One of the most popular features of Ópusztaszer Heritage Park, the living Open Air Museum serves as a regional historical museum for the public benefit.
Note: The houses of Heritage Village are closed in wintertime. You can take a walk, of course.
Its primary mission is to present a hands-on learning program for thousands of students of local and national history. With the help of informal activities and interpreters dressed in period clothing, it offers a fascinating insight into the rich culture and character of the Southern Great Plain region in a unique, entertaining, and educational environment for all ages.
On the street lined with 15 reconstructed buildings from the Interwar Period, visitors to Heritage Village experience Hungarian village life as it was once. Costumed characters recreate the traditions and lifestyle of a bygone age, and animate the Heritage Village. The characters include the Juhász (shepherd) and his donkey, the uniformed Csendőr (policeman), the stern Tanár Úr (schoolteacher), and so on. Traditional jobs and crafts are also represented, including the forge, baking, farming etc. Whether it be baking bread in the beehive oven, learning the tricks of paprika cultivation, or crossing roads with a “genuine Hungarian highwayman”, the skansen adventure offers ample material for stories to tell for years to come.
At its original site, this structure served the farmstead community of Árpádhalom, Pusztaszer. The exterior is typical of schools and meeting houses constructed in the 19th century. As funds were scarce in the farming communities to build churches, these country schools functioned as centers of religious life as well. Crosses and bells donated by local farmers were integral parts of these structures.In a large schoolroom restored in accordance with the public schooling statutes of the last century, visitors can get a sense of the atmosphere of times when children of all ages, and even adults – who attended lectures on health and agricultural issues – studied in the same room, together. Through participation in a class called “Once upon a time there was a school”, pre-registered groups can even experience for themselves what teaching was like in one of these schools. A program we heartily recommend to young and old alike.
The replica homestead opposite the country schoolhouse is composed of a farm house, animal barns, feed shed, horse stable, the quintessential sweep well named gémeskút after the spoonbill or the blue heron, a vegetable garden, and a vineyard. The typical farm was surrounded by 15 acres of land used for raising cattle and growing crops. It was self-sufficient, but also produced goods for the market.
The farm house in Heritage Village was modeled after one near Mórahalom, and even the building material used was of the same age as that of the original. The house typical of the mid-18th century is divided into room – kitchen – room – pantry. It was usually home for two generations of a family cultivating the sandy soil.
The furnishings inside the farm house recall a home from the beginning of the 1900s. A typical family staying here would include two generations: elderly parents and their married son. A bunk-bed above the hay-rack in the horse stable was the sleeping place of the younger, unmarried son.
The farming tools and – starting from the 1910s-1920s – the farmers’ festive and market cart, the “spring cart from Nagyatád” were also kept under the same roof as the stable, in a barn dedicated to this purpose. The paprika-drying shed was brought to Heritage Village from a farm in Domaszék.
A sign on the Szeged homestead entrance warns visitors to close the gate behind themselves, to keep the lifestock inside.
Next to the Szeged homestead two small windmills relocated from Mártély and Mindszent stretch out their welcoming arms to the curious visitors. A thatched sheep-fold also peeks out from the nearby forest.
The neigboring homestead dating from the end of the 19th century was relocated from Szentes-Magyartés. The focal point of the courtyard is the ever present sweep well, with a trough next to it. Opposite the house, there is a pen for pigs, chicken and geese. The cute, round-shaped pen made of adobe is a typical building of the Szentes farmstead.
Stepping into the house of a crop-growing and cattle breeding (extensive breeding) family, one can see that this a protestant home: in place of crosses and images of saints, family portraits decorate the walls. A single thatched roof extends above the room, the kitchen, the pantry, the stable, and even the shed.
In front of the entrance door there is a wooden plank fence, which was left open during the day, because in the kitchen – called the ‘pitar’ – there were neither windows nor a front door with a glass pane. The brick-and-mortar hearth kept the kitchen smoke-free. When making jam or soap, at pig-killings, and to heat water for doing laundry, they used the copper cauldron. The room is complete with practical furniture; the floor is whitewashed clay.
At its orginal site, near Hódmezővásárhely, this community center served as the headquarters of the Reading Society of Pusztafeketehalom, established in 1890. The purpose of reading societies was to provide cultural and entertainment opportunities for those living far from the city. The hall capable of accommodating 150-200 people was available for lectures, balls, and dinner parties. Originally, there was a pub next to the hall, but later its wall was pulled down, and drinks were distributed from the kitchen, which can still be seen today. The furnace and the bowling facilities in the courtyard were also at the guests’ disposal.
The caretaker of the facilities lived at the back end of the building, in a little flat with one room and a kitchen. In exchange for free lodgings, he looked after the building, and kept it clean.
The hall still thrives as an educational, social and recreational community resource during events held at the Park. Slices of Piri néni’s (Aunt Piri) freshly baked bread or pastry are a great favorite in this house.
Down the street of the Interwar Heritage Village, guests can visit the house of a family that fished in the Tisza river. The building that stood as a model for this one is still standing in the protected Inner City of the water walkers in Csongrád, at 16 Gyík Street. The house, which was not significantly different from the houses of farmer families, recreates the daily life of the fishing families at the beginning of the 20th century.
The vaulted porch, the open fireplace, the furnace, the room and the pantry – used for storing fishing tools as well – testify that it was not an easy task to make a living by fishing. The family had to grow vegetables and grapes, reap and thresh wheat in the summer; and the male members had to work as navvies. The fish they caught was sold at the market; they only kept the small fish for themselves.
At its original location, the Blacksmith’s workshop across the street was constructed around Hódmezővásárhely at the end of the 19th century. The self-sufficient farms needed smiths, wheelwrights, and strap makers as well. Their workshops were built along the roads with the most traffic, and quite often other craftsmen set up shop in the same structure with them. (Considering that the main objective was to show the craftsmen’s workshops, the house and its outbuildings were not reconstructed here.)
Right next door, lifestyle in another region of the Southern Great Plain is introduced. Here one can observe the typical signs of urbanization of the onion growers, as families who sank into the rank of cotters before gained a chance to rise at the end of the 19th century through growing onions. The house is a replica of the home of the Diós family in Makó, which stands on the main road leading to Arad, Romania. The several changes of proprietors brought about renovations and redecorations, so it received a tiled roof, a strip floor, the kitchen was paved with cement slabs, and the yard was cobbled with bricks. There is no open fire, the rooms are painted, the street windows are covered by casements, but the most conspicuous change is that the furniture is polished.
The beds are placed against the wall, next to each other, and the dulcimer covered with a plush blanket also indicates a well-to-do family. The only things that remained from the parents’ house are the painted furniture and pottery, and the beehive oven above which the onion sets were drying in the winter. The house, which shows the changing habits of the different generations, is completed with outbuildings in the yard: a granary, a corn-crib or ’kotárka’ as it is known in the local dialect, a rootwasher, a henhouse, a sweep well, a smoking shed, and a pigsty.
The gable ornamented with sun rays is a famous element of the folk architecture of the Southern Great Plain, as can be seen on the house of the paprika grower family from the lower town Szeged. This home built as a replica of the house standing under 63 Pásztor Street in Szeged recalls the world of industrious small landowners and peasants who lived on the paprika crop of 2 or 3 acres. The original structure was built after the flood of 1879, according to the type plans of the Royal Committee of Szeged. The exhibition displays the architecture and home culture of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the tools used for growing and processing paprika. Its veranda with brick pillars was used to dry paprika.
The village grocers would sell pretty much everything, except ready-made clothes and shoes. The original of the house on the corner of the road was standing in Tápé, a village which now belongs to Szeged. The shopkeeper’s wife offered for sale the usual commodities of the Interwar Period. In 1939, the Tápé grocer, Dávid Fodor, being a baker as well, widened the store’s selection with products from his bakery.
The General Store in Heritage Village is open for business – as is the Baker’s next door – and is a popular gathering spot for the community.
On the opposite side of the street, the eclectic building of the Tömörkény town hall (1896) closes the row of houses characteristic to the market towns. A selection of the public documents from the 19th and 20th centuries is on display here, and the chamber of the town judge and the Tax Office were furnished with office furniture typical of the first half of the 20th century.
In the other wing of the building, the Old Post Office with telephones and postal service highlights postal history, including the development of post services and telecommunication. In the outbuilding of the post office there is a barber’s and a lady hairdresser’s, right next to the potter’s workshop. The ‘red post-cart’ stands in the shed with a thatched roof at the back of the building.
The fire station seen here houses the types of equipment used to fight a small town fire, drawing an image of the work of the volunteer fire brigades of the village.
The sails of the windmill moved here from the farmlands of Donát, near Szentes are not operational, but it is still a visitor favorite. At its original site, the mill worked from 1867. The four-storey structure inlcudes the ground floor called the ‘flour floor’, above this ‘the stone floor’ with two pairs of grinders, then the ‘fast wheel floor’, and on the uppermost level the ‘big wheel floor’. It has been an industrial memorial since the 1950s. In 2010 discussions started about possibilities and options for making the sails of the windmill turn again.
The road towards the small forest leads to the collection of farm equipment. Its most precious gem is the steam engine, made in 1893, which was used in pairs to plough the vast fields of the manors. (A crab attached to the steam engine drew the plough from one end of the field to the other.) Besides these, the exhibition displays the typical tools and equipment used on peasant farms.
The train standing in front of a typical station of the narrow gauge industrial railway may seem to be part of the machine collection, but we prefer to imagine that one day we can board it to discover the woods and other sights of the plains.
In the Imrehegy forester house in the forestry of Pirtó, Bács-Kiskun County, a photo exhibit recalls the history of environmental protection in the Fehér-tó area, depicted in the films directed by István Homoki Nagy. The wildlife of the sand forest is introduced in a separate room, and yet another exhibit shows the floodplains of the river Tisza.
Student groups often linger behind the forester’s house, in the open air classroom, which is also a good site for small events or cookouts. The study trail that starts from the open air class enhances the hikers’ knowledge of natural sciences.
By the end of the 19th century local railway had crisscrossed the territories of the Great Plain, but in the area between the Danube and the Tisza there was no paved road connecting settlements. To make up for this lack of roads, the Minister of Transportation initiated the construction of state roads in 1893. Thus, between 1894 and 1900 a 300 km long road was built along the Baja – Félegyháza – Csongrád – Békéscsaba – Erdőhegy route, on a foundation of layered stone slabs, paved with tarmac. Along these so called transversal roads houses with two rooms and a kitchen were built at regular distances, for the maintenance workers. The visitor will find such a semi-detached house in the neighbourhood of the forester’s house, at the end of Heritage Village, before entering the Nomadic Park. One part of the house is furnished as a home, and the other part exhibits the tools and documents used to design, build and maintain roads.