- We leave Csattogó Valley on the Via Margaritarum (beads) trail, to east.
- After 800 metres, we turn left onto the red (P) trail, which we follow in the stream valley across Szokolya until we reach Királyrét.
- In the centre of Királyrét, the red (P) trail takes us all the way to Hiúz Ház. After getting a copy of the guide book, we will follow the green “T” (ZT) trail and the frogs blazed on wooden poles to visit the study trail. We can reach the quarry and Petőfi Spring with a 100-metre roundtrip following the blue square (K◼) trail.
- After circling Bajdázó Lake on the joint green “T” (ZT) and blue triangle (K◼) trails, a wooden sign at the side of the path will mark the way to the spring (50 metres extra distance).
- Having returned to the centre of Királyrét, signs will help us find our way back to the train station (to the south). We have to walk 200 metres along the tracks to reach the draisine tracks.
- We take the narrow-gauge train from one end of the line to the other (Királyrét–Kismaros).
- From the end of the line, we can get back to Csattogó Valley following the Via Margaritarum north.
Detailed tour guide
If we take the train on the Vác–Szob line to the starting point or the end of our route, we have a chance to try three different ways to ride the tracks. The domestic passenger trains of MÁV roar below us with gigantic, 2,200 kW power. When we change to its “little brother”, the forest railway, the engines work with considerably less power: they run on merely 7 kW. But that is still quite something compared to the tiny, human-powered draisine, as an average man can produce no more than 0.1 kW for a prolonged time to drive the chattery vehicle that accommodates four people.
A thematic road crosses the starting point of our route, at the festival site. Via Margaritarum connects Mariazell, Austria with Mátraverebély–Szentkút. The 760-kilometre road follows the Medieval pilgrim trail in the footsteps of our ancestors. We start our hike eastward on the trail crossing Csattogó Valley, marked by a ring of beads. (At the end of the circle, we will follow this trail again from Kismaros to the starting point.)
We turn left after 800 metres, at a T-junction. The beads symbols of Via Margaritarum will stay with us until Kóspallag, but we have to follow the red (P) trail from here to the end of the route. In the valley of Gimpli Creek, the path meanders along the stream bed with a gentle ascent. We cross the tracks of the Vác–Diósjenő/Balassagyarmat railway, and reach Magyarkút. Leaving behind the houses the forest embraces us; we are now hiking uphill along the creek of Les Valley. Look out for the pale grey patches of andesite peeking through the leaves and the undergrowth, reminding us of the volcanic origins of Börzsöny.
At Szokolya, we will have to cross the railway tracks again, then going around the station, we continue our path with a gentle ascent along the stream bed, crossing the water several times. The trail constantly ascending since the beginning becomes rather steep at a few places as we are getting closer to the end; here the valley of the creek sinks into a ravine-like slit. The ascent ends at the side of the 359-metre-high Várhegy. (We may choose to take the red triangle (P▲) trail to go up to the summit costing us an extra 450 metres, but we will only be able to enjoy the panorama that is now blocked by the trees from 2019, when the planned lookout tower is built.)
From this point, we switch to an intensive descent. As the path becomes narrow on the steep stream bank, we can already see glimpses of the forest playground among the trees (and we can get there easily taking a 50-metre roundtrip to the right on the green cross (Z+) trail). We cross Szén Creek (its name meaning “coal”—a little reminder of the smelters that operated in the area once), then turning left on the asphalt road, the red (P) trail will take us to the centre of Királyrét. The cornucopia of hikers await us here: Numerous tourist lodgings, a snack bar and a restaurant can be found here, and those interested in learning more about the secrets of Börzsöny can quench their thirst of knowledge with the help of a number of information boards. This is where the narrow-gauge railway starts from, but there is also a long-distance but stop here; and those arriving by car can use the spacious, paid parking lot.
Hiúz Ház, the adventure park of Királyrét
It is an intersection of seven different trails. Turning right on the red (P) trail, we will soon reach the Hiúz Ház. Do not pass on the seemingly tiny exhibition that has the ability to entertain not only the children for hours, but adults as well. The interactive exhibition switches on all of our senses while teaching about the sound of various animals and the many noises we may hear in the forest; it shows us how insects see the world; we can guess what kind of animal fur we are touching; we can follow nocturnal animals with hidden cameras; and those interested in time travel can operate the model of the foundry that used to be in the area.
Their organised activities are also quite exciting: From reading and following animal tracks to exploring nests and their inhabitants, we can also experience how dye can be made out of plants. They also offer thematic guided tours on request. The building that functions as a forest school and a hostel even has a green shop.
In the yard, there is a playground and a photographer perch with a one-sided mirror for the children, latter of which was designed by the famous nature photographer, Bence Máté. The point of the perch is that after having put some bird feed in the feeder, we can hide in the little cabin. Thanks to the special glass, we can see the birds, while the birds cannot see us—so they will peck away undisturbed while we can observe them, or even take pictures of them—we will not scare them away even if we have to move a little. We can also find some very useful advice on how to take a perfect photo on the sign written by Bence next to the perch.
Study trail puzzles
Before exploring the study trail, it is worth getting a copy of the relevant guide book: either the adult version packed with information, or the more fun kid’s version. The trail that is marked by green frogs and the green “T” (ZT) blaze works best in the recommended direction, as the markings only appear on one side of the trees and poles. At the various stations, we can learn about fruit trees and wild fruits, the pines that are adventitious in Hungary, everything we need to know about lumbering, the past and present of Bajdázó Lake, the cellars and the flora and fauna of the area. At the beginning of the route we will also find a spacious common area, a fire pit and a composting toilet. Children can solve the puzzles of the guide book with the help of a turn grid at the stations.
The trail goes around Bajdázó Lake, which was created together with another lake in the 1700s to provide hydropower to the smelter and the foundry. The best season for observing the wildlife of the lake is between late spring and early autumn. It is the habitat of Hungary’s only species of turtles, the European pond turtle. If we approach the water carefully enough, we may see them swimming in the lake with their heads stuck out, or sunbathing on bigger tree branches. It is also the habitat of the blue king fisher, the grebe that likes to hide among the reed, and a few mallards. If we regularly visit the lake from springtime, we can witness the transformation of the frogs from egg to tadpole to the fully grown amphibian. We can watch the leeches below the water surface, and the dance of the dragonflies above it. Interestingly, the local dice snake is much more dependent on the water than the water snake, which we may also run into on the bank of the lake.
One hundred years of smelting
The first written documentation dates back to 23rd April 1700; the decree authorised the mining of ores based on the results of the conducted research. The foundry was in operation until the end of the century, and was used as a timber processing workshop for a while after that. Some parts of the ironworks were still standing around 1900, but by 1920, documents only refer to them as ruins.
For the operation of the smelter and the foundry, running water was essential. At the time when the complex was operational, five lakes were made by damming the stream. Only two of these remain today, one of which also serves as a fishing pond. The bellows were operated by utilising the kinetic energy of the cascading water, thus pumping enough air into the furnaces to burn at the right intensity. In the foundry, they fixed robust knobs on a shaft rotated by a wheel similarly to a watermill, which moved the huge, heavy hammers. Shaping the metal with human power only would have been impossible.
We have to walk 130 metres on the blue square (K◼) trail from the lake to reach Petőfi Spring. It used to offer its refreshing water to hikers constantly, but its water is all but spent by today, and we can only see some water dripping at the time of heavy rainfalls. A few metres behind it, where there is a “dent” in the hillside, we can step into the premises of the former quarry through a unique passageway. In 1912, they even built separate railway tracks for the quarry to transport the excavated andesite, but these have been demolished since then. Three stone-cutters from Kóspallag were still manually excavating the characteristically yellowish iron andesite, dacite, until 2007. Today only nature carves the stone here, while it slowly claims back the Börzsöny area telling the story of volcanic origins.
The study trail passes by the other lake that is left from the original five. It used to function as a swimming spot, and now it is a popular fishing place. This water habitat was also rehabilitated in the early 2000s. An interesting fact about the 220-metre-long, 65-metre-wide Királyrét fishing pond is that only indigenous fish live in it, such as carp, bream, tench, zander and trout.
As we walk toward Királyrét, the study trail is joined by the blue square (K◼) trail (in the opposite direction from Petőfi Spring). We will find the wooden sign pointing us to the spring 150 metres from the junction, on the right hand side of the road. It is well worth walking those extra fifty metres starting off rather steep; we will be rewarded with a secure source of cool spring water and the legend of the nine stags.
At a fun section of the study trail, we have to walk stepping on tree stumps, then we cross the tracks of the garden railway that used to transport children. Having crossed the asphalt road, and conjuring up some courage, we may peek into the former mineshaft inhabited by bats before returning to the centre of Királyrét on the asphalt road.
From the centre, wooden signs will lead us to the Királyrét stop of the forest railway. If we continue along the tracks on foot, we may also try the human-powered draisine. The draisine can take up to 4 persons, and we can drive it on the 750-metre-long circular tracks by paddling, similarly to a bicycle. A piece of advice: try to conserve your energy, as after the initially descending tracks, there is a surprise waiting for you after the first turn...
After testing our strength, we can walk back to the forest railway stop at Királyrét, and take the diesel engine or the solar powered train from one end of the line to the other. The tracks were laid back in 1893 to transport timber from the forest, and passenger trains were only added to the line from the 1950s.
Setting out northbound on Via Margaritarum in Kismaros, the trail will take us back to Csattogó Valley.