Somogy Tales: A walk through the woods

Although serviced by the Kapos Volan bus company, the normal way to get in and out of Gadany is by private car. At speeds of 30-50 kph, travel into the town of Marcali to get groceries takes only about 15-20 minutes in one direction (much less if you go over the posted limits). A run to the mall in Kaposvar or Keszthely becomes perhaps an hour’s trip. However, the bus will take about twice as long, presuming that your schedule coincides with one of the five runs that leave Gadany for the outside world every weekday (three on weekends).

Sundays are particularly difficult to coordinate. Buses operate only in and out in the afternoon. If you plan on staying longer than an hour, you will end up having to take the 2.7 kilometer walk (3.5 kilometers from the house) into the village. However, this is not generally a particularly unpleasant experience when the skies are clear.

At the Gadany junction in Keleviz, there are four stops for Kapos Volan drivers. The two on the road going in and out of the village are for buses that pull off onto that road. The other two on Highway 68 service buses that are not scheduled to go into the village. This is where you would be let off if you paid the 250 HUF (a little more than 1 USD) fare to get to this village from town.

In summertime, the early part of the walk from the last bus of Sunday to the village would be in fading twilight. You would walk past houses in the village of Keleviz busy with late day activities: children getting ready for bed, fathers watching sports shows, mothers preparing lunches for the morning, teenagers coming out to sit on the cooling asphalt of the now quiet main road to look up at the stars. About halfway past the buildings with barking dogs, you run across the village cemetery on the right. It’s not particularly foreboding, but out of respect for the dead, you quickly move along.

Firefly, as seen in the day, and as seen at night. As with eastern Canada (where this little guy was from), fireflies can be found in the woods of Somogy. Photo by Xyzabcxyzabc via Wikimedia Commons.

About 800 meters in (or kilometer post 0.8 on the Gadany access road), you leave behind the houses and cross the last of the fields along Keleviz’s straight stretch and the road slowly descends towards the woods rapidly rising ahead of you. As you are overtaken by the sylvan darkness, the same that perhaps has watched over this roadway since the days when the Knights Hospitallers owned the village of Gadany, you might notice a spark or two flickering to light in the nearby brush. This is not an illusion, as you will soon see. As one or two float past you, you’ll begin to realize that these are actually fireflies.

The fireflies of the Somogy woods are not as dense a swarm as you would see along the coastline of the Mexican state of Guerrero, where you can tell the vegetation from the intense computer board-like flickering twinkle of thousands of bugs under the night sky. This is more a quiet ghostlike float of tiny creatures that dots the walk on the way through the woods. If spirits possess these creatures, they turn out to be harmless and unimposing, the kind of specter that children would chase after in awe.

The road does have its occasional vehicle traffic, which you hear long before you see the headlights beaming past, spotting the brush and trees ahead of you. A simple maneuver to the opposite side of the road that the vehicle will travel along will suffice to avoid danger.

The wildlife of the woods likewise is harmless. Perhaps a deer will bound over the road, or rush off at your approach into the woods. In light, a fox might be seen at a distance, almost indistinguishable from a cat or a small dog. In darkness, you are the most dangerous creature out there. Villagers have long since gone to their beds, and none would dare do harm to you if they were out. In Gadany, everyone knows everyone else, so under that sort of fishbowl like scrutiny, no one acts out of sorts.

The road, meanwhile, rises out of the first valley along a winding pathway heading toward the 1.5 kilometer mark, leaving behind a cleared out field on the valley floor for the cleared out horse and cow pastures at the top. At one time, Gadany was renowned for providing tourists with horseriding services, where you could rent out an equestrian experience for a few hours. It appears that this has been replaced over time with a “Naturferienranch,” that allows campers to experience the very nature you experience in the walk between highway and village, but from the comfort of your own caravan.

After a bend near the pasture, the road descends again once more before the village. The fireflies make a second showing in their attempt to mirror the twinkling stars of the sky, and then the road curves over a second bridge before passing the signs that indicate you have entered Gadany (roughly kilometer 2.2). You pass the ranch on the left, where campers may be chatting with each other in German, and a row of houses appears on the right. Soon, the sound of dogs barking takes over as street lights illuminate the hillclimb that the road takes getting into the village center.

Around kilometer 2.6, the hill levels out as the road reaches the top. Ahead is the turnaround that the bus would normally collect or discharge passengers from, sitting in front of the administrative building (the Muvelodesi Otthon, around 2.7 kilometers in). The road then descends a final time, passing the town’s main crossroads on the way back up yet another hill toward the farm. Sadly, this stretch has no fireflies upon it. Between streetlamps, all that you see are the stars above.

The farm remains for sale, folks! If you’d like to make an offer (and get me back to writing about travels), email the owner at manuelalongo@gmail.com . And of course English-language visitors are always welcome at the farm whenever I’m around.

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