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A step back in time

I’m a sucker for living history museums. The best I’ve ever seen was near Plymouth, in the USA, where the actors played their parts to the hilt, never wavering, despite the trick questions put to them by the tourists. Here in Szombathely, however, the Vas Museum was not so lively. Like most of the city, what was notable was the absence of people.

Since it opened in 1973, 43 buildings have been transplanted from 27 settlements in the region. Lying on the western bank of one of Szombathely’s fishing lakes, the museum is home to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century porták (farmhouses) that once stood in villages in the Őrség region. As was usual in villages on the western border, the houses are arranged around a semicircular street and include Croatian, German, and fenced houses.

Most of the houses can be visited and the interiors seem quite authentic. It isn’t hard to imagine people eating, sleeping, and cooking in these rooms but what stands out above all is the coolness of the buildings. No airconditioning in sight and yet the interiors feel 15 degrees cooler than the temperatures outside. So much for progress.

The whitewashed walls, daub floors, and wooden furniture are brought into start relief by splashes of colour found in the chimney tiles and  bed linens. It’s a quiet place to wander and quite easy to let yourself be pulled back through the centuries to a time where the community was such an important part of village life – a time where people actually knew each other, met up, and shared experiences in person. A time when life was simple and uncomplicated. I’m reminded of how far we’ve come and ask myself if I would swap my flat and the complexities of my life to go live back in the nineteenth century in one of these farmhouses. The jury is still considering.

According to what I’ve read in Lonely Planet, nettles from a strange plant called kővirózsa (stone rose) growing on the thatch were used to pierce little girls’ ears.

Buildings include wine cellars, a wooden belfry, and a nobleman’s house complete with porch. On St George and St Martin’s day, the place comes alive with folk art and fairs. Open all year round, entrance fee is 800 ft and well worth a gander if  you’re in the neighbourhood.

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One Response

  1. The ‘strange plant’ is the fali kővirózsa, sempervivum tectorum, aka the houseleek. It has a spike on the ends of the leaves – I’ve not tested one on myself but I daresay that it would go through the lobe of an ear quite easily!

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