Nothing special? - In Search of Hidden Treasures in the Heart of the Bakony
What do Bakonynána, Borzavár, Jásd and Nagyesztergár have in common? A unique initiative funded by the VEB2023 ECoC programme this year to explore the hidden cultural gems of the Bakony region. We talked about the project with Mariann Szabó, project manager of the Institute of Advanced Studies (iASK) in Kőszeg, and Hajnalka Márkusné Vörös, programme development adviser of the VEB2023 ECoC.
The research was carried out by teams of five experts coordinated by three colleagues from iASK and a fellow from the University of Pannonia. The project is led by Mariann Szabó, whose main area ofexpertise is regional economics and spatial development, which she approaches from a bottom-up sustainability programme perspective on the one hand, and from a regional governance perspective on the other. She has developed several spatial development strategies and says that the VEB2023 ECoC has taken on a huge task in implementing the programme on such a large territorial scale, which has enabled the launch of the four-municipality project "The Jewels of the Bakony".
- says Mariann, who believes that the team composition of the project was also very colourful. The team of 16 includes geologists, sociologists, historians, economists, tourism and sustainability experts.
The name of the project was born from the idea that there are many small municipalities in the region that are loved by the people who live there, yet many people think there is nothing special about them. In fact, as Mariann says, this is the aim of the research: a co-creation process between the development teams coming to the municipalities and the locals, to disprove this statement.
Hajnalka Márkusné Vörös, who is assisting the project from the VEB2023 ERC side, also pointed out that although the name Veszprém-Balaton may suggest that the focus is on the Lake Balaton region, the cultural development of the settlements and communities of the Bakony is also of high importance for the ECoC, one important element of which is the research camp involving four settlements.
Hajnalka explains that this is one of the reasons for this feeling of nothing special: there are no jobs, there is no leading settlement, but it was already clear from previous research that these settlements have incredible strengths and internal resources, and that experts can help to identify and strengthen these.
Objectives of the Jewels of the Bakony programme
One of the main development objectives of the programme is clearly community building, which Mariann says has produced tangible results.
The research also looked at how to improve links with larger settlements or towns like, say, Bakonybél or Zirc. This concept is called the Heart of the Bakony, the idea being that the four municipalities should work together with a larger centre to consolidate their position on the tourism palette.
The fieldwork was carried out with the involvement of local people, and even focused on gastronomic habits. For the series "Fates and Foods", one of the researchers conducted life history interviews with the inhabitants of Bakonynána, mainly from the older generation, resulting in a video and audio material in sixteen parts.
Colourful minority traditions
The region is particularly ethnically diverse, with a large number of inhabitants of German and Slovak origin in the four settlements surveyed, who still cherish and preserve their traditions. The project also aims to strengthen the value of this ethnic diversity and make it more visible to all.
- we learn from Hajnalka.
Mariann also talks about Swabian traditions.
Opening and closing event to frame the research
The main aim of the events held in the municipalities was to appeal to all generations, with the basic expectation that they should be family and child-friendly and provide accessible routes and activities for people with reduced mobility. The opening event in Jásd in July, for example, featured quizzes, crafts, round-table discussions, folk song and dance classes, guided walks and gastronomy.
Every year, iASK organises the so-called Creative Cities Sustainable Countryside Conference, which will take place on 18th and 19th September this year. The main participants will be researchers, who will present their project Nothing special? Jewels of the Bakony! On 25th September, the final event in Bakonynána will mark the end of the research and celebrate the results.
The programme will include guided tours from Bakonynána and Nagyesztergár as well as an insight into the gastronomy of the Bakony. Visitors will also learn the basics of Bakony folk dances and research results will be presented. The day-long programme will end with a round table discussion where the leaders of the four municipalities will summarise and compare experiences.
The project continues
Reports on the results of the survey are due by 10th October, but there are also plans to use the huge amount of information gathered over several weeks of work. Experts intend to put together documents that will help and support the communication of the municipalities, mainly to promote the region.