Hungary’s grassland steppes called the Great Plain retains the epic pastoral quality of this nation’s rugged past, and hearkens back to a time of traveling bands of hunters who scoured the plain, and shepherds grazing their sheep. Development in Hungary has, naturally, reduced the extent of the Puszta some. Yet much of it has been – and will be – safely kept preserved as Natural Parks and other conservation efforts.
By far, the most important effort to preserve the Puszta is Hortobágy National Park, a whopping 72 square miles of the southeastern region of Hungary, which is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and makes up the largest central European grassland in existence today. Local ways of life on the Puszta continue to exist, with herdsmen tending a variety of animals including oxen, sheep, cattle and horses. In fact, the rugged culture of the Puszta has been staple in defining the Hungarian national identity throughout millennia; seeing the living vestiges of this region is fundamental to the tourist who wishes to gain a stronger understanding of this surprising nation. The best way to do so is to rent a holiday home in one of Puszta's villages and experience it for yourself.
Wildlife in Hortobágy National Park is diverse, and feathered friends include warblers, storks, herons, eagles and cranes - it would not be an exaggeration to declare Hortobágy a birdwatcher’s paradise. Carved out by a series of blue rivers and pristine lakes, the Puszta’s current form is largely defined by flooding, and much of it is wetlands. A series of trails guide nature walks and bird watching expeditions throughout the park, for a modest price of admission.
The Craftmen Yard is a splendid museum showcasing the artifacts of the herdsmen, including their textiles, leatherwork, pottery and woodcarvings, echoing exhibits from the American West cowboys or even Native American handiwork – in the heart of central Europe! The Herdsman Museum itself is a wonderful exposition of scenes from the plains, and the Old Wind Mill Museum, the biggest of its kind in Hungary, may explain why so many Dutch emigrate to Hungary.
Accommodation in a holiday home can be most easily arranged in the nearby city of Debrecen, which has its own local culture, nightlife and museums to keep you well entertained after dark descends and the beautiful migrating birds put their wings over their eyes for the day.