Any Excuse to Travel

Szent György hegy, Hungary

The name Szent György hegy loses its magic in translation. The mundane St George’s hill doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the basalt homeland overlooking the north shore of Lake Balaton. I’d seen the signs many times on our way to the Liliom Kert market in Káptalantóti but we’d never made the detour. It’d be a lie to say that time was never on our side; it’d be more accurate to say that I never felt the need to explore. 

Heading to the Somló wine region earlier this month for an overnight at the Kreinbacher estate, I was merely the passenger in a car that had decided that Szent György hegy needed to be explored. We had a destination – the eighteenth-century Polish church with its Rococo pews and sandstone statues. Built by the Lengyel (trans. Polish) family to replace the existing Szenty György chapel it was expanded again in 1880, the date you see above the door.  We found it but sadly it was closed. That said, I’ve made a note of the opening hours and will be back on the first Saturday of some month soon for mass.

Szent György hegy Polish chapel

statue on the Polish chapel on Szent György hegy

Opening hours of the Polish Chapel on St George's Hill

And if seeing the inside of the church wasn’t enticement enough, now that the old Tarányi présház (trans. press house) has been restored to some of its original Baroque splendour and reopened as an Italian restaurant, the pizza beckons. Those who have more history with the place are not impressed, though. And yes, dormer windows are hardly Baroque but the facade with its statues is quite something.

Tarányi presshouse - restaurant on St George's Hill

Some 50 m from Tarányi is the 1901 Lion’s Head well, once a go-to spot for passing travellers in need of some clear water to quench their thirst. Sadly the water is, for some reason, no longer drinkable.

Lion's head well Szent György-hegy

Lion's head well Szent György-hegy

There’s a 5.2 km trek you can do around the hill that takes about 2 hours, given the time you’ll stop to take photos and enjoy the stunning views and wonder what it would be like to live on the 450m-high hill. If you keep an eye out, you’ll see all sorts of interesting stuff like ceramic tile work in the walls and modern press houses nestled in the vineyards.

That particular day was a two-church day. Second on our list was an eighteenth-century chapel dedicated to St Antony of Padua. It, too, is quite lovely. Venturing out back, we happened across a quaint little house with some interesting decor. Perhaps a hostel? Hard to know. Back in 2015, during one of the festivals, there was a so-called sacred day where you got to tour the five churches on the hill and sample some local wines. That I would have enjoyed.

And there was a second well, too, appropriately named after Szent György. I’m only now reading that there’s a button in the ground that you have to step on to make the water come out of the dragon’s mouth. Next time.

There’s plenty of money in on the hill. There are some amazing houses with spectacular views. I wondered how many are year-round residences and how many are lived in during the summer, and when we’re going through a pandemic. It’s a lovely place for a wander and if you’re into basalt, the famous organ-pipe formations will rock your world. Me, I’m going back to find Ify chapel, which is billed as a Balaton leghátborzongatóbb helye (trans. the creepiest place on the Balaton). [Note to UK: Driver position vacant :-)] And if my lotto numbers come up, I’ll be knocking on this door and making an offer.


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