Look out to Szárhalmi Forest

"We are familiar with many species of alpine flora (e.g. orchids, bellflowers, discus), but to see pearl millet, bush and catkin in their immediate vicinity is a real treat," said a botanist from Graz, who toured the landscape with forest engineer István Csapody.

The landscape from the Szárhalmi Lookout Point is indeed exceptionally rich in species and communities.


The Szárhalmi Forest is part of the Fertő-Hanság National Park, an extension of the Leitha Mountains and part of the Fertő hills. It is made of leitha limestone, formed from the marine sediments of the Miocene period

Fertő-Hanság National Park Directorate, source: ferto-hansag.hu

Szárhalom Forest, source: Shutterstock

Kecske-hegy (GoatHill ) Lookout Tower, source: sopronitema

Its highest point is the summit called Pinty-tető, 261 m above sea level, while the wooden lookout tower on the nearby Kecske Mountains stands at 208 metres. The forest covers an area of 412 hectares. The special feature of the forest is that it has no source of water, it only receives water from precipitation, the average amount of which is 660 mm annually. It has a basically Continental climate, with a partly sub-Mediterranean character. Its wildlife actually bridges the limestone mountains of the Eastern Alps and the Little Carpathians. It is an area of outstanding biodiversity, with nearly 1,300 species of flowers - making it the second most biodiverse area in the country. Almost all the shrubs native in Hungary can be found here.

Don't miss out on exploring the untamed Szárhalom Forest on your excursions!

Of the almost 50 species of orchids found in Hungary, 23 can be found in the Szárhalmi Forest, although unfortunately in decreasing numbers, therefore they all have protected status. These include the lady's-slipper orchid and the fly orchid, and their relatives, the lesser butterfly-orchid, the eggleaf twayblade, the burnt-tip orchid, lady orchid, the military orchid and the bird's nest orchid can also be found her. Since 2008, the Orchid Tour has been organised every year and is regularly attended not only by Hungarian, but also by Austrian hikers. 

Fly Orchid, source: Wikipedia

Lady's-Slipper Orchid, source: Wikipedia

Lesser Butterfly-Orchid, source: Wikipedia

Military Orchid, source: Wikipedia

The reptiles, toads and water-snakes live in the cool forest interior, but sometimes cause a problem for traffic in the area when they migrate across the motorways to the waters at the edge of the hill.

Great Peacock Moth, source: Wikipedia

Marbled White, source: Wikipedia

The natural flora consists of oak-hornbeam, turkey oak and sessile oak forests, downy oak, rock grassland and sloping grassland steppe, dry hay meadows and planted beech forests, with scattered wild pears, wild cherries and several types of whitebeam trees. The beautiful vineyards of sloping hills produce the local wines. On the Tómalom Spa side of the Szárhalmi Forest, the educational trail named after the lily of the valley, is extremely popular. Its winding paths in nice weather are followed by the families from Sopron and the surrounding area.  

Wild Cherry, source: Wikipedia

Zsivány barlang (Outlaw Cave), source: ikvahir.eu

Szárhalom Forest also hides most of the caves around Sopron. It is said that there was a castle ruin above the largest cave, called Zsivány Cave. Only one written work commemorates the ruins of the castle, a fictional report: "Oroszlán Pali, az utolsó Bakonyi Haramia" (Pali Oroszlán, the last marauder of Bakony) written by Dr. Kálmán Takáts. The relevant section reads literally: "After the robbery in Dáka, Pali marched to Sopron County with the other marauders, loitering in the neighbourhood of of Kapuvár, Eszterháza and Fertőszentmiklós, but his favourite hiding place is the ruins of Macskavár, remaining from the time of the Czechs, hidden in the dense, impassable bush of the Cárhalom Forest, as well as a tunnel to the south of it. So where exactly is this castle ruin?

Starting from Nagytómalom on ridge, following the yellow forest road, the ruin is hidden in impassable dense bushes towards the left, towards the middle of the section to the Edelbrunn road. For the Czech bandit castle was not on Zsíros Mountain above Kőhida, where scientists suggested its location, and where there is no trace of any castle, stone, or ruin, nor has it ever been. The Czech castle of Marauders was here, its cellars still exist, and its buried walls will be revealed again by excavations to come. The descendants of the medieval Czech bandits, Pali Oroszlán and his gang of outlaws, spent a lots of nights herein their comfortable outlaw shelters made from forest foliage, making cosy nests within the lifeless walls. Pali said, in this place, just as in the caves of Kisingyen, there are still many treasures buried that his gang of outlaws never had the chance to dig up." At the end, the book reads: "The outlaws did not hide those treasures under the stones or in the ruins, honestly no, for I was the only person Pali Oroszlán shared where the trasures were buried, where the true hiding place was."


The village is named after the stone bridge on the outskirts of Sopron. In 1854, the two Prussian owners of the territory built the Sopronkőhida Sugar Factory here, the product of which participated at the World Expo in Paris in 1867. At the time, the factory had 300 workers, a mix of men and women.

Act 5. of 1878 – the Csemegi Codex – stated that a prison sentence should be served in a penitentiary, but the capacity of the penitentiaries in the country proved to be insufficient, so a new institution had to be established, and namely in the Transdanubian region. There were two options: one location was Kurucdomb in Sopron, and the other was the sugar factory plant in Sopronkőhida, at the time out of use already. The authorities chose the latter.

Sopronkőhida Penitentiary, source: MTI

The penitentiary was designed by the Budapest architect Gyula Wagner, who had previously designed the Csillag Prison in Szeged and later the Royal National Detention Center in Budapest, while the construction was carried out by the architect Márton Schneider from Sopron. The construction began on 13 July 1884 and was completed on 31 August 1886.

The newly created complex was surrounded by a 600 metres long bastion wall, with a height varying between 4.3 and 7.5 metres. Eight rows of barbed wire were also stretched over the wall.

Sopronkőhida Penitentiary, source: MTI

Following the installation and occupation of the Institute, the official inauguration took place on 1 November 1886. Prisoners from all over the country were transported to the new penitentiary every day. Records show that a prison guard always had to wait at the railway station for the next consignment of prisoners.

The Royal National Penitentiary of Sopron was used exclusively for serving the sentences of male prisoners and for the execution of the most severe prison sentence: imprisonment. The prison sentence lasted either for life or for a definite period of up to 15 years, and a minimum of 2 years. The Royal National Penitentiary of Sopron was used exclusively for serving the sentences of male prisoners and for the execution of most severe prison sentence, imprisonment.

Sopronkőhida Penitentiary, source: MTI

In 1989, a private prison church was built so that inmates could practice their religion. Today, the institute houses the prison chapel, built in 2009. After Governor Horthy's proclamation of 15 October 1944, Szálasi took power, and those in enforced workhouses were transported west to make room for political prisoners and captured partisans from Budapest, who were mostly transported here at night with Arrow Cross escort.

From then on, the penitentiary had three types of prisoners: inmates, those under so-called protective custody and political prisoners. The three groups were strictly separated. Those under protective custody were housed in the hospital building in more bearable conditions, while the other group of political prisoners were detained in the south section of the prison building. The rest of the penitentiary was reserved for inmates. The social composition of the prisoners was extremely mixed: in addition to common criminals, several of Horthy's former ministers, counsellors, secretaries of state, generals and most of the archbishops were detained here. As to their nationality, the prisoners included Croatians, Slovakians, Italians and Polish, as well as Hungarians, and besides adult men and women, children were also imprisoned.

In 1944, a military court led by Court martial Lieutenant Vilmos Dominich moved into the penitentiary. The Arrow Cross emergency tribunal met in the school building opposite the prison. Many of the sentences passed here were fatal, some of which were carried out locally, while others were commuted to 10 to 15 years or life imprisonment. The first death sentence was carried out on 21 December 1944 on József Deutsch, a zincographer (plate maker). On the afternoon of December 23 1944, Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, a former Member of Parliament, Barnabás Pesti, a chemical engineer, 21-year-old Róbert Kreutz, a member of the Csepel "action team", and István Pataki, an ironworker, were sentenced to death. The death sentences were carried out on the morning of the 24th. 

Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, source: MTI

Funeral procession of Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, source: MTI

After the release of protective detainees and other political convicts on 28 March, all the other prisoners were released as well.

The institute was moved to Sopron in the spring of 1945, because from April to the end of January 1948 the Soviet court martial took the institute under its jurisdiction and used it as a prisoner-of-war camp. They used it as a camp for prisoners of war. The Institute's territory has been significantly extended. It is estimated that 22,000 people were imprisoned here at Pentecost 1945, and 33,000 according to other sources. Most of them were innocently detained and deported to the Soviet Union for forced labour. There is no record of the number of innocent people executed without trial. The institute was renamed the Sopron National Penitentiary Institute in 1947, and after the Soviet evacuation in January 1948, it was relocated back to Kőhida in March. Due to the extremely poor condition of the reclaimed building, it was assessed that a six-year renovation would have been necessary, but after the most important repairs were completed, the prison was opened in the autumn. Watchtowers were built on top of the rampart, they were the first in the country. By 1951, the number of prisoners had risen to over 2,000. In that year the new headquarters building was completed and the institution was renamed Sopronkőhidai National Prison. In the autumn of that year, the institution was again evacuated again for political reasons, and it was not reopened until the summer of 1955, when, the Hangya Industrial Joint Stock Company established first a brush factory and then a weaving mill to employ the prisoners within the walls of the Prison and Penitentiary, which covers an area of more than 10 hectares. In 1958, the Sopronkőhida Weaving Factory, with its 360 weaving machines, was the largest weaving factory in the country. During the 1956 Revolution, on 28 October, some of the prisoners organized a riot and attempted to break out by knocking down the entrance gates by trucks, but the guards pushed them back into the cells. The riot was not defeated, the inmates threatened to burn down the building and the commander was taken hostage.

His life was protected by 16 prisoners sentenced to life as they were trying to disarm the riot leaders. The situation was resolved through the intervention of the University of Sopron’s delegation, who negotiated with the prisoners and ultimately freed the commander. Since the prison was established, there have been many escapes: in the period before the 1950s, there was hardly a year when there was no escape from an outside job or from within the institution. There was a successful escape in early 1958 and failed escape attempts in 1977 and 1992. At the time of transition from the socialist regime in late 1989 and early 1990, the heightened pro-amnesty sentiment led to were several group refusals of meals and work, the largest involving more than 200 detainees. At the end of 1989, there was another mass refusal of food, but it was resolved within a day. The January 1993 hostage situation was a particularly serious incident, when two inmates managed to escape with a guard in tow, but the car they were given as a ransom was deliberately short of petrol, and the two prisoners fleeing barefoot were soon captured by the commando team. In December 2004, a detainee escaped from the facility after the afternoon walk, but was captured within seven hours.

Inmates who died at the institute were buried in the prison cemetery, and the graves were marked with only a block of stone. If the deceased was a prisoner, the letter "P" and the serial number were engraved on his grave, if he was a convict, the letter "C" and the serial number were engraved on it. No burials have taken place on the prison grounds since 1962.

Sopronkőhida, former prison cemetery, source: Fortepan

Martyrs of ‘56 were originally buried here too, but following their exhumation in 1989-’90, their ashes were buried in their final resting place. The grounds of the 1956 prisoners’ cemetery is now a memorial site. Until their exhumation, the following revolutionaries were resting here: Lajos Czifrik (Mosonmagyaróvár, 1914 – executed in Győr on 15 January 1958), Gábor Földes, actor and director (Budapest, 1923 – 31 December 1957), Lajos Gulyás, reformed minister (Kisújfalu, 1918 – 31 December 1957), Antal Kiss, heater (Diószeg, 1933 – 31 December 1957), Árpad Tihanyi, teacher (Győr, 1916 – 31 December 1957), István Török (Sárvár, 1930 – 2 December 1958), László Weintrager (Mosonmagyaróvár 1928 – 16 January 1958), Imre Zsigmond (Doborgazsziget, 1924 - 31 December 1957). The ninth victim, buried in complete secrecy, in an unmarked grave, in the middle of the night, was Attila Szigethy, Member of Parliament, president of the Transdanubia National Council, who committed suicide in the Győr prison hospital under circumstances that are still unclear.


The history of the Sopronkőhida Penitentiary is a special part of the cultural heritage of region. It had 2 royal visitors: in 1892, Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne with a tragic fate, and then Archduke of Lotharingia, Michael von Habsburg-Lothringen in 2011. Famous and infamous residents of the penitentiary were Jan Kovač, the Slovaks' Sándor Rózsa (famous Hungarian outlaw), and "teddy bear" Füge, who broke into the prison in his patent leather shoes and white gloves and who spent the money stolen from the safe deposit boxes as a Hungarian count in Monte Carlo. 

The period in the history of the prison when political prisoners were held here, is painful and poignant: Pál Jávor, the famous film actor, was imprisoned here because of his anti-Naziism, just as the captured members of the resistance movement – Pál Almasy, László Rajk, Kálmán Révay, István Pataki and Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky – were imprisoned here, and the latter two were executed.  

Pál Jávor, source: Fortepan

László Rajk, source: MTI

Miklos Kállay, source: Wikipedia

Several ex-ministers were imprisoned here: Miklós Kállay, Count Móric Esterházy and Géza Lakatos all suffered imprisonment here. But there was also an example of a local detainee who later became a minister: this happened to the communist Laszlo Rajk. József Mindszenty - who was Bishop of Veszprém in 1944 - was imprisoned here together with his priests, and he celebrated Christmas mass in the prison after the execution of Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, who was sentenced here.

The memory of his stay is commemorated today in a memorial room, as is the life of the Franciscan monk, Father Szaléz Kiss, who was buried in an unmarked mass grave and executed here in 1946 together with three of his young disciples. The memory of his stay there is still preserved in a memorial room, as is the memory of the Franciscan monk, Father Kiss Salese, who was buried in an unmarked mass grave and executed here in 1946 together with three of his young disciples. The beatification of Szaléz Kiss, revered as the martyr of the confessional secret, is underway.

Nine martyrs were buried here after the events of 1956. Seven revolutionaries executed after a trial by trial in Mosonmagyaróvár, and Attila Szigethy, who was president of the Transdanubian Revolutionary Council. He was personally offered the post of minister by János Kádár, but Szigethy refused and then committed suicide. The 24-year-old wagon factory boy and a national guard of 1956 was also buried here; he was lured home from America with the promise of impunity only to be executed here. Their common, unmarked grave was unearthed in 1990. Since their exhumation, headstones and a stone memorial have been erected in their honour.

Several well-known criminals of today have served their sentences in the penitentiary of Kőhida: the serial killer Magda Marinko, who developed a liking to painting here, the Bene–Donászi criminal duo, who took the lives of several people, including a policeman, and several other "ordinary" murderers, such as the blood-drinking Raffael, known as the bestial executioner of a young schoolteacher, who terrified even his fellow inmates and prison guards.

Ferenc Csima, the former national commander of the Worker’s Militia, who was given a 10-day leave of absence to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with a large party at the Royal Hotel, served his sentence here as well for involvement in a corruption case.


1. Kuntz - Pantali (2014): Sopronkőhida, a legek börtöne (Sopronakőhida, the Prison of Greats)- Oriold és Társa Kiadó (Oriold and Co. Publishing House), Budapest

2. Tivadar Kotsis (1940): Barlangok a tómalmi erdőben (Caves in the Tómalom Forest) Soproni Szemle (Sopron Review – a periodical) 1940/4.

3. Tamás Csapody: A kisegyházakat betiltó rendelettől a rögtönítélő bíróság működéséig (From the decree banning small churches to the functioning of the court of summary conviction) Jog, állam, politika 8. évf. 3. sz. (2016) (Law, State, Politics – a periodical, Volume 8, Issue 3 (2016))

4. http://old.bv.gov.hu/sopronkohida-az-intezet-tortenete

5. http://www.sopronikirandulas.hu/sopron/sopronkohidai_fegyhaz_es_borton.html

6. https://www.ferto-hansag.hu/upload/document/247/f7_okoturizmus-1_l4cp.pdf

7. http://www.fertorakosikirandulas.hu/fertorakos/kofejto.html

Széchenyi 2020