Experiencing nature, information, getting to know the region’s culture, people and stakeholders – these are the core elements of a „Tour d’horizon“, which has established to a Naturefriends’ brand for cross-border tourism.
As it was in former Landscapes of the Year, Naturefriends International as well developed the “Tour d’horizon” – a model tour for sustainable and border-crossing tourism - to the Landscape of the Year 2010/11 Slovak Karst – Aggtelek Karst. The exploration journey, which was organised in the end of June, focused on tour guides, group guides and hiking guides of the Naturefriends, who were interested in planning a journey to visit the Karst region with their own travel groups in future.
True to the motto „Caves and more ...“ of the Landscape of the Year 2010/11 Slovak Karst – Aggtelek Karst, the participants of the seven-day journey were convinced by an entertaining program. Ágnes Szöke, the local German speaking tour guide of the Gömör-Torna foundation informed – with great commitment and specialised know-how - the participants on both sides of the Slovak-Hungarian border about nature, culture, and the local people of the region.
Subterranean Jewels of Nature
Since 1995 the caves were inscribed by UNESCO in the Wold Natural Heritage List, and were on both sides of the border great highlights during the journey. A cave concert and many – partly adventurous – visits to the imposing cave chambers, with their outstanding beauty and the exceptionally beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations impressed all participants.
Exceptional Karst landscape
The picturesque and exceptional Karst landscape and its singular diversity of flora and fauna as well as its unique geological history make it of special interest to both scientists and tourists. Several guided natural hiking tours, which were accompanied by rangers of the Nationalparks Slovak Karst and Aggtelek, could introduce the participants to this striking area with its rich flora and fauna. A paradise e.g. for over 2000 butterfly species, orchids and birds, such as the imperial eagle or the black stork, the latter we even observed in a small stream in the middle of the village Jósvafő.
Culture and interchange in the cross-border region
Apart from the unforgettable natural impressions, the journey was also meant to provide insight into the regions history and culture. Several historical sights, such as the fortress Krasna Horka, the castle Betliar and visits to the mining museum and the museum of local history formed part of the program. Particularly impressed were the participants by the interchange as well as with personal conversations with local inhabitants, who reported from their life and work in the region. With it, there was an opportunity for getting to know traditional bread baking and the participation in a handicrafts workshop for local arts and crafts.
In cooperation with the Naturefriends in the respective regions and its partners, Naturefriends International wants to bring the potential for a sustainable tourism closer to the visitors of Landscapes of the Year. However, the Slovak Karst – Aggtelek Karst is faced with a challenge: the region suffers under a high unemployment rate and tourism is one of the few sectors that holds promises of a brighter future for the population. It must succeed to provide a balance between nature conservation and job creation. With the Tour d’horizon Naturefriends offer a travel package, which should get institutionalized in the region to support the cross-border cooperation and the understanding for nature in the living environment.
Further information concerning the planned tour offers from the particiants of the Tour d’horizon to the Landscape of the Year 2010/11 will be provided by NFI.
Photos: Anita Pinter, NFI