In the heart of the east Mecsek Mountains, not far away from the idyllic Óbánya and Püspökszentlászló, you can find the Máré Vára fortress. As the peaceful resort for hikers and bikers it is today, the history books tells us that this place used to be center of the battlefield. What now functions as stunning panoramic viewpoint, used to be the ideal lookout for enemies. The Máré Vára (meaning: the Castle of Máré) fortress is a beautiful place to begin or end your hike in the Mecsek Mountains, and to get a better understanding of what happened in this area, and why it played such a significant role in the Hungarian history.
As you drive your way up to the fortress, through the charming village Magyaregregy, you will find yourself on a winding road deeper and deeper into the forest. There are several parking lots on the way, but in case you don’t prefer a small hike towards the top, you can also decide to drive straight up to the fortress by car. The woods are just stunning in this area, especially during colorful autumn time, and you will have a lot of chance to encounter foxes, deer or other wild animals along the way. Be respectful, as this is their natural habitat.
As you walk up, you will already see the impressive castle looming above the treetops, and it is not hard to imagine that this wildly romantic spot is the backdrop to many folktales. Once upon a time, the gallant knight Máré lived together with his beautiful young wife in the castle. In a castle nearby, in the village called Szentmiklós, lived his unmarried brother, knight Miklós. One day, knight Máré was called to battle by the king, so he had to say goodbye to his wife, and asked her to wait for him, with unwavering faith. Years went by, and Máré didn’t come home. His wife had already cried for him desperately, and believed him to be dead. She was only glad for the company of his brother Miklós, who happened to stop by more and more often over time. The lady of Castle Máré had already lost faith, and didn’t live up to her promises to Máré anymore.
And as would be expected from a good folk tale, Miklós and Máré’s wife got together, and it wasn’t long until their child was born. By the time the child grew up and turned into a beautiful young woman, the return of knight Máré came unexpectedly. Instantly, Máré knew his wife had been unfaithful, and he revenged by attacking both the castles, and killing everyone in it. The only survivor was the daughter, who was cursed by her mother on her deathbed, and by the curse imprisoned to the cellars of the fortress. She was only allowed to go outside on the day of Pentecost, when she would wash herself and brush her long hair in the stream by the castle. Only a hunter who would kiss a stag, a poisonous snake and toad, would be able to relieve her from her curse. Until now, no hunter was ever able to fulfill this quest, and therefore we can still hear the sigh of the daughter in the wind of Máré castle.
The castle rising above a hidden peak of the Eastern Mecsek was in all probability built after the Mongolian invasion, in the 13th century. Under the influence of a powerful baron in the time, the estate flourished in the 15th century, and lots of people visited the market town lying under the castle. The manor was redesigned in gothic style, conveying the wealth of the head of the estate. Significant renaissance constructions were underway, affected by the occupation of the Serbians during wartime. The Ottoman conquest reached the castle of Máré in 1543, and left severe damages to the estate. Therefore, the fort became abandoned, and only ruins remained during the Great Turkish War. The abandoned property became once again noteworthy during the Hungarian revolution of 1956, as rebels arrived to use the fortress to keep up an armed resistance against the Soviet Intervention.
The archaeological excavation of medieval castles in Hungary started in the 1950’s, and as a result, Castle Máré was rediscovered, and rebuilt to its former glory. Nowadays, the castle is open for visitors, and is home to a museum giving insight about the history of the castle and the Mecsek. It also hosts an art gallery and an interactive history room for children. Due to its vital position in the Hungarian revolution, the memorial day of this historical event, which is held nationwide every year on the 23rd of October, is remembered at the Máré Vára.
Not only on this day, but any day of the year it is worth to visit this mystical forest fortress. For its glorious surroundings and its tragic stories, and the many beautiful hiking tracks that start and end here.