• Peasant's house
    Peasant's house Read more...
  • Hermit's place
    Hermit's place Read more...
  • Bujtor István Open-air Stage
    Bujtor István Open-air Stage

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  • Lavender House Visitor Centre
    Lavender House Visitor Centre

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  • Tihany, the treasure peninsula
    Tihany, the treasure peninsula Tihany is the most spectacular place of the lake Balaton. The peninsula is deeply elongating into the Balaton...

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National treasures

The Tihany peninsula is unique in several apects, not just in Hungary, but also in Europe. Its special geographical position, the uniqueness of its formation, the appearance of today's scenery, the geological and historical relics along with its rare plants and wildlife all enhance its status as one of our most beautiful and most valued treasures. Natural historians and nature preservationists have been familliar with the treasures of the Tihany peninsula for a long time. The first nature preservation area in Hungary was developed here in 1952.

The Landscapsajkodi parte Protection Area of Tihany later expanded to the north and in 1997 became part of the then forming Balaton-Highland National Park. Its natural treasures were Europe-wide acknowledged by 2003 when the Council of Europe awarded the peninsula with the European Diploma of nature reserves. The rewarded reserves are revised every five years; previous winners were the Szénás Hills Highly Protected Area and the Fossil Remnants of Ipolytarnóc Landscape Protection Area – the list of other European prize winners contains equally prestigious areas. Acting as warden for the area is the Directorate of the Balaton-Highland National Park (Balatoni Nemzeti Park Igazgatóság ). The objective is twofold: to show and to protect. The contradiction can be resolved, the solution is with You. Please follow the restrictions described in this publication!

 

EVOLUTION AND CLIMATE OF THE PENINSULA

The bedrock of the peninsula consists of layers of sand, clay, and sediments from the Pannon Sea. From this fossil-rich rock did the lake once wash away the remnants of Congeria shells; these remnants later became famous as 'goat nail' (pic.1). On top of the Pannonian sediments are volcanic layers of varied thickness, forming most of the mass of the peninsula. Since the molten rock reached these water-soaked sediments before getting to the surface, the lava could not flow to the surface from the volcano of Tihany working roughly 7 million years before. The developing steam caused massive explosions which propelled dust, ashes and rocks of varied sizes into the air (this we call Surtsey-type volcanic activity). First stages of the eruption took place in great depths so along with pieces of basalt, grains of Silurian phyllite and Permian red sandstone shot out as well, together forming the brownish-grey basalt-tuff peculiar to the peninsula. Upon impact, the larger chunks of rocks (also called 'bombs') formed craters in the still soft surface (pic. 2). This was followed by two other kinds of volcanic activity (Hawaiian and Stromboli type) so the volcanoes greatly contributed to the variety of the landscape.

Rises running along the edge of the peninsula are actually remains of caldera brims; the craters, once centers of explosions, now form drainless basins in which the water surface of inner lakes sparkles. The basalt-tuff layers of diverse composition and granularity later shattered and tilted out of place due to crustal movements. Their richness of form was further enhanced by erosive forces and wind in particular. Geological excavations across the peninsula show their picturesque beauty, enchanting not just the experts of geology.

The volcanic activities were later followed by post-volcanic thermal springs. Water seeping into the depths along tectonic rifts boiled from the heat of the slowly cooling magma and blended with volcanic gases (mostly carbon-dioxide and hydrogen sulfide). The aggressive gases thrusting upwards released carbonate and flint from the older rocks such as limestone and sandstone, encrusting on the surface by the sudden drop of pressure and temperature. This resulted in a particular type of limestone called geyserite which is extremely varied in structure and composition, making up the famous geyser cones of the Tihany peninsula (pic. 3.). Over 150 of these cones must have been around on the peninsula originally; these days their number is around 60-80. They are mostly found in groups or forming wavy ridges running along geological rifts. Geyserite is more resistant than basa

lt-tuff, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that it can be found capping the highest points of the peninsula such as the Csúcs Hill and the Nyereg Hill. It's also not by chance that the compound of the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany itself was built upon a block of geyserite. Through mining and erosion larger inner caves were revealed, such as the caves of Csúcs Hill or the Forrás cave next to the abbey.

Climate of the peninsula is largely influenced by southEuropean features (subMediterranean is the term) which are complemented and equated by the lake's effect of moderating extremities. Temperatures rise slowly in the spring, diminishing the effect of late frosts. Summer is hot and dry; the dark hue of the rocks and the ground often make for a heat hardly bearable. Due to the sub-Mediterranean climate autumn mostly sets in bringing rains and passes late. A really cold and snowy winter comes only after Lake Balaton freezes over.

 

THE SHORE OF THE LAKE BALATON AND THE BOZSAI BAY

The south-western shoreline of the peninsula lies in a near natural state, in particular the section from the part below Gurbicza to the harbour has remained intact. The shore preserves its natural state at Sajkod and in the Bozsai bay. (pic. 4.) Bozsai bay is one of the last almost undisturbed reed bays of the Lake Balaton. White water-lilies (Nymphaea alba) bloom on islets within the reed. Hay-fields, meadows and the remains of fenlands accompany the bay on the shore, growing Orchids laxiflora, and (Eriphorum angustifolium) and Siberian iris (Iris siberica) along with a host of other protected plants. The reeds offer nesting sites to many rare bird species, like the summer goose (Anser anser) and the brown meadow hawk (Circus aeruginosus). Of the mammals the numbers of the increasingly protected otter (Lutra lutra) are noteworthy. The undisturbed lakeside is host to kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) and otter families (Lutra lutra). In the winter white-tailed eagles (Haliaetus albicilla) can be spotted here.

The Inner lake is situated directly under the village, it is almost perfectly round with the clear water surface. It lies 26 m above the level of the Lake Balaton in the sunken caldera following volcanic eruption. (pic. 16) Once it was famous for its rich flora and fauna. The deployment of herbivorous Asian fishes in the last few decades led to the total extinction of the original plant life; birds nestling there moved to Lake Outer. With theBelso to3 plants, their main source of nutrition, gone the imported fish population itself vanished as well, allowing for the vegetation to slowly recuperate. Lake Inner is a popular angling area these days. The locals once herded geese on the shores of Lake Inner and just recently a smaller herd of grey cattle (pic. 17) was brought to the meadows of the south side of the lake. Settling animals here serves a number of goals. Protection of domestic animals is just as much of a mission of nature reserves as protection of wildlife. These ancient species no longer meet economical and efficiency requirements, yet their survival is not merely self-serving. These animals are results of centuries of adaptation – they survived and proved useful even under adverse circumstances. Grazed on poor quality pastures and without surplus feed, they could scrape their winter nutrition even from under the snow. Furthermore, they are also well suited for restoration of abandoned and weed-ridden pastures or sour-grassed moorlands. Standing at the westernshores of the lake we get a glimpse back into the past: beyond a herd of Hungarian grey cattle the twin towers of the Benedictine Abbey reach out, mirrored by the lake in calm weather. The cattle treat the meadow fenced off for their use effectively; the grass is short but dense all year. So by 2003 it was time to bring back the other grass-dweller as well: the gopher. Their numbers have been increasing nicely ever since.

The Outer lake, once formed in the main crater of the peninsula's volacno is a heavily filled up shallow lake 116 m above sea level During the early 1800s drainage canals were dug to carry the water away via the Aszófo-séd stream into the Lake Balaton. (pic. 19) The drained area was utilised for hay-making. In 1976 management of the area waskulso to2 granted to the nature preservation authority of the time. This is when, by blocking off the drainage canal the restoration of the original condition of the lake began. During the two and half decades since then, the water flora has totally resettled and fauna characteristic of wet habitats have also appeared. Insect life relying on water is diverse, several rare dragonflies have found suitable conditions for survival here. Of the large number of amphibians and reptiles living in the lake, there is an outstanding abundance of swamp terrapin (Emys orbicularis) (pic. 20) Birds brooding here for some time now are the greylag goose (Anser anser), the great bittern (Botaurus stellaris) (pic. 21) and the marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus). In the last few years extensive brooding colonies of great egrets (Egretta alba) and purple and grey herons (Ardea purpurea, Ardea cinerea) have formed.


PEAK MOUNTAIN

csucshegyAs a result of post volcanic action a whole row of geyser cones were formed on the peninsula, one such peak is the Peak mountain (Pic. 10). From the highest point on the peninsula (235 m), visible even today is the stack carved by the spring cone and the hot water bubbling up from the deep. The geyserite 'cap' above the basalt tufa resisted the forces destroying the mountain, the current interesting shape was thus formed. The cliffs rising like cones are made up of sheet layers of hydroquartzite, silicic limestone and mass geyzerite. Folklore has it that the spring cave on the western side was once used by the famous outlaw of the Bakony hills, Jóska Sobri.

 

SADDLE MOUNTAIN

The Nyereg-hegy is a narrow cliff ridge connecting the Peak mountain to the Apáti mountain, offering a wonderful view of the Balaton Uplands, towards the sout-hern basin of the Balaton and the Bozsai bay in one direction and the inside on the peninsula in the other. This wedge shaped side is one of the most valuable geological formations on the peninsula. Post volcanic activity brought boiling water to the former surface. Lake hydroquartzite bearing plant residues and thinly layered silicic limestone were formed in the small and large warm water lakes. The shape of the capriciously creased limestone sheets is the result of former movement of water and the Earth's crust.

 

APÁTI MOUNTAIN

This is the unit of the caldera rim closest to the Outer lake, on the eastern side the surface level drops via steep basalttufa cliffs to the lake. Rock formations carry the mark of the destruction caused by the wind. An unforgettable experience is offered by the view to inside the peninsula, the Outer lake, the Inner lake and the ancient village, and in the distant background lies Balatonfüred. On the North side indicating the site of the former Apáti settlement are the Apáti church ruins which levendulas was under reconstruction, but from last year you can visit it. The Apáti mountain provides one of the most valuable habitats on the peninsula. On the top of the mountain a whole line of Mediterranean and subMediterranean plants grow on secondary meadows, among them the Sternbergia colchiciflora (pic. 5), the autumn ox-eye daisy (Scilla autumnnails), the Convolvulus cantabricus, and the Valerianella pumila. Here also there is the prickly lucerne (Medicago rigidula), several species of feathergrass (Stipa sp.) along with the dwarf iris (Iris pumila). Flowering on the eastern side of the cliff is the Gagea bohemica, the Cotoneaster matrensis and the Coronilla emerus. This southern climate also favours insects, large bodied species generally rare in Hungary can be found here such as the Tibicina haematodes (Pic. 6) and the Cicada orni. This however does not conclude the list of distinguishing features of the Apáti mountain. The southern side retains the last of the once famous lavender plantations of the peninsula. (Pic. 7) 1924 lavenders were planted here and by the '40s the plantation took on a size of almost 100 acres. Lavender oil produced in the region was renowned across the continent and its quality surpassed even that of the oils coming from French plantations. The area was put under dual utilization with the introduction of almond cultivation. Regrettably, growing was discontinued in the '60s and vine plants replaced most of the lavender plantation. The remaining 20 acres fell to natural succession and the forest started to take over. In the mid-'90s the National Park took the initiative to press back the brushwood on areas deemed suitable (i.e. where stems of lavender survived in greater numbers). The old lavender fields are maintained by regularly clearing the area from brushwood and through grazing, so at the turn of June and July visitors may feast their eyes on a lavender sea rolling over 10 acres. Some of the original vegetation has returned since cultivation was abandoned. A plant-life characteristic for sloping steppes thrives among the lavender stocks, forming together a unique habitat not found anywhere else which is home to a number of precious plants and animals. Another – and likely also from previous cultivation remaining – plant of the area is the woolly foxglove (Digitalis lanata) (pic. 8) which is under increased protection.


LITTLE FOREST SUMMIT

This is the remnant of the caldera rim rising between the Outer and the Inner lakes in the central part of the peninsula. The basalt cliffs formed during volcanic activity have been dislodged from their original place by later land movement. Wind has demolished the softer rock, leaving the harder basalt tufa to withstand the destructive force. This explains the formation of the 'windswept cliffs' which can be seen here (Pic. 18). The summit of the mountain is covered by cliff grass and prairie grass sloping steppe, several species of oak bush forests grow round the sides. In the autumn the reddish colour of oak is ver y picturesque with the Outer lake in the background.

 

 ÓVÁR

baratlakasThis striking ridge marks the eastern side of the peninsula with its icturesque basalt tufa rock formations facing Lake Balaton. Along its summit is the most beautiful Iron Age earth fortification in the Balaton region. So-called pannon-grasslands lie close to the remains of this former earth fortification, its characteristic protected plants include the ant thistle (Jurinea mollis), the Polygala maior (pic. 22.), the Adonis vernalis, the Cotoneaster tomentosus, the Pulsatilla grandis, the Centaurea sadleriana and the Aster amellus (pic. 23) This is one of the only two habitats in Hungary where Pomatias elegans snail lives. A series of caves carved into the 20 m high basalt tufa cliffs on the eastern side of the Óvár, are the so-called Barátlakások (Monk residences) (pic.24). Russian monks are reputed to have lived here brought here from the Great Principality of Kiev by the wife of the Hungarian king I. Endre around 1050 A.D. Only three groups of cells are visible today, the rest were buried in 1952 by a rockfall. In 1984 acheological and geological excavations revealed several skeletons. The cliff face and the still existing cells were stablished in 1994. The only layer spring of the peninsula the Orosz-kút (Russian well) rising to the surface nearby was named after them. (A more common name used today is the Cyprian-spring.)

 

THE SARKAD FOREST

Most of the hills on the rim of the peninsula are covered in the forests, the most beautiful of these lies on the southwestern side and is called the Sarkad-forest. The characteristic main species of tree is the oak, containing some Quercus pubescens, flowering ash (Fraxinus ornus), field maple (Acer campestre) and field elm (Ulmus minor). Some special oaks grow here like the Italian oak (Quercus virgiliana) along with the Quercus virgiliana x pubescens, being a natural hybrid with the Quercus pubescens, there is also a dry tolerant variety of the nonpedicle oak, the Quercus polycarpa. Beneath the rich canopy of oaks there are many valuable soft stemmed plants such as the protected Orchis purpurea and the Dictamnus albus. Marked members of the wildlife in the Sarkad forest are the longicorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo) the stag beetle and the oak hawk-moth (Marumba quercus) (pic. 11). While spending the daytime underground, at night the smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) and the spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus) (pic. 12) can be spotted at the bottom of mossy tree-trunks. Characteristic reptile for the forest is the aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima), which can develop a length of up to two meters. The forest, consisting of trees of varying species and age, provides a diverse habitat for song-birds. Hoopoes (Upupa epops) and starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) greatly appreciate the tree holes left by black, green, and grey-headed woodpeckers (Dryocopus martius, Picus viridis, Picus canus). Sparrow hawks (Accipiter nisus) (pic. 13) hunt the depths of the forest with blazing speed and with much daring; in the night long-eared owls (Asio otus) (pic. 14) glide softly. After sundown hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) run around looking for walnuts and among the foliage flutters the Nathusius's pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), taking advantage of the food provided by the rich insect life.

 

THE GEYSER FIELD AND THE GOLDEN HOUSE
The geyser fields spreading between the Szarkádi forest and Lake Inner feature rock formations risen in the Quaternary, sogejzirmezome three million years before our time. This area had the most thermal springs during the postvolcanic actions that followed the basalt-volcanic stage. Largest of the hot spring cones formed here is the Goldhouse geyser cone, named after the yellow lichen growing on it en masse (pic. 15). The marked nature trail hits many of the rock figures that have been cleared of brushes for display; some of them mimicking mushrooms and others with cave-like passages beneath them. Even on a continental scale, the postvolcanic formations of the area are outstanding both in their sheer number and their remarkable appearance – this was a deciding factor in the European Diploma being awarded to the peninsula. The top of the Hármashegyi cone offers a fabulous view of the Lake Inner and the old community while an old vault at the bottom of the Goldenhous contains an exhibition on rocks and minerals.

 

THE LÓCZY NATURE TRAIL
zoldgyikThe Lajos Lóczy nature trail, marked by a red cross, leads hikers to the most beautiful places and sights of the Tihany peninsula. The starting point is at the Apáti church ruins next to Sajkod leading on over the Apáti mountain, the Saddle mountain and Peak mountain into the Sarkad forest, and then via the Geyser field and the Golden House to the ancient settlement. From there the trail leads along the Little forest summit - Óvár - Hermit's place route to the Tihany harbour. The path can also be walked in sections; the individual stages and their connecting points are marked on the enclosed map. A map of the Tihany peninsula detailing the Lóczy nature trail can be found in the central page of this booklet.