Bakony–Balaton Geopark: an introduction
Where can you find Bakony–Balaton UNESCO Global Geopark?
The more than 3200 km2 large area of the geopark is characterised by numerous geological and geomorphologic assets that are outstanding, thanks to their scientific and educational significance as well as to their aesthetic value. The area of the geopark is situated near Lake Balaton, in the region of Balaton Uplands and Bakony Mountains. It comprises the area of the Balaton Uplands National Park, except the Kis-Balaton geographical unit. It also includes the High Bakony Landscape Protection Area, the Somló Landscape Protection Area and the vicinity of Fonyód town on the southern shore of Lake Balaton.
What are the goals of the Geopark?
The prior mission of geoparks is to protect and interpret our rich geological and geomorphologic heritage, with the involvement of local people and communities and by launching geotourism activities and educational, awareness raising programs. The leading organisation of the geopark and its partners join in activities regarding geological education and research and also do their share of the management of geological assets (e.g. clearing of geological key sections, creating nature trails).
Via sustainable geoturism, a geopark with an area of optimal size is able to serve local economic development. An important task of the geopark is to promote local handicraft products as well as local and/or organic food. By virtue of the introduction of the name (logo, etc.) of Bakony–Balaton Geopark as a trademark of high-quality, the inhabitants of the area will get the chance to develop products and high-level services conducted on the values of sustainable development.
The Bakony–Balaton Geopark name stands not only for an area but also for an organisation. The leading organisation of the Geopark is the Balaton Uplands National Park Directorate, within which the Bakony–Balaton Geopark Group works directly on the Geopark programme. Several experts of the Directorate also participate in fulfilling tasks in relation to the geopark. The Directorate aims at involving institutions, local governments, schools, communities, service providers and individuals that operate or live within the geopark and identify themselves with the goals of the geopark. These stakeholders work as Bakony-Balaton Geopark Partners within the organisation of the geopark.
The geopark provides a rich geotouristic offer to a wide spectrum of people who are interested in the geological processes and the spectacular geological phenomena of the geopark. The Balaton Uplands National Park Directorate – the leader of the Bakony–Balaton Geopark organisation and also the owner of this trademark – lays great emphasis on the interpretation of geological heritage by way of its sites that interpret a geological theme, its nature trails, guided geotours, guided nature tours and its open-air school programs, including geocamps.
Since 2009 the Directorate has continuously organised geotour-guide training courses on the area – in cooperation with civil organisations, such as the Pangea Cultural and Environmental Association, Bakonyalja Barátai Association and Forrásvíz Nature Environmental Association. This way local individuals, service providers and communities have the chance to widen their touristic offer with this new, sustainable approach.
The 15 Multi-Purpose Microregional Associations of local governments, operating on the area of the Geopark and the Directorate concluded a common cooperation agreement in 2011, defining general tasks in relation to the geopark’s goals. Based on this agreement, many local governments and the Directorate have worked together on renewing and maintaining the geological heritage sites and the infrastructure that helps their visitor friendly interpretation.
The European Geoparks Network celebrates geoparks every May, in the framework of the European Geoparks Week. To follow this tradition, the Bakony–Balaton Geopark organises many geo-programmes during this time period since 2012. Geotourists can join geotours provided by trained geotour-guides, a photo exhibition on the cultural assets of the geopark is exhibited at several locations. Two colleagues of the first Hungarian and Slovak European and Global Geopark, the Novohrad–Nógrád Geopark presented their geopark during the European Geoparks Week in 2012 for two days in the Lavender House Visitor Centre, the Eastern Gate of Bakony–Balaton Geopark, with an exhibition, a short film and local products. Next year our guests came from Papuk Geopark, Croatia and they represented their geopark also in the Lavender House visitor centre.
The Bakony–Balaton Geopark Contest – „Our Geopark” has been organised annually by the Directorate since 2008. About 250 primary schools operating in the geopark receive the announcement and many teams of two students participate in the contest every year. The aim is to make students get closer to the geological heritage that surrounds them, to gain useful knowledge about them and to make students aware of the importance of protecting them. Almost 30-70 teams participate in the contest annually and the best 10-17 teams can take part in the final turn of the event, including a field trip and oral presentations by the teams.
Educational geopark days are organised by the Geopark Group, National Park Directorate's colleagues and local communities since 2012: these outdoor activity days focus on schoolchildren and kindergarten children and provide a joyful opportunity for the young to get acquainted with their local geological heritage.
Geocamps are excellent occasions for school groups to spend a few days in nature and learn about the geological processes that have shaped the landscape. While participating in these programmes, children enjoy the impressive and spectacular landscape and they build up a relationship with the landscape, the "inactive" rocks and caves and other geosites. Morover, they realise how important it is to preserve them for the present and for future generations.
The acknowledgement "Geosite of the Year in Bakony–Balaton Geopark" has been given to a certain geological site within the Geopark since 2013 in order to provide regional recognition not only to the exceptional value of the geological heritage of the site but also to acknowledge the activity of the local community in relation to that site (e.g. renovating voluntarily a geotrail, promoting the site by including it into local events, or helping the Geopark organisation during a an educational geopark day at the site) and also the cooperation of the stakeholders.