Posted on Friday, June 10th, 2016
The introduction to Hungarian culture and history that my stay at Homoki Lodge offered was wonderfully eye-opening to this fascinating region. The lodge and itinerary do a fabulous job of incorporating cultural aspects, from the yurt accommodations, to the saddles you sit in, the wines you drink and the destinations you ride to. All facets seek to celebrate the area’s Magyar roots, in a modern and luxurious way that make them completely enjoyable. There are a variety of yurt options; ours had a jetted tub, a lovely queen bed on a raised platform and a comfortable outside terrace. I loved it; it was just so fun, and beautifully decorated with clean, modern touches. The dining area and lodge rooms are equally lovely, with a more traditional than modern design, but with the same charm.
The hosts, Bixie and Oliver, met us even at our tragically late arrival time. Following the small, winding sand tracks to the lodge in our massive mini-bus, we had been sure we were terribly lost on the puszta, but when we arrived at the lodge Oliver was waiting, pálinka (traditional local brandy) in hand. The (very stiff!) drink was much appreciated, as was the dinner they graciously served at the late hour while briefing us on our days ahead. With me was my sister, Liz, whom I had talked into accompanying me although she had not ridden much since our shared childhood lessons. Due to this, an introductory ride was scheduled for her the following day so she could see how comfortable she still was in the saddle and how much she would want to do. I decided to dive into the all-day ride, and she would meet me and the riding group at the ride’s destination, the Rózsa Sándor commemorative house.
Rózsa was a highwayman who operated in the area during the mid-1830s and gained the respect of the locals due to his loyalty during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The museum had great tidbits of history, and although all in the (amazingly difficult) Hungarian language, our English speaking guide, Kristina, gave us the tour and provided translations.
The guides did a great job and often went above and beyond, whether providing translation or cooking stew and singing in the evenings. The two head cowboys both aren’t English speaking, but they definitely understand perhaps more than they’d like us to think, and provided plenty of English instruction (“Trot! Keep distance!”) and we always had an English-speaking backup guide. Their horsemanship was impressive and they kept a careful eye on all of us and the horses, especially as we moved into faster gaits. And we did go fast! After being advised, “trot, then canter, then gallop…” gallop we did indeed! The flat, sandy terrain is perfect for this, and the horses fit and well-accustomed, making it an awesomely fun experience! Thanks to the wranglers’ watchful eye and the horses’ ratability, Liz also felt comfortable at the canter, and our second day we all rode out together to the buffalo reserve in Mórahalom.
These bovids originated in in South Asia, as did the original Magyar inhabitants. They now enjoy their wetland reserve and can be viewed along with prolific birdlife from a raised viewing platform.
This was a long day of riding, much of it on the ever-present sandy roads, past crops of potatoes and fields of poppies, and homes with the Hungarian Puli dogs in the yards.
Although my muscles were aching at the end of the day and I looked forward to the jetted tub back home in the yurt, I appreciated the comfort the unique Hungarian saddle afforded. Styled in the traditional way, the high front and back afforded good stability, and modern padded seat and English style stirrups provided much-appreciated comfort. The final trots through rows of trees, with the warm sun dappling through the vibrant green surrounding us, were utterly peaceful and a lovely way to end the day of riding.
When the riding is done, the enjoyment isn’t – as I appreciated sitting on our terrace with a cool drink, and then joining the rest of the guests for dinner in the evening. The dinners were fabulous treats, with different set three-course dinners each night. The hosts are very knowledgeable about local wine, the production of which is hugely successful in Hungary. A highlight was our musical evening, when we were serenaded by a local award -inning musician and the boldest among us danced along while the cowboys sang.
I so enjoyed all aspects of my stay at Homoki, the fun riding with interesting routes, the unique and luxurious accommodations and food, and the beautiful and temperate landscape. Upon our departure we spent a few nights in Budapest, a fascinating city which is also well worth the visit. It was a wonderful introduction to a region I knew little about, and whetted my appetite for further trips!