Discover Kalocsa with Emerald Waterways

Found deep in rural Hungary, Kalocsa is a small town with a surprising depth of heritage and culture.

Lauded as the paprika capital of the world, the town has been producing Hungary’s beloved spice for centuries, and over 100,000 tonnes are exported from the region every year.

Kalocsa is also one of the frontier towns of the Puszta, or Great Hungarian Plain, whose Magyar horsemen are world-revered for their equestrian prowess.

Dating back over 1,000 years, Kalocsa is one of the oldest towns in Hungary, recognised for its traditional folk art and culture. This, coupled with the enduring legacy of the Magyar, make it a fascinating destination to visit during a cruise on the great River Danube – whose meandering eastward course has had a profound influence on the Puszta region.

Here, we explore Kalocsa and the rich equestrian heritage of Puszta, showcasing the immersive excursion you’ll enjoy here as part of a luxury river cruise from Emerald Waterways.

The Horsemen of the Puszta

The Puszta forms part of the Hortobágy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site that has played a significant role in Hungary’s pastoral society for over 2,000 years. Covering 75,000 hectares, the Puszta has long been used for livestock grazing and animal husbandry, and today represents the harmonious relationship between local people and nature which has survived for thousands of years.

Nomadic people began using the Puszta for their livestock around 2,000 BC, and there is evidence of permanent dwellings dating back to the Neolithic period. The Hungarian Magyar tribe arrived here sometime around the 9th century AD and established several horse and livestock farms across the plain. By the 13th century, these humble dwellings had become small settlements, including Hortobágy, Nagyhegyes and Nagyiván, but they subsequently disappeared following the depopulation of the region from the 14th century onwards.

In the centuries that followed, several tribes maintained a nomadic existence on the Puszta, trekking across the region with their livestock. Given the vastness of the plain and the threat of attack from rivals, they relied on their horsemanship to both corral their livestock and as a means of defence in times of war.

Today, the horsemen of Puszta are considered some of the finest riders in Europe, carrying on the equestrian traditions of their ancestors. In the region of the Hortobágy National Park near Kalocsa, a horse farm has been established as a means of showcasing this equestrian skill, with riders entertaining visitors with a variety of tricks and stunts performed on horseback.

Wearing traditional Magyar clothing, the riders perform impressive exercises which hark back to both traditional cattle corralling and battle formations, with a complicated climax that is a remarkable feat of equestrian skill. Watching these expert horsemen showcase their riding prowess is a wonderful experience that offers a glimpse into local life in this special corner of Hungary.

The Puszta plain itself is still in use as a livestock grazing land, and is protected by UNESCO on account of its indelible cultural heritage. From Kalocsa, you’ll visit the Puszta and enjoy a visit to a traditional Magyar horse farm, where skilled riders will perform an action-packed equestrian showcase.

Experience Kalocsa with Emerald Waterways 

Your day in Kalocsa starts with a chance to explore the city’s 1,000-year history and its fascinating folk art buildings and heritage.

This afternoon, you’ll visit a traditional Puszta horse farm for a Magyar horse show, featuring stunts and skills performed by local cowboys. This special EmeraldPLUS experience is a rare opportunity to learn more about the region’s equestrian traditions, whilst enjoying a truly action-packed equestrian show.

Tonight, back on-board your Emerald Star-Ship, you’ll enjoy a gala dinner hosted by your captain. It’s the perfect opportunity to try local food and drink in the company of your fellow guests.