The Ister-Granum Euroregion is situated at the crossroads of the wander ways of nations and cultures, at the heart of Central Europe, also the middle of Europe. This picturesque area is the land of kings, scientists and artists where three rivers, the Danube, the Hron and the Ipoly join their waters.
Nature and history shaped a peerlessly exciting culture along these rivers. Since 11 October 2001, the date of the repeated handover of the Mária Valéria bridge, this culture-land offers its sights and beauty to the visitors as a unified region. The Ister-Granum Euroregion, bearing the name of the two rivers, the Danube and the Hron, offers its visitors an experience of borderless relaxation with the hallmark of European spirituality.
The Ister-Granum Euroregion is situated on the Hungarian-Slovakian border. Its area is over 2,000 m2 and the population exceeds 200,000 inhabitants. With the Mária Valéria bridge between Esztergom and Štúrovo (Párkány) as its heart, the region forms a natural geographical unit.
It is here where the Hron and Ipoly rivers join waters with the second largest river in Europe, the Danube. It is where these rivers enter the Danube that it breaks through and meanders along the scenic cliffs of four mountains, the Buda, the Börzsöny, the Pilis and the Visegrádi mountains on through Budapest. The highest point of the region is the 938-metre Csóványos.
Through thousands of years, nature gave unmatched features to the land which is now known as one of the Euroregions. The Danube-bend is bordered by high volcanic mountain ranges which turn into hills along the two smaller rivers and finally join the Slovakian flatland towards the West. The region is even more diverse featuring mountain creeks splashing through canyons, picturesque lakes, salt-marshes and swamps in addition to the rivers Hron and Ipoly which join the Danube flowing through eight countries.
Over a third of the Ister-Granum Euroregion is a natural preservation area. Tourists can become familiar with the waterlife of the Tát Islands and the Paris Swamp, the rare plants and game of huge forests and the picturesque mountain scenery walking along study paths and hiking trails.
Trai ned professionals welcome visitors to the Esztergom-Kertváros Eco-tourism Centre of the Danube-Ipoly National Park in all seasons of the year.
An international bicycle route is planned to be constructed along both banks of the Danube in the Euroregion. Certain sections of it are already completed. Mountain bike enthusiasts may enjoy several designated bike trails of varying difficulty.
The Danube and the Hron are expressly suitable to organise waterway tours. Well-developed infrastructure is available not only for yacht tourism and touring ships but also for whitewater rafting in the region.
The former wine country of the Esztergom archbishops is now reuniting. The developing Ister-Granum international wine route will connect the cellars of the Ászár- Neszmély Wine Region with those of the Štúrovo and Strekov Wine Region in Slovakia.
The vine-growers of the Gerecsehát Vineyard, the Gimeskő-Vin winery in Kesztölc, the Ulmann Castle in Belá, currently under renovation, ‘Iszomfalva’ [Drinking Village] in Kamenín, and Mužla, Svodín, Strekov and countless other settlements welcome visitors with award-winning wines. Visitors can taste the oven-baked pie, the speciality of the region, at several places.
Nearly under the entire territory of the region hot thermal water (exceeding a temperature of 70 °C at places) with the richness of minerals springs in spas. The Vadas Spa in Štúrovo welcomes over 200,000 guests a year. The Kemence and Visegrád- Lepence spas are also situated in this picturesque region. The selection of spas will be even wider with the construction of the Esztergom Thermal Spa.
The mountains of the Gerecse and the Pilis with their numerous caves attract spelunkers. The Benedek Elek Caving Club assists those interested in caving. The rivers and lakes rich in fish and forests with a large wild game population await anglers and hunters all year round. Horse riding tourism is becoming increasingly popular in the region. Not only tour rides are offered but a show-jumping course is also there in Pilismarót where international races are organised.
During the winter season one of Hungary's longest ski courses welcome skiing enthusiasts. Visegrád also awaits lovers of winter sports.
The territory of the Ister-Granum Euroregion has been inhabited since ancient times. It was both history and nature that left their marks on this land. In addition to the limes of the Romans, the earliest architectural heritage of the Árpád-era Hungarian Kingdom, the unique monuments of the European renaissance the largest Central European church was also erected in this region. The land keeps the remembrance of kings, scientists, humanists, artists and crusaders. The former richness of the region is marked by the nearly two dozens of castles and manor houses.
The region used to be the heart of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom. Saint Stephen (Szent István), the founder of the state, was born, raised, christened and married here in Esztergom. According to tradition, he was given knighthood in Bíňa. In the 14th and 15th centuries Visegrád served as the administrative and cultural centre of the country.
The largest ecclesiastic collection of Central Europe offers unforgettable experience to the visitor. The rarities of the Esztergom Cathedral Treasury, the Christian Museum and the Biblotheka bring back memories of a once luxurious archbishopric residency. The only Hungarian-founded religious order, the ‘Pálos’ order, was also organised in this region. The remains of Klastrompuszta, Pilisszentlélek and the still existing cloister and church in Márianosztra preserve their memories.
Right from the start of the tourism season festivals, feasts, celebrations, events ranging from medieval tournaments through water carnivals to village fairs are organised. Summer attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Mária Valéria bridge.
The ‘short-skirted’ villages along the Hron river and the Slovakian villages in the Pilis mountains still keep ancient traditions in the Euroregion. Germans settled down in the area also possess a rich heritage. Countless traditional craftsmen produce their pottery, Easter eggs, honey-flavoured sweet bread, hay ornaments and objects and wrought-iron products.