Northwest from Budapest, forced by the andesite block of Börzsöny and Visegrád Hills the Danube flows in a narrow, meandering valley – almost like a U-turn, called the ’Danube Bend’. The scenery was described by Bernard Newmann as ‘one of the grandest’ stretches of the 2000 miles long river. The Pilis and Visegrád Hill ranges on the west bank of the Danube – once a royal hunting ground – were designated a Landscape Protection Area in 1978 in order to conserve the landscape and its abundant natural values. Due to these values and the remarkable possibilities for environmental education it was recognized as part of the International Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1980.An unique feature of this biosphere reserve its variability. The range of hills, cut across by valleys due to tectonic forces and erosion, is made up of more than ten types of rocks, involving Dachstein Limestone, Andesite tuff, etc. On this variable surface, according to the relief and aspect, several plant and animal communities have formed.
This Biosphere Reserve offers excellent facilities to escape from the polluted air of Budapest. It is easy to reach from the capital. The nature conservation takes the responsibility of making use of these advantages for environmental education. We are primarily engaged in teaching, pupils from the age of ten to fourteen but we also assist at the education of secondary school and university students. Such groups investigated the flora of Szamárhegy (near the town of Esztergom) and the stone crayfish population of Apátkút stream (next to Visegrád). Children in our holiday camps are given opportunities both for on-site learning and for becoming involved with practical nature conservation projects in the field.
THE FORUM FOR THE PILIS BIOSPHERE
• is convened once a year
• its members are farmers, state-owned- and non-governmental nature reservation organizations, the mayors of the 16 affected settlements, touristic organizations and education institutes operating on the territory of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve
• promotes education of local residents in terms of the objectives of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve
• provides opportunities to exchange and harmonize opinions and interests of residents of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve
• provides a scientific basis for the management of Pilis Biosphere Reserve
ADVISORY BODY OF THE FORUMFOR THE PILIS BIOSPHERE
Members of the Advisory Body elected by the Forum:
• The Chairman of MAB National Committee – permanent member
• Representative of the Directorate of Duna-Ipoly National Park – permanent member
• Representative of the State Forest Management –permanent member
• Representative of mayors – annually elected member
• Representative of local non-government organizations– annually elected member
• Representative of local private farmers – annually elected member
The Pilis Biosphere Reserve is surrounded by the Danube breaking through the Carpathian Mountains and turning to the South, calling for the name Danube Bend. The medieval towns around Budapest and the villages hiding in the forests make this region one of the most beautiful and touristic one in Hungary. One of the two largest cities of the area, Esztergom is where King St. Stephen was born and crowned, serving as the center of the Hungarian Catholic Church. The other one, Visegrád was the seat of the Hungarian kings, hosting the famous Meeting of Kings in 1335 with the kings of Hungary, the Kingdom of Bohemia and Poland.
The Pilis Biosphere Reserve is where the volcanic andesite hills of the Carpathian Mountains meet the sedimentary dolomite- and limestone mountain ranges. This is also the source of diversity of the flora, being home to species native to the Carpathian and South-European regions.
The territories the biosphere reserve are also part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park and the Natura 2000 network.
TOURISM AND EDUCATION
The medieval Danube Bend settlements near Budapest and the mountains sheltering them belong to the most popular tourist destinations of Hungary. In cooperation with volunteers, the staff of the Pilis Biosphere Reserve annually assesses the number of visits to these mountains, which shows that on a nice, autumn weekend, more than 17,000 tourists choose to walk along the paths. In these towns, festivals and several events await visitors.
The forests are managed by the 50-year-old Pilisi Parkerdo Zrt. The founders aimed to realize a forest management model that emphasizes the touristic and cultural roles forests play and considers the protection of the landscape and nature as a priority.
Precisely this is why our forestry is in the lead in large-scale implementation of close-to-nature forestry in Hungary. Thanks to this method, the forest’s scenic characteristics will not be damaged. Interventions will be almost unnoticeable to outsiders.
Close-to-nature forests are forests consisting conifers and deciduous trees of various ages, where the oldest trees are functioning as important habitats, and where dead trunks and the continuous maintenance of the forest climate also play significant roles.
The forests of Pilis are in the top hiking destinations of the country. A 1000 km long hiking trail, a 350 km bicycle trail, forest schools, lookout towers and chalets serve hikers’ convenience.