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Natural attractions

1. Tatarian Breadplant study path

One emblematic symbol of our city is considered to be the Tatarian Breadplant (Crambe tataria) since it made Balatonkenese widely known among hikers, festival guests and nature-lovers in general. The study path that leads to its habitat on Soós-hill is marked with a (T) and starts right in the city center. There are several explanatory signs along the way that also help with orientation.

The Tatarian Breadplant is a perennial plant that has a soft stem and belongs to the crucifers or the cabbage family. The leaves of the extensive, bush-like plant are quite large and can reach up to 60 cm in size. The stem and the leaves are hairy in young age but become bold with time.

The mature plant blooms for the first time only when it reaches 4-5 years, usually around April-May, depending on the weather. The pollination of the dense flower clusters is done by insects.

Since the roots taste almost like cabbage, the shepherds and farmers of the area used to eat it in the past. The Tatarian Breadplant is a typical “tumbleweed”, once mature and dry, it disengages from the root and tumbles away in the wind thus dispersing its seeds.

The plant originates from the southern steppes of today’s Russian and the area around the Caspian Sea, which is perhaps also, where its name comes from: Tatarian Breadplant, Tatarian Carrot, Tatarian Root. Throughout Hungary Balatonkenese is the only spot where its population is quite numerous and it is also the place where it was originally declared endangered species back in the sixties. Its protection is critical due to its rarity and highly endangered status.

Regarding its discovery, it dates back to the end of the XVI century when the famous Flemish pioneering botanist Carolus Clusius asked his patron Bathyány Boldizsár to send him a species he called „tataria ungarica”. He received the plant from Transdanubia and proceeded with its review and publication back in 1601. He gave a detailed account about the plant found in “the neighboring regions of Dacia” called Tataria, where in years when food supplies were scarce, its roots were consumed as a substitute for bread and the population no doubt learned this knowledge from the Tatars.

Two centuries later, a famous horticulturist from Vienna asked the emperor’s astrologist, the Hungarian Miksa Hell, for two specimens of the plant. His request was granted but unfortunately, the plants did not survive the long journey. Eventually he did get a hold of some new specimens and gave them to his student, Sándonak Sebeők for further studies. Shortly afterwards, it was discovered that the plant actually belonged to the genus Crambe and it his thesis published in 1779, Sebeők already refers to it by the name of Crambe Tataria. It is entirely possible that Tataria was its original Hungarian name and that Tatarian Breadplant was in fact derived from that ancient term having very little to do with the Tatars.

The plant was almost completely extinct by the XIX. century but was saved at the last minute. Nevertheless, there are only a few placed left in Hungary where colonies of more numerous specimens still survive which makes it a critically endangered and therefore highly protected species. The reason behind the drastic decline in its numbers has to do with the conversion of its natural habitat into farmland.

The area around Balatonkenese where the Tatarian Breadplant still survives, belongs under the management and supervision of the Upper Balaton National Park and is closed for road traffic. The monetary value of one such specimen amounts to 30.000 FT and its destruction is punishable by law.

The Tatarian Pits

One of the most significant attractions along the Tatarian Breadplant study path must certainly be the “Tatarian Pits” which are in fact caverns dug in the sides of Magaspart (en. high coast). This is where the local population first sought refuge from the Tatars and later the Turkish invasion.

The loess wall holds a total of nine caverns on five vertical levels. Adventurers can easily access the lower ones while the upper ones require special climbing gear. An 1894 expedition into the upper caves by ethnographer János Jankó and the poet Soós Lajos revealed that those too have been used by the population and shared many similarities with the ones located at lower levels.

Magaspart (Highcoast)

Contrary to popular opinion and the name itself, the make-up of Magaspart mainly consists of marine sediments. Its regular, horizontal layers were deposited by the Pannonian Sea that covered the region of the Carpathian basin some 10 million years ago. Merely the upper 1-2 meters of loess are fine-grained wind-blown glacial sediment.

The steep slope has been carved by the waves of Lake Balaton that have gradually eroded the coastlines consisting of soft sediments. The base of the mountain mainly consists of debris and rocks that got loose and slid to the base. The steep cliff is also the home of a unique fauna and several loess-specific plants. The small hollows of the sedimentary rock walls house the nests of a couple of our most magnificent birds whose appearance remind us of their tropical counterparts, the so called European Bee-eater and the brown feathered Bank Swallow.

The region is also home to the Tatarian Breadplant (Crambe tataria), an extremely rare sighting throughout Hungary. Balatonkenese is the only spot where a spectacular large colony still grows wild.

The hilltop used to be called Partfő (en. Coast top) or Magas-Part (Highcoast), offers a wonderful panorama for visiting tourists and hikers alike. Its highest peak measures 180 m above sea level, which is about 75 m above the surface of Lake Balaton.

An obelisk placed there in 1927 in memory of the poet Lajos Soós eventually lead the peak to be known as Soós-hill.

The cliff has undergone some major changes in the past centuries. The steep slope was once fairly lean and reached all the way to the lake. However, since the lake was drained back in 1861, the water levels withdrew some 200-300 meters from the bank.

The opposite side of the hill, pointing towards the village, is a lean slope that was once a restricted vineyard where the grapes for the famous white wines of Kenese used to prosper. Nowadays, due to the intense heat of the sun, the vines have perished and gave way to farm lands.

The walls facing the lake still preserve the memories of times past thanks to the “Tatarian pits”, caves carved into the walls of Magas-part (Highcoast) where the local population found refuge from the invading Tatars and Turks. Their formation and unique wildlife is explained in detail by the signs placed at the location.

If we pause to admire the surroundings near the obelisk at the hilltop, one might discover an unusual plant. This bush-like perennial with white flowers is actually the Tatarian Breadplant after which the study path derives its name.

The street that leads down the mountain takes you directly to the cemetery where posterity has endeavored to preserve the memory of its famous people and casualties of war. One can also visit the solemn graveyard of the Reformed church nearby, the monument erected in honor of the heroic soldiers fallen in World War II or the German military graveyard.

The carved wood column raised in memory of the revolution and freedom-fighters of 1948-49 is also close-by. Detailed information about these tribute sites is available on the signs placed at the main entrance of the cemetery and in the leaflets distributed by Tourinform offices.


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