The Mecsek becomes Hungary's "Most delicious" place to visit

In 2014/15 the European Commission called for proposals for "European Destinations of Excellence" (EDEN) for the ninth time. Hungary has featured successfully in all the competitions to date.

 As on previous occasions, the maximum European Union co-funding of 75%, which means EUR 50 000, was granted to implement the project in Hungary. This year's competition sought to find "Hungary's Most Delicious Place to Visit". The title was awarded to the Mecsek Greenway Association for its array of services based on the region's distinctive local gastronomy.

Within the framework of the EDEN competition, every year a destination of excellence is chosen for each Member State, which is rewarded in various ways. An important goal is to promote outstanding quality but lesser known tourist destinations and to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises that are active in the target area.

Hungarian Tourism Plc submitted its proposal to the European Commission in August 2014, and Hungary's application was successful for the ninth time. The title of this year's competition was "A Pinch of Hungary", whose theme was local gastronomy as motivation for tourism.

Of the 19 entries received, 5 reached the final. The ultimate choice was made by a jury of tourism experts and representatives of professional tourism bodies at the closing trade conference at the National Agricultural and Food Exhibition.

At the event held on 26 September Dr. Ádám Ruszinkó, Deputy State Secretary for Tourism, announced the results. The Mecsek Greenway Association had won the title of "Hungary's Most Delicious Place to Visit". Their competition entry was called "Behold this scene, a vast sheet of green" – and a table spread with miracles: Mecsek, the gastronomic footprint of the country.

In his welcoming speech at the conference, István Loránd Szakáli, the Ministry of Agriculture's Deputy State Secretary for Agricultural Development and Hungaricums, emphasised that high quality local food and haute cuisine both make a major contribution to Hungary's success as a tourist destination. He underscored that successful destinations are those whose tourism development strategy is founded on local values. Hungarian Tourism Plc's Deputy CEO for Tourism, Tamás Glázer, who was in charge of the project, remarked that the theme of the competition was highly topical as, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), gastronomy is increasingly becoming a central element of travel. International research reveals that more than a third of tourist spending is related to the consumption of gastronomic products. Gastronomic tourists are looking for agreeable experiences in an original environment as part of their quality lifestyle, and consuming high standard local products is part of this. For this reason there could be no better and more symbolic location to announce the winners of the EDEN competition than the National Agriculture and Food Exhibition. The exhibition itself was clear evidence of how well tourism and gastronomy complemented each other, added Mr Glázer.

Dr Csilla Szalók, President of the Association of Hungarian Rural and Agrotourism, was also a member of the jury at the closing conference.

Hungarian Tourism Plc provides help in developing the marketing tools of the Hungarian region winning the honorary title. The winning region can also participate in the 2015 European Tourism Forum, where it will receive its "European Destination of Excellence" award together with its European counterparts. An opportunity to appear on a joint European portal (www.edenineurope.eu) helps promotion in international markets. The winner of the competition may also take part in a project developing a network that promotes professional cooperation among the winning destinations, to be realised at the European Commission's initiative. The winner has a further opportunity, to appear on Hungarian Tourism Plc's micro-site eden.itthon.hu, where a professional summary is posted in Hungarian and English. The runners-up in the competition and the other applicants can also win promotional contributions at several levels in accordance with the descriptions in the Competition Guide.

Background information

Presenting the winner of the title "Hungary's most delicious place to visit":

The Mecsek Greenway is a live and functional workshop that conveys an ethos, and helps locals and visitors in their mental and physical recreation, in transferring values and to evolve. Locals created this horizontally organised, strong, equality-based network of people drawing on their own inner resources. The Association organises events linked to high standard catering on a planned route covering the whole of the Mecsek.

The Members of the Mecsek Greenway meticulously identified the local values, products, services, events, traditions and gastronomy of individual villages and the development potential for tourism. They are committed to popularising traditional, seasonal local products that are free of chemicals and preservatives; to gathering and using plants and mushrooms of field and forest in an environmentally friendly way, and to passing on this knowledge as well as to raising awareness of medicinal foods and healthy eating, and promoting a gentle, green and ecological form of sustainable tourism that supports rather than exploits local communities.

Developments in the region are not "festival-focused", but are rather quiet events intended to attract only a small number of tourists at any one time with environmentally friendly, sustainable events that are available in all seasons and at all times.

Rural tourism has a long-standing tradition in the region. Qualified service providers with the "sunflower" National Certification Mark, eco-houses, services and restaurants, village/small producer guest tables, various themed routes (e.g. the Pécs–Mecsek Wine Route and the Honey Route) and accommodation with an ecotourism rating contribute, together with the NGOs bringing them together, to high standard tourism in the wonderful natural setting of the nature conservation areas of the Danube-Drava National Park. Locally grown organic products are regularly used in catering and can be purchased in local markets at Orfű, Kovácsszénája and Cserkút.

 

Key tourist features in the region related to gastronomy:

Oven Courtyard and Country House in Orfű, bread baking presentation in the Orfű Mill Museum; preparation of homemade dishes (e.g. tulip bread, jam) in the Nyírő Craft Yard in Kovácsszénája; beekeeping and tasting honey and vinegar at the farm of Árpád Bodnár; markets of local products; Wild Garlic Festival in Orfű; Purslane Picnic in Cserkút; breakfasts, lunches and dinners made from wild plants in Cserkút; "Eco-bait" snack bar, cooking workshops, training and team building events; "taste the wilderness" strolls all across the Mecsek; foods of our grandmothers; wild garlic, a proprietary crop of the Danube-Drava National Park; get-togethers organised along the lines of old spinneries in Cserkút to pick the bulbils of wild garlic; a Roman feast at the Roman villa in Kővágószőlős; dinners made from wild plants in Zsongorkő; the rock formation called "Babies", medicinal food camp in Cserkút; a pasta making workshop in Cserkút; collecting wild plants in Sedge Valley, field exercises, mushroom courses, outings that introduce participants to edible wild plants; cooking together sessions for team-building, and courses to make therapeutic food.

The villages involved: Cserkút, Kővágószőlős, Kővágótőttős, Bakonya, Kovácsszénája and Orfű

Jury members:

  • Dr. Ádám Ruszinkó, Deputy State Secretary for Tourism, Ministry for National Economy
  • István Loránd Szakáli, Deputy State Secretary for Agricultural Development and Hungaricums, Ministry of Agriculture
  • Tamás Glázer, Deputy CEO for Tourism, Hungarian Tourism Plc
  • Dr Csilla Szalók, President, Association of Hungarian Rural and Agrotourism