Author: Dániel Ercsey
Let’s stick with things on the Hungarian side of the border for now. Sopron has enough sights to fill an entire book; however, make sure you don’t miss the city centre and the view of the Fire Tower, the Storno House, the Castle District, the Harrer Chocolate Manufactory and the medieval Old Synagogue. You just have to get lost in Sopron, wander its streets, have lunch in its famous restaurants, make an afternoon trip to the Carmelite Monastery or the Lővér Adventure Park and visit the Mining and Forestry Museums. Drive out to the nearby Balf Thermal Spa and drink Balfi water, visit the Pan-European Picnic Memorial and reflect on the state of the world as you pass the Sopronkőhida prison.
Visit the National Memorial next to the stone wall of St Farkas Castle Church in Balf. The group of statues erected in memory of the murdered Jewish labourers commemorates Gábór Halász, György Sárközi and Antal Szerb amongst others. Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky was also executed at nearby Sopronkőhida towards the end of the Second World War. However, let’s end the day on a happier note and go to one of the concerts at the Fertőrákos quarry or wind up the evening at the ancient Mithras shrine or perhaps with a lovely dinner at a local restaurant.
A There is fully developed bike path around Lake Fertő, so you can cycle right round the lake and see the sights in both Hungary and Austria, where it is called Lake Neusiedl or Neusiedlersee. It’s worth doing some wine tasting on both sides. On the Hungarian side, besides sailing, the “Hungarian Versailles” or Esterházy Chateau in Fertőd is the most famous attraction, but it’s also worth visiting the chateaux in Nagycent (Széchenyi Chateau and Mausoleum), Röjtökmuzsaj and Sopronhorpács.
The tiny Pinka stream on the border is a paradise for anglers. You can even catch trout in the upper sections, there are carp above the weirs, while great chubs await fly fishers as the water accelerates below the weirs.
Kőszeg, which also belongs to the wine district, has enough sights to keep you busy for several days too, especially the Jurisics Castle, the Renaissance Sgraffitós House, its churches, the Old Tower and other built heritage. There are hiking trails in the Írottkő Nature Park in the Kőszeg Hills, but it’s also worth visiting the Cák cellar row, the Velem watermill and the St Vid Chapel. Bük boasts a nature trail showcasing the wildlife of the Répce-mente, while the Bükfürdő Spa and Leisure Centre is also worth a mention. Visit the arboretum in Szeleste if you’d like some peace and quiet. Although it’s not actually in the wine district, Sárvár is only a stone’s throw away. Here you can visit not only the spa but also the castle.
Let’s close our discovery of the southern part of the Sopron wine district with the Vashegy area, where, on the one hand, all wine lovers should really taste both the Austrian and Hungarian wines together, as this is a single hill, despite the border. On the other hand, the monumental basilica of the former Benedictine abbey in Ják, the pinnacle of medieval Hungarian church architecture and one of Hungary’s symbolic works of Romanesque architecture, can be found nearby. Everyone should visit it once in their lifetime. Szombathely is worth a visit simply for its theatre, but it is also home to the Kámon Arboretum, the Iseum (ruins of the temple of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis), countless churches and museums, the Historical Theme Park and Sala Terrena, the synagogue, a boating lake, the Vas Museum Village, the Lake Bath and the nearby magnificent 13th-century church in Csempeszkopács.
The wine district’s capital is also the capital of Kékfrankos and of the poncichters, who traditionally grew beans between the vines, so it is hardly surprising that many of Sopron’s typical dishes feature beans; they were prepared as side dishes (mashed beans), scones or soup. These dishes, in our humble opinion, are better suited to white wines, and as Sopron used to be a white wine region, perhaps it is not a sacrilege to serve a good Sopron Furmint or even a light Korai Piros Veltelini along with bean scones. As far as restaurants are concerned, you can find everything in Sopron to stimulate your senses, but one of the best-known restaurants in the wine district is run by a winemaker in Fertőrákos. His nickname is Ráspi, which appears both on the wine labels and on the restaurant sign. Kőszeg and the foothills of the Alps also belong to the wine district, which puts plenty of forest mushrooms, forest fruits and jams and, of course, game meat on the table. And these ingredients are beautifully accompanied by Kékfrankos and Zweigelt from Sopron and Kőszeg. As you head south, towards the Őrség, not only mushrooms but also buckwheat and pumpkins become increasingly common ingredients, and the fried dumplings known as dödölle or gánica, also common in Zala, reappear. Fortunately, you can also find good restaurants in Kőszeg and Szombathely, so there is not a single corner of the wine district where you might go hungry.
The first important event of the Sopron wine district’s year is connected to Kőszeg, from which, besides the book of the Coming of the Grapes, the April Wine Promenade also beckons to us. The poncichters also wake up in May, as demonstrated by the Wine and Bean Festival in Balf and the Sopron Wine Festival in the Loyal City. Then, in summer, the season starts, with Wine Days being held on the famous cellar row in Cák, while it is not only wellness that matters in Bükfürdő, as the Bük Food Festival is also organised under the name Healing Wine Days, naturally with the participation of the local winemakers. The Wine Street in Hegykő attracts wine lovers towards the end of the summer, but life does not stop in Kőszeg either as the Kőszeghegyalja Open Cellars now welcomes visitors. At harvest time, there is the Harvest Wine Festival in Fertőszentmiklós, the Main Square Harvest in Kőszeg and the Harvest Festival in Csepreg, all of which are delighted to greet visitors and other wine lovers. The wine district concludes its year with the Kőszeg Wine Ball and by saying farewell to the freshly made Kékfrankos wines.
Sopron Wine District
Enjoy the view from the Sopron Fire Tower, then head to Fertőrákos and taste some local wines!
Explore Kőszeg, visit the church in Ják and toast the sunset on the cellar row in Cák!
Take a historical tour in Nagycenk, bike around Lake Fertő, head to Sopronbánfalva for a delicious lunch!
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