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Natural attractions

2. Rákóczi’s elm tree and surrounding area

According to legend, the beloved Hungarian leader Ferenc Rákóczi has once stopped to rest in the cool shade of a large elm tree in the area which has subsequently been declared a protected specimen and has gone on to live another 400 years. Although there are no written testimonies to verify the validity of the account, we do know for certain that one of Rákóczi’s brigadiers, Béri Balogh Ádám has visited the area a number of times and even won a battle against emperor Rabutin’s army in February 1707.

Unfortunately, Rákóczi’s elm tree had been seriously damaged after being struck by a lightning bolt and a violent windstorm back in 1991 has torn out the remnants of the ancient tree. During the same year, a giant sequoia has been planted on the date commemorating the withdrawal of the soviet army and is thus also referred to as “Liberty Tree”.

During its prime, it rose up to 22 m in height and its diameter at breast height measured close to 240 cm while the circumference got to a staggering 750 cm.

It also used to play a vital role for the ships sailing along Lake Balaton and the fishermen of the area serving as an orientation aid. The fisherman from the counties of Veszprém, Somogy and Zala used it in order to establish their position since they were only allowed to catch the fish from the waters that belonged to their counties of residence. Although the veritable Methuselah-tree perished in 1968, it is nevertheless the oldest and best-known ancient trees of the Upper Balaton region and has thus been placed under protection by the law. Currently its remaining roots serve to nurture a newly planted elm, which is regarded by many as a symbol for keeping the past alive.

The area is also considered to have been the site of the XVI century’s national assembly

After the tragic outcome of the Battle of Mohács, many pretenders to the crown of Hungary took up arms. Maria, the widowed queen, supported Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg but the national aristocracy wanted a Hungarian king in the person of John Zápolya. In order to settle the issue, a national assembly was called for November 5th 1526 in Székesfehérvár during which the aristocracy firmly declined the petition of the Austrian pretender. Saint Stephen’s crown had been placed under the protection of crown guard Péter Perényi , who was at the time a loyal supporter of John Zápolya and hence there were no more impediments in the way of officially crowning the Transylvanian voivode right there in Székesfehérvár, the traditional city of coronation. Shortly after these events, a similar assembly was held in Bratislava and this time Perényi switched camps in support of the Austrian pretender and was also instrumental in his coronation. The two official kings and their supporters subsequently greatly contributed to the difficult times that enveloped the country.

In order to find a solution for the situation, the Hungarian nobility often convened at various sites across the country and according to legend, in January 1523 a meeting was held under the old elm tree in Kenese.

Due to the controversial nature of the meeting, the ruling class did not look favorably upon the event and even tried to forbid their subjects to participate. Nevertheless, important personalities like the Ban of Croatia, 3 archbishops, around 65 magnates and their company as well as countless noble men were in attendance. The assembly lasted for 3 days and after countless arguments and intense fighting, ended with no results. The national initiative failed and the country was torn to pieces. Expectations from this assembly as well as from both kings were extremely high but the lack of willingness to compromise and intense individual interests eventually led to the unfavorable outcome.

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