#1 - Hike up to the St. István lookout point (location)
If you’re in good physical shape, take the scenic walking trail to the hilltop where an oversized wooden cross and a captivating statue commemorate Hungary’s first king (the uphill climb takes about twenty minutes from the St. Margit chapel). Up here, there’s also an eye candy for fans of modernist architecture: a 1931 community center made from basalt tuff mined from the hill.
#2 - Hike up to the Somló Castle (location)
If you continue from the St. István lookout point, above, for another fifteen minutes through dense forest, you’ll reach the enormous remains of the medieval Somló castle. Badly damaged during clashes with the Ottoman army in the 16th century, it has for long been in a state of neglect, especially as locals hauled away its stones over the centuries. The views from here are hard to beat.
#3 - Visit the former Erdődy Estate in Doba (location; open every day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.)
This neoclassical estate in the village of Doba, less than ten minutes from the hill by car, once belonged to the Erdődy family, one of the wealthy feudal landlords of Somló before 1945 (the Somló Castle was also theirs). Especially impressive is the 90-hectare English-style garden surrounding the estate and dotted with four small lakes. The building is currently undergoing renovation but the immense park is open for all to see and stroll around in.
#4 - Visit the chapels on the Somló hillside (locations)
There are three adorable medieval chapels scattered across Somló Hill. Apart from their religious functions, they each have served as points of navigation in the past and locals still celebrate the chapels’ patron saints every year. While most central is the chapel of St. Margit, the other two — St. Márton and St. Ilona — are also awe-inspiring in all of their remoteness.
#5 - Find the stone statues within the vineyards (location)
Historically, the villages of Somló have been deeply religious with most people being Roman Catholic. This is why the vineyards are teeming with old stone crosses and statues of Jesus and Saint Mary.
#6 - Hike up to the former water storage building of the Abbey of Zirc (location)
In the communist era, many of the grand winery buildings from the previous epoch were actively knocked down or dismantled. This was the case with the neoclassical wine and water storage facility of the Cistercian Abbey of Zirc, one of the major Somló landlords before WWII. And yet the skeletal remains of the building still dominate the precious southern hillside from which you can see as far as Badacsony Hill by Lake Balaton on a clear day.
#7 - Take in the architecture of Kreinbacher Winery (location)
Hungarian starchitect Dezső Ekler designed the biomorphic facilities of Kreinbacher Winery in the early aughts (Ekler was an acolyte of Imre Makovecz, one of the pioneers of organic architecture). The buildings are modern in their use of materials and furnishings but they also delicately fade into the hillside and respect their surroundings. If you note similarities with Pálinkaház, the building further up the street, it’s because Ekler designed that one too.
#8 - Take a sip of water at the Sédfő water spring (location)
Wineries on the upper sections of Somló Hill have no running water so many of them rely on water springs instead. The ice-cold aqua that gushes from the Sédfő spring happens to be wonderfully reviving — on summer days it’s not unusual for a line of people to form outside it. Some even claim to be able to detect the signature minerally taste of Somló but for that I will not vouch.
#9 - Visit the remains of the Zichy estate (location)
If you also enjoy marveling at the battered estates of Hungary’s vanished aristocracy, head to the village of Somlószőlős to see what’s left of the once-lavish home of the Zichy family. The 1850 romantic-style building, which evoked the castles of the medieval era, is overgrown with weeds today and looks like a haunted house (be careful, there’s a deep trench around it).
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