Southeast of Gadany, perhaps only 4 kilometers away by crow’s flight (and not much more by road), sits the cultural center of Mesztegnyő. This is one of the many little towns that formed after the Mongol invasion of 1241 that are situated in the nearby countryside on Highway 68, about 25 kilometers south of the shores of Lake Balaton in the Somogy forests.
The place is home to a famous wood carving school these days, but another reason to visit this town, particularly on a Tuesday or a Saturday, is that this is where the Mesztegnyő State Forest Railway operates from.
Originally built by the Count Hunyadi in 1925 to extract wood from the hills beyond the Boronka River, this 9 kilometer narrow (760 mm or 2-1/2 foot width) gauge line passes through scenic forests and ponds through villages that once housed loggers hired to harvest wood from the nearby hills. A system that included a 4-kilometer branch line to Soponya extended in this now empty Hungarian region.
Around the start of the 1980s, most of the harvestable timber was gone, and the state, since 1947 the owner, ordered the logging operations along the railway closed. The system was still maintained to some extent (new rolling stock arrived in 1987, indicating that there were still some limited operations), but for the most part, the Croatian-Hungarians and other people still living along the line were stuck trying to find alternate means of getting to the outside world.
In 1995, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the line was finally converted into a tourist railroad, giving visitors the chance to see the scenic forest lands and the wildlife it holds. In 2010, around the time that the nearby Balatonszentgyorgy-Somogyszob railroad link was closed by the Hungarian State Railroad, the line to Soponya was likewise shut down, but today, the 9-kilometer road between Mesztegnyő and Felsőkak remains open for tourists on day outings.
Beyond the tourist attractions available to visitors in Mesztegnyő (including the church and the wood-carving workshop and parks), there are several sites to see along the miniature train route. Near Gyóta-Búsvár and Mélyéger, on the far side of the Boronka River, the train passes through the Busvári forest and past ponds near both stations. The ponds are said to be birdwatcher paradises, where rare black storks could be seen. A third pond is said to be about 30 minutes walk from the terminal station at Felsőkak.
On the days that the train works, a 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. run out to Felsőkak leaves Mesztegnyő. It takes about 45 minutes to get out to the end of the line, where the train waits about 30 minutes before heading back. A single loop takes about 2 hours, and the round-trip price is 800 forints for an adult, or 400 forints for children under age 4.
Back in Mesztegnyő, meanwhile, the village is preparing for its annual strudel festival, to take place on July 28-29 this year. The best in this region’s baked goods are said to be presented there, which if you owned property at Gadany, you could reach after only a 10 minute drive (or hour and a half walk if you wanted to build an appetite going there, and lose all that gained weight coming back).
If Tuesday or Saturday are inconvenient for a trip out to Somogy county, the train is said to be available for charter trips into the forest. Prices quoted from the billboard at Mesztegnyő station states that for groups under 30, the cost is 20,000 forints, for 31-40 people, 25,000 forints, and for groups larger than 40, the cost is 30,000 forints. Contact by email is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or by phone at +36-30-901r-268. If by phone, you will probably have to get someone who speaks Hungarian to translate.