Tata is among those rare cities that engrave themselves in your heart straight away, whether you’re young, old, man or woman. A real gem at the border of the Gerecse- and Vértes mountains. And it can easily and quickly be accessed from Budapest too.
Tata, the city of water
They refer to it two different way, most commonly as the city of water, but you can often hear the baroque city description too, as most of its attraction is from this era.
The first name will become understandable straight away if you visit here, as there are two larger lakes in the city: Lake Öreg (Old) and Lake Cseke. Besides the large lakes, streams, channels and hot water springs colour the city, and you can have a great walk among them, admiring the water-mills ands dams built on the water.
Wandering between the baroque buildings you could easily feel like you’ve time travelled and ended up in the 17-18th century.
Cycling and wild geese
Going back to the two large lakes, those who prefer to spend time in the nature will have fun here too. You can take a short or medium length cycling tour around the lake.
Lake Öreg is called old for a reason, it’s good to know that this is Hungary’s oldest man-made lake, which was made before the Hungarian conquest era by damming Által-ér.
The lake isn’t only liked by people, during spring and autumn thousands of wild geese arrive here and after a few days of rest they continue their journey. The migration of birds is definitely worth to watch, organised programs await nature lovers to this event.
Tata and a lively past
At the shore of the lake the Tata Castle stands full of pride, the biggest attraction of the city. This building often called as water castle was built by King Sigismund of Luxemburg sometime between 1397 and 1409.
Unlike most castles in Hungary, it didn’t serve for protection, it was a hunting- and resting castle. Later King Matthias rebuilt it into a real renaissance castle.
Just like many other things, the building ended up in Turkish hands for a long time, then in the hands of József Krapf, military adviser. Count József Esterházy, a royal judge bought it from him in 1727, and it remained in the custody of the Esterházy family until 1945.
Unfortunately, in the 19th century a fire destroyed the city and the castle became its victim as well, the once renaissance style castle was rebuilt in romantic style.
Today the castle can be viewed as a museum, in the halls the 18th and 19th century comes alive, but there is also a Sigismund era knight hall, moreover a Roman room, which was decorated by reconstructed wall pictures and debris from the Roman era. If you come to the city, you must visit it.
Cow stable and Napoleon
The Esterházy family, just like at many other places of the country, left their footprint at Tata as well. At the order of Miklós Esterházy (1711-1765), a famous architect of the era, Jakab Fellner built the baroque styled family castle which still amazes visitors.
Those who know about architecture will notice straight away that the building carries the Würzburg Residence’s and the Melk Abbey’s style. But the large baroque rooms will prove to be a great sight for ordinary people as well.
The royal ornate dining room and the marble bathroom covered in Dutch tiles are especially pretty. It’s rare and fortunate, that the fireplaces, stoves and ornate plaster stuccos can be seen in their original state in the castle.
The former equestrian centre can also be viewed in its original state, though it had to be restored, as during the socialist era the magnificent equestrian centre became a cow stable. A more significant event was that, contrary to the popular belief, the Treaty of Vienna, which marked the end of the Napoleon wars, was signed here, not in Vienna in 1809.
But this is also where they caught the last Hungarian King, Charles IV and his wife in 1921.
The Esterházy family didn’t just leave the castle and equestrian centre behind for the city, but the park system behind the castle too. The romantic garden system from the XVIII. century was designed by Ritter Karl, garden architect, and its most precious piece is the carved ornament fountain, which is the work of art of Antal Schweiger, sculptor.
Getting the water to work
Probably many of you would agree that there is something mysterious and romantic about watermills.
Well, Tata isn’t just the city of water but of watermills as well, as during its past it gave home to 15 mills, the first being built in 1268 by Queen Maria.
Of course, back then the mills weren’t made to create some romance, but because they recognised if tall that water is here, we might as well get them to work. The mills in the city milled grains and were involved in leather processing.
Unfortunately, during the Turkish invasion most of them burnt down, but you can still see some while walking around on the streets.
Naturally, they aren’t used for work anymore, they don’t mill anything, but decorate the sides of inns, restaurants and museums.
The Szabadtéri Geológiai Múzeum (Outdoor Geology Museum) is found at the Kálvária Hill (Calvary Hill).
Attention, it’s only for fanatics, if you don’t like rocks, don’t look up this former quarry. For those who are interested can travel back in time to the baroque era, or even to ancient times, when there were no signs of humans at all.
At the quarry you can see the strata of geographical history. Those who are lucky can also see extinct snails, the remains of cephalopods and former sea creatures, you only need a bit of patience and a good eye, and of course to recognize the extinct multicellular.
The view from the shot factory
Those who would like the view this beautiful city from above should definitely find the also baroque styled Tata lookout tower. Just a few more steps from the quarry and you’re there.
After battling 200 stairs you can admire the wonderful town from 40m high. The original tower next to the barren Calvary hill, was built in 1770 by Antal Schweiger, but not to provide a view over the city for tourists.
Hold onto your hats, the tower originally was a shot factory. A shot – in case you’re wondering – is a small pellet, that’s okay, but why did its production need a tower?
Because back then shots were created by pouring hot led into water drip by drip from really high. The liquid led took the shape of a button while falling and solidified as soon as it touched the water.
Beside the tower we can also view the ruins of a 14th century gothic church and a small chapel. The chapel is also thanks to the Esterházy family, it was built by József Esterházy in 1754.
This building has two unique points, one, this is where they once held the national assembly. The second, that this building’s, also named Óratorony (Clock tower), wooden structure was made without iron nails. Made by József Éder, carpenter from Tata in 1763, this octagonal shaped, three storey masterpiece with a pyramid roof.
After giving home to the national assembly it became one of the city’s symbols. It’s bell rings every hour to remind locals and visitors about the passing of time.
The Camaldolese mutes
It’s amazing how many things this small town can be the home of, at the banks of Lake Öreg is the Camaldolese house too. The name quite possibly doesn’t mean anything to many people, as the Camaldolese order isn’t among the most famous ecclesiastical orders.
The order was established by Prince Romuald in 1009, and József Esterházy gave home to the Camaldolese people who somehow ended up here in 1744.
The white robed, bald monks didn’t bother many people, as they took an oath of silence, and they only broke this once a year, between the 28th of December and the 2nd of January. It’s not easy for anyone, however their house decorated with rococo forged windows can be viewed to this day.
English Garden with Turkish
Tata gave home to many saintly people during its past, including the Turkish occupant of the English Garden, who was revered as a saint. This is where he stayed alone and prayed to his God, and today this is where one of the garden’s attraction is, the Turkish mosque.
Others believe this is only a legend, and they could be right as the garden was only made in 1783, based on the plans of royal engineer, Ferenc Böhm. Despite this, it’s definitely worth to walk here, as besides the mosque plenty of other attractions await visitors.
In the first Hungarian English garden we can meet with the romantic artificial ruins designed by Charles Moreau, stone bridge, Roman era graves, palm house and the artificial Avernus cave, and many other attractions, from which I would only like to highlight one. This is the bench found in front of the Turkish mosque.
Tata imprints itself in the heart of many, just like with famous poet, Ferenc Kazinczy, who loved to visit Tata and the then newly made English garden, the bench was made in his honour. It gives a bit of a romantic vibe, knowing that since then many people shared a kiss, cried and laughed sitting there.
If you visit here, sit down for a minute to rest, before getting up again to explore the rest of the attractions of this wonderful city. If you can’t get to Tata, but you’re in the mood for some romance, then Budapest also provides plenty of suitable locations.