And there are a lot of beginners. New funds enabled serious improvement work to be launched on the track in 2017. As a result, 2019 was a record year with 404 graduates, compared to 37 in 1995, an all-time low. The Covid-19 pandemic also gave the Blue Trail another significant boost: the Association sold 26,233 booklets in 2020, compared to 15,000 in 2019. 2021 was a record year: 584 hikers completed the Blue Trail , an increase of 50% compared to 2020.
But there is something intangible beyond the stamp book, which begins to take shape as I speak with Blue Trail finishers. The enticing combination of outdoor pursuits and ever-changing land keeps them not only going on the Blue Trail, but coming back to it constantly. “It’s never boring,” Csernus-Lukács says, a characteristic melancholy coloring his voice. “Changing the direction of the walk, or just hiking in different seasons, always gives you something wonderful and new. Take the Badacsony [region]for example: it’s very different in summer, when Hungarians are lounging at Lake Balaton anyway, and so quiet in winter when no one is around.”
For Orsi Szombati and Zoli Harsányi too, the enchantment of this route is powerful and lasting. With her, they found both escape and confrontation, their experience rich and melancholy. “It becomes a way of life. We will consciously seek moments of calm and tranquility in nature. A whole new world is revealed out there as we walk,” Szombati says. “I realized that my senses were heightened: you see and hear more; the song of the birds, the rustling of the undergrowth when the deer crash into it. I saw the country with new eyes, I found places I never thought existed so close. Harsányi echoes the sentiment. For him, meeting people from small villages was crucial: talking to them, getting a glimpse of their lives and their hopes. “There is always someone there who will help if something happens,” he says. The Blue Trail sums up an escape from daily drudgery, while rediscovering rural life in the forgotten corners of Hungary. Between these points is a new type of self-reflection.