Noszvaj, a village that truly made it

Imagine a village where the main attraction is the smithy of an Estonian man who moved there 18 years ago, where a famous psychiatrist owns a vineyard, where a family guesthouse was the first in the country to introduce glamping and where artists are working in hundred-year old caves. This is lovely Noszvaj.

“My boyfriend had not even proposed yet, but I knew that our honeymoon was going to be in Noszvaj”, said Kata, who came here with her now husband from Somogy County to stay in a yurt at Nomád Hotel and Kemping. She found out about this hotel on the internet and fell in love with the idea instantly. Luckily, her husband was equally enthusiastic, so they spent their honeymoon in this captivating village.

It was getting dark in Noszvaj and they got stuck here forever

The three of us left the hotel to head to the blacksmith, who welcomes his guests with a dinner and a workshop visit. Anti Antik came here from Estonia in 1997 with his wife and daughter.

They were looking for a nice place with the right conditions to establish a vineyard and arrived at Noszvaj one evening. Since it was getting dark, they knocked on the doors of a guesthouse. This belonged to Barbara Balogh, who has a charming personality and speaks exceptional English. Since they liked the place and found a helpful person, they started looking for a house the next day.

Anti’s wife loves cooking and since their growing group of friends was coming to dinner more and more often, word got out about her delicious meals. These days, most of the hotels recommend Anti’s smithy to their guests as an interesting destination. After a delicious dinner on the terrace we tasted Anti’s exquisite wine while he demonstrated how the candlesticks, hangers and corkscrews are made. We even had a go at making some of the objects ourselves.

Hungarians, foreigners, tourists or businessmen all come here, and birthday parties or class reunions take place here as well.

The secret of Noszvaj is quality and collaboration

Anti does not try to hurry anything; he is just waiting to see how things are going to work out around him. He started with a small house, then built his workshop and now he is extending both while also buying a small vineyard. He does not apply for loans and does not think about the bigger picture for now – it is important for him to live with his family in peace without any stress.

Everyone seems to share this mentality here, from my landlady to all the tourism professionals. They follow a careful plan, one step at the time. Hotels don’t cut their prices, as they are not trying to attract guests looking for only the cheapest options, but they try to offer high-standard service and programs.

The other thing I particularly liked is the prevalent collaboration. The hotel is not recommending Anti’s workshop to receive a commission but to broaden the guests’ experience. Same thing with Anti, he tells his guests where to go, so nobody is trying to monopolize the guests but the goal is to show guests the most of this lovely community.

The country’s first tourism association was formed in this village and the accommodation owners are always looking for improvements. Like everywhere else there are people who wish this was not the case, but for the most part – and this is the vast majority – they understand how important it is to be on the same page about these things.

They are keeping the village lively

The village’s website showcases an interesting event each month, but in July and August, several programs are on offer every weekend. The amusing programs (oven days, plum days, Valentine day, etc.) keep the village alive and interesting. Thanks to that, there is really no off-season.

Hotels also provide all visitors with the so-called Noszvaj card, which can be used to get discounts in restaurants or shops.

But let us get back to Barbara Balogh, who helped the Estonian family through the difficulties of buying a house and all the related administration. Her parents first opened a family guesthouse in Eger. In 1984, they started a small lodging in Noszvaj, the first one in the village. According to the then regulations they were allowed to have only 10 rooms and the guests had to eat in the garden.

It soon turned out that there is a growing appetite for family hospitality, as guests often stood in line to sample the home cooking.

This encouraged other families to open private guesthouses. In the meantime, Barbara’s family started thinking about expanding, In the early 1990s, they purchased the plot on which the current hotels stands. The village was in its heyday: there were three hotels and many family guesthouses and the 1,700 residents were also able to house the same number of tourists. Since then, two of the hotels have closed, but this was compensated by the fact that several new family guesthouses opened.

Barbara has worked as a travel guide for many years, she is a well-traveled professional speaking many languages who is always looking at the trends in hospitality and catering. She says that she was the first person to have the idea to place a bathtub next to the bed – the initial shock was followed by amazing popularity.

Last summer, she introduced the elegant way of camping, glamping. The garden now boasts two large tents and a yurt, which are all furnished as comfortably and elegantly as the main rooms.

She truly believes that co-operation is key. If she has a full house, she is happy to recommend other lodgings in the village. In that spirit, she organized a study trip for some of the guesthouse owners, visiting some of the best Hungarian countryside guesthouses and also a furniture painting company. She said that when they got back, everyone started making changes. They painted drawers, sewed new curtains and changed pictures.

Hotel Nomád is a magical place with a warm hospitality. Without a doubt, though, it is not for everybody. If someone is annoyed by not having everything in perfect order, a few cobwebs on some lamps, they might be better off going to a different hotel.

The more important thing here is kindness and hospitality.

It is not by chance that people feel as though they are at home here and some repeat guests come here whenever they feel sad or unhappy in their personal lives. Barbara funnily introduced a “broken-heart package” with a quiet, one-bed room, unlimited wine and chats.

Glamping Picnic is the yearly meet up of the fans of this lovely hotel. During these festivities, anyone can have a peak into the wonderful tents and numerous restaurants in the area. During the picnic, jeeps ferry guests to the vineyards of Imre Csernus, the country’s most famous psychiatrist. The event is so popular that every once in a while they have to call upon the water polo players of Eger to help out, which they gladly accept.

If we do nothing, the guests won’t come by themselves

Síkfőkút, a holiday area of Noszvaj, has been a popular tourist area ever since the 1930s. People came from Eger, Mezőkövesd but from more distant areas as well to visit this marvelous place. The upper lake is usually used for boating in the summer and the lake on the lower side is often used for fishing and picnics.

Hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty are also available and some are accessible even with a stroller. Perhaps, the most popular one is the trail to Attila’s well.

The beautiful De La Motte castle will hopefully also open to the public soon. You can read about its rich history on the village website. Even though after the nationalization of the communist regime it was mainly used as a barn, the building survived these difficult times and the murals have been reconstructed.

Taking a stroll to the end of the village you come to a cemetery with marvelous cave dwellings. Nowadays, they are unoccupied, but some parts house the Farkaskő workshop. It was here that I met Ottó Horváth the sculptor who introduced me to the area and told me how things were here previously. These dwellings were created by stone extraction. Some poor people made it livable, including a room and a kitchen.

They brought water from a nearby fountain, they even had electricity and street signs. The government ended the settlement in the 1960s because it looked bad that, in a socialist country, people live in caves.

The abandoned place was brought back to life by artists a couple of years ago. They opened up new spaces, built up walls and often organize arts camps as well!

The most interesting room is Pentaton obscura, or acoustic room where you can experience special sound effects with the structure of the walls. Ottó Horváth found out about the fantastic feature of the place and made the room with careful carving of the walls what it is today.

Noszvaj is part of the historical Eger wine region, so naturally there are opportunities to visit wine cellars, among others the Thummerer wine cellar is also here. In this lovely village we can see an authentic village house, which gets especially busy on summer days. Local people heat up the furnace and bake traditional cookies and organize crafts workshops in the garden.

Children get special attention, which is not by chance as most people in the tourist association are parents themselves. They organize all the programs so that they children can join in, always trying to improve the experience for youngsters.

There are dozens of beautifully embroidered wall protecting materials at Kati Kovácsné, who is the owner of the Rákóczi guesthouse. The cheerful and smiling landlady told me that she has learnt needlework form her mother, who is still trying to get involved by suggesting themes to work with.

In the kitchen of her guesthouse there are countless jars of marmalade. “You have to stand on more than one leg” – comments Kati who does not only offer rooms and sells jam but is also thinking about new programs for her guests. She was the founder of the Quince days of October, for which she is preparing beans soup with quince for the fourth time now. In her kitchen, numerous children learnt how to make strudel, but it was also her idea to offering the “hill” in her garden for youngsters to sled down on New Years’ Eve, which was tremendously popular.

How come she has so much energy?

“If we do not do anything, the guests will not come by themselves”- came the answer, and this is the attitude that makes this place so special. Of course, a place needs pleasant facilities, but mainly Barbara, Anti, Kati and the others are the ones making Noszvaj wonderful, with their spark and love of visitors, who therefore return time and again.