NATIONAL PARK OF KISKUNSÁG

The Southern Great Hungarian Plain's diverse and peaceful landscape, it's special flora and fauna is not only the secret world of scientists, amateur botanists and ornithologists but also represents a preferred touring area for nature-lovers. This region having a regulated and well organised ecotourism provides plenty of possibilities for the visitors.

The romantic gallery forests along the Southern Danube and in the valleys of the Tisza and Maros rivers, the last remnants of botanical rarities of once widespread loess plains, juniper forests and dry grasslands of sandy areas are all very typical habitats for this diverse landscape. Heronries of vast reedbeds, shorebirds of sodic lakes, which are real rarities in rest of Europe, the migration of Cranes in misty November and the strongest population of Great Bustard in Hungary are all parts of the natural richness, that are worth becoming acquainted with.

Tourists visiting the Southern Great Plain may explore it's genuine natural features in three National Parks and attaching Lanscape Protection and Nature Conservation Areas.

This national park that encompasses diverse geographical and historical dimensions is located on the plain between the Danube and the Tisza rivers. Its mosaic structure was created as a result of extensive land utilisation. The national park was established in 1975 and has an area of almost 500 km2 . Owing to its Quaternary surface morphology, the nine regional units cover vast stretches of alkali soil, waved sand dunes, closed drainage marshes and bogs, wet meadows and the diverse land of the Back waters along the river Tisza.

The different adjoining types of land have rich habitat characteristics. Most of the area of the national park is a Biosphere Reservation, which is regarded as a wet habitat of international significance according to the Ramsar Convention. Besides the natural treasures, ethnographic and culture history traditions are a determinant part of the image of the national park. The farm - like settlement structure, extensive animal husbandry, arable lands, vineyards and orchards are still characteristic of this area.

The dual principle of presentation and conservation are realised in the activity of the nationalpark. According to the principles of sustainable development, environment friendly land utilisation is carried out in order to preserve the original ecological conditions.

The Great Hungarian Plain - "Puszta"

"Infinite puszta, enormous land! How the pure magic of the countryside and the mellow beauty of the endless horizon all captivate me!" This is what a foreign journalist wrote about the Hungarian puszta in the 1930s, and this area continues to attract visitors from distant lands. But what is there to be admired so highly in this landscape? Viewed from the air, the countryside resembles a vast grass carpet. The variety and the multitude of colors and shades is surprising. The hues in the bright carpet are various elements of the same vegetation.

After the blizzards of winter, the puszta soon reawakens in the spring, and the green grass gently waves in the wind. Red poppies and blue lakspur brighten up the land in the summer. Then grass grows red cluster and heat slowly turns everything yellow. Only a few tiny, semi-desert plants grow on the cracked soil of the alkaline puszta. The forest belts are still green, and the edge of the lakes and marshlands are surrounded by I thick reeds and bulrushes. Field asters and salt flowers bloom after the first fall rains, and bring back colors to the puszta. The movement of bird flocks animate the great and motionless space. The reeds of fish ponds and the, forest belts offer excellent nesting areas and ample food supply for them. The Hortobagy, where an important north-south migratory route crosses, is one of the most remarkable bird sanctuaries of the Carpathian Basin, ,with some 330 bird species. It is a memorable sight to see the tumultuous migration of the whooping cranes and the wild geese. The Kiskunsag is the home of the stone curlew and the tern, along with the bustard, Europe's largest bird.

The unique image of today's puszta has been consciously developed by its people over the past centuries. ! At the time of the Hungarian settlers, there were flourishing towns on the Great Plain, which then was a fer- tile loess region, with gallery forests and marshlands in the flood area of both the Danube and the usza. After the devastating Mongolian and Turkish invasions and occupation, the region was almost fully deserted. The forests were then burned down, the rivers were regulated by dams, the sand was stabilized and the wild waters were tamed. People started to make use of the region by keeping animals. These changes resulted in the dehydration of the land, and a short grassy puszta came into being on the alkaline soil.
The ancient grazing Hungarian animals, such as the grey cattle, the twisted-homed racka sheep, the stud horse, and themangalica pig, as well as the frilly feathered geese, are an essential part of the puszta. The rare wild animal species which became domesticated in the herdsmen's care were kept in fully nomadic conditions. This has resulted in the natural selection and breeding of exceptionally valuable bloodlines, which have adjusted to the hardiest climatic and dietary conditions.
The animals are tended by the herdsmen with the help of their sheep dogs. In a ranking of the herdsmen, the horsemen are first, then come the cattle-herds, followed by the shepherds, and then the swineherds. This separation used to be expressed in both their garments and herding tools. The most important pieces of clothing are a shirt, loose linen trousers, a vest and a hat. The dominant colors have traditionally been blue I on the Hortobagy and white on Bugac puszta.
The horsemen tending the stallions deserve to be singled out for the remarkably close relationship they have established with their horses. The expertise of both horses and horsemen can be seen in spectacu- lar and colorful performances on a number of farms of the puszta.

The purity of the life in the puszta is also reflected by the simple, but strikingly attractive farm build- ings. The white-washed, mud-walled houses with red geraniums in the windows look like veritable jewels in the countryside. Many of these houses today offer friendly resting places and delicious food to visitors who seek to get acquainted with the natural beauty of this region.

Two national parks have been established to preserve the uniquely multi-faceted, natural values of the Hungarian puszta. The environmental goal of both the Hortobagy National Park (1973) and the Kiskunsag National Park (1975) is to protect the values of the terrain, wild waters, fauna and flora, as well as the scenery of the region. Along with this, they also aim to maintain the traditional farm life and husbandry, as well as the old breeds of domestic animal species. As a recognition of the values and the conscious environmental action, UNESCO appointed the region of both national parks as Biosphere Reserves. According to the Ramsari Agreement, . a section of their water habitat is acclaimed as an outstanding wild-water habitat of international importance.