After the early Christian Necropolis of Pécs, now we explore one of the most recently elected Hungaricums: the Toroczkó Basin, located at the foot of the 1129 meter-high Székelykő mountain in Transylvania. The village is the oldest, best-preserved and the most authentic architectural folk heritage in the Carpathian Basin.
The history of the village dates back a long time: already in Roman times, active guard duty was performed on the mountain towering over the village, based on artifacts found on the ridge. Later, Slavs settled down in the valley, from whom the name Torockó originated: Toroszko comes from the word Troszk (ironstone). The word itself testifies to the ancient craft of the Torockó villagers. The village that once boasted of its city title, was known for being Transylvania’s metallurgy and metal processing center; iron and iron ore were mined for a long time until all natural resources were exhausted. The mountain that towers over the village, Székelykő, was named after the Szekler villagers of Kézd, who saved the village during the Mongol invasion, and in return received the standing hilltop castle and its surroundings.
The former mining town’s economy today is based mainly on tourism. Within the village’s complementary, whitewashed houses, 60 guest pensions await visitors. The village consists of two settlements, Torockó and Torockószentgyörgy, where there are about six-hundred permanent inhabitants, of which more than four-hundred are Szeklers.
In 1870, there was a destructive fire in the village and almost all the houses were lost. The historic character of the village is due to the fact that most of the rebuilt houses have been preserved without changes since then. The whitewashed buildings that surround the marketplace have become a symbol of Torockó over the years. Based on the house’s size, material and location, as well as the residents of yore’s occupation, we can ascertain the occupant’s wealth and social status. For example, we can conclude that the wealthiest lived on the west side of the village square, while the miners built into the hillside.
Mór Jókai stayed in Torockó for some time and even wrote of a popular phenomenon connected to the village in his novel, ‘Egy az Isten’ (God is One). In Torockó, the sun rises twice: it appears on the horizon already in the early morning, followed by a period of time where it hides behind the Székelykő, and only rises again in the late morning so high that it illuminates the entirety of the village.
Amongst Torockó’s most important attractions belongs the main square of the village, the Unitarian fortified church and school that can be found in the marketplace square, as well as the vajor – the trough – where the water comes from a 400-year-old line whose origin is the side of the Tilalmas mountain peak. Outside of this, the Carpathian Basin’s oldest bolted water mill can be found in Torockó – the only one that remains intact from five that were in operation a hundred years ago.
In the village’s Ethnographic Museum you can admire the folk costumes of Torockó in addition to ironwork-related objects. Torockó folk art is also famous for its ornately painted wooden furniture, the unique embroidery of Torockó and lacework.
In Torockó, it is worth tasting the gastronomical pride of the village, the Somodi cake, which is said to be the most delicious when eaten there. Among the folk customs, unfortunately, only the Farsangtemetés (Carnival burial) was successful in being preserved, and the richly embroidered folk costumes can only be seen being worn by the inhabitants of the village on special occasions.
In 1999, Torockó won one of the most important European architecture prizes, the Europa Nostra Award, in recognition of the village’s cultural heritage protection “for the restoration of 138 traditional houses and collectively unique folk architecture, which, in compliance with the highest conservation standards, was able to come to fruition thanks to the initiative of professional circles, cross-border support and local commitment.” A year later, the town was declared a protected urban zone, and in 2017, was placed next to the Hungarian huszár (hussar) and Hungarian tanya (farm) on the list of Hungaricums.