The Vértes is the middle section of the Transdanubia Mountains, situated between the ranges of Bakony and Gerecse. Its average height is 350 meters with no more than about 480 m peak altitudes. Still, when viewed from the surrounding flatland, the Vértes impresses the spectator as a much higher mountain, owing mainly to the sharp cleft of its edges. In the Middle Ages, the Vértes was from all sides surrounded by deeply set swampy pastures. As a result of continuous draining efforts, the marshland of the past is hardly traceable today. Some remains of what used to be swampy meadows are to be found at the skirts of the Vértes: the grassland of Csíkvarsa.The Protected Landscape Area of Vértes, encompassing some 15 thousand hectares of land in the mountains, was established by the National Bureau of Natural and Environmental Protection in 1976. This area of increased protection was originally created with the purpose of safeguarding the natural heritage of the Vértes and its surrounds in a condition that would be enjoyable for future generations as well, with special regard to the fact that the prominent cities of this area – Tatabánya, Székesfehérvár, Mór – had already set out on a path of pronounced industrialisation.
How this heritage may be described? First and foremost, there is the biological diversity and natural richness that developed in this relatively restricted territory due to beneficial environmental factors. The high degree of diversity is evidenced in the geological structure and the physical and environmental features of the ground as well as the wide variety of plant and animal species.
In geological terms, the southern versants of the Vértes rest on a dolomite foundation, while in the northern flanks, part of the fundamental rock is Dachstein limestone. As the dolomite surface gave way to erosion and tabular cleavage, steep clefts, rocky walls, upthrusts, gaps and narrow creeks formed, endowing the Vértes mountains with a formidable appearance in spite of its relatively low rise above sea level.
With karsting, several caves took shape in the mountains, the most renowned of which is the one under the name of “Báracházi” in the fields bordering on Csákvár. During the course of the excavation of this cavern, researchers traced plant imprints and animal bone remains from a period reaching over as many as 10 million years.
The Vértes mountains used to be known for their richness in bauxite, but by now most of those deposits have been exploited to the full. The history and some mementoes of bauxite mining are displayed in the Bauxit Mine Museum in Gánt-Bányatelep. The geological strata corresponding to the various epochs of the Earth’s life are open for studying in the remnants of the opencast bauxite delfts just as if in a book spread out on our lap. The “study path” of the Bauxite Geology Park established adjacent to the Bauxite Mine Museum serves to demonstrate the geological particularities of the area. The north-western reach of the Vértes, around the settlements of Oroszlány and Pusztavám, is famous for its deposits of brown coal.
The variety of ground features has given rise in the Vértes to the emergence of a multitude of plant species including many rare genera as well. Seldom can we see such diverse clusters of flora set apart by so little distance from one another. The aqueous living cultures of the draining swampy meadow of Csíkvarsa are situated no more than a few hundred meters away from the extremely dry environment of the Mediterranean-style group of dolomite cliff grass in the Haraszt hill of Csákvár. Other groupings such as karst shrubs, tomentose oak forests, hornbeam oak and beech forests are directly bordering on each other, as mapped out by the varied features of the ground and the numerous micro climate zones.
The same phenomenon explains the similar variety of the ice age plant fossils discovered in the always dark and cool basins, including cowslip, originally habitual in the cool snowy meadows of the Carpathians. In some warm, sunny, secluded southern flanks, even eastern hornbeam trees are found, living reminders of a warmer climate preceding the ice age. This species is normally habitual today in the Mediterranean climate of the Adriatic littoral. The multifaceted floral landscape of the Vértes is further enhanced in richness by forest cyclamen, as an indication of Atlatnic-Subalpine climatic influences. Botanical peculiarities include the so-called minor quicken transient species, positioned in the range between white beam-tree and rowan. Many of these variants are found nowhere else but in the Vértes, and the number of them is very restricted even here.
Among the special features of the fauna of the area, certain birds of prey – such as the imperial eagle and the sakeret, in danger of extinction all over Europe – deserve particular mention. In the aqueous cultures of the Csíkvarsa meadow, some extremely rare species are characteristic, including riverain birds and rallus species, the peewit, the red-shanks, the great godwit, the great curlew, the gallinago, the gambetta, and the small crake. Among more inferior animal species, a centipede that is common in the Mediterranean, the collared scolopendra is unique to this area: it is found nowhere else in Hungary.
The Protected Landscape Area of Vértes and its immediate surrounds abound in historical and cultural monuments as well. The spire of the mediaeval castle of Csókakő offers a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards, the graben of Mór and the slopes of the neighbouring mountain, the Bakony.
The settlement of Vérteskozma is one of the “pearls” of the Vértes. This village retains to this day the original scattered development method and traditional building style of the old settlers’ hamlet. Following World War II, the village was several times left depopulated, due first to the displacement of the German inhabitants, then to the termination of mining activities and the consequent loss of employment. The houses of the village, set in the gorgeous natural surrounding of this quiet valley, were bought by people living in nearby towns, to be refurbished – in a very praiseworthy manner – faithful to the original designs. The result is seen in the lovely monument village, a true holiday spot.
The natural protection zone is open to visitors along the designated tourist passages. The rich natural and cultural heritage that the Vértes represents will only be preserved by the joint will of the society. We expect each of our visitors to support us in this effort. When exploring the beauties of nature, never forget our maxim: “Admire the beauty and preserve it whole”.