past some interesting sights.
Somló Hill rises on the border of the Marcal Basin, while other parts of the wine district extend into Kemenesalja, where there are perhaps several typical dishes, so we mostly consider the region from here. One well-known dish from the area is venison stew with chanterelles, with which, if you absolutely must serve wine, we’d recommend a Somló red wine, a real rarity. Pasta with curd cheese from Kemeneskápolna, or a casual meat and potato stew, which is also made here by producers, would be much better accompanied by the wine district’s typical white wines, which can often age for decades. The number of players on the food scene is limited here, in one of the smallest wine districts in Hungary. So if you want a restaurant, you’d do best to look for one in Celldömölk or nearby Ajka. There is also a restaurant in Somló, at the Kreinbacher Estate, where in addition to the wines from the hill and the estate, you can also taste the winery’s sparkling wine and try enticing dishes like scallops with pork belly, chilli and green apple or coconut chicken soup with ginger and lime. You can also book a wine dinner in the restaurant, and there is even accommodation on the estate, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to get home or someone having to sacrifice themselves as designated driver. Hungary’s answer to trifle, Somlói galuska, contrary to its name, has no connection with the hill, or at least not to this one, but is rather connected to Somlyó in Fót.
It is difficult to highlight any festival in particular for Somló, as the hill itself, “God’s forgotten hat”, is something to constantly hike around and gaze at. Although small, the wine district is more than just one hill, there is also Kissomlyó and Ság Hill, as well as the nearby town of Ajka, which hosts the Somló Wine and Rösti Festival in May, with the name Borvarázs. One of the summer’s most exciting events is the Somló Night Cellar Tour, when there are processions of people on the hill all night and fires in front of the cellars, music is played here and there, and wine lovers listen to winemakers’ tales until dawn while tasting the juice from this mythical hill. Autumn entices you to Ság Hill, as the Sághegy Harvest Days take place in Celldömölk. Finally, a festival dedicated to Somló’s iconic grape variety, Juhfark, closes the year. The Somló Juhfark Festival is the biggest Hungarian show focusing on the variety, where everyone can choose the style that they like best, from light and fresh wines to full bodied white wines, which you can age for decades, and even botrytised, sweet wine specialties, all made exclusively from Juhfark!
Nagy-Somló Wine District
Walk the Kitaibel educational trail, have lunch at the foot of the hill and marvel at the tiny press houses!
Enjoy a wine tasting at a family winery and a modern winery and then relax at the Borgata Thermal Bath!
Visit the Kemenes Volcano Park, discover the Somló Castle ruins and Herend Porcelain!