At the end of the city’s District XVII, not far from the Budapest Airport, a little-known excursion spot features its own interesting microclimate, and fascinating flora and fauna awaiting your discovery. Visitors to this nature preserve are highly likely to spot amazing animals such as foxes, deer, various birds, and even turtles, so it is worthwhile to take a journey here and enjoy the truly soothing scenery. Merzse Marshland entices everyone to explore its pristine environment that bears a slightly different appearance with each passing month – we now present its summertime look.
When wishing to get away from the buzz of Budapest, we often turn towards the Buda Hills; however, the Pest side also has splendid excursion spots to explore. Merzse Marshland is within easy reach from Keleti Railway Station by a 20-minute ride towards Rákoskert. A significant segment of the present area of Budapest used to be a basin of the Danube before major water-regulation projects were undertaken in the 19th century, so there used to be plenty of marshes around town, which disappeared at the time when Budapest was built up – except for one. Due to its geography, the Pest side has always been more muddy, just like Rákoskert, where we now cherish the last marshland of the Magyar metropolis.
After a short walk away from the Rákoskert train stop, we arrive at a six-km-long educational path, divided into stations. The area was rehabilitated a few years ago, and the natural resources are all protected here, in order to preserve the rich flora and fauna for generations to come. The marshland has shrunk a lot over the years, so do not try to compare it to the Amazon Delta... but during the wetter months the moorland truly comes to life, but during droughts only the bulrush and reeds indicate that we have arrived at the right spot. At the time of our trip we followed the signs throughout the whole journey on the marshland, and also found a wooden memorial honoring the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
As we get closer to the path, we immediately spot the airport’s tall control tower – it is surprisingly close, and so are the houses of Rákoskert and Ecser. This does not ruin the landscape of Merzse at all, and there’s no need to worry about the noise of nearby airplanes taking off either. All that fills the air is the chattering of birds such as mallards, plovers, water rails, coots, and little grebes, as well as the chicks of forest groves, such as European bee eaters, cuckoos, golden orioles, hoopoes, and nightingales. You can almost always spot some pheasants, too.
It is worthwhile to bring along binoculars for bird-watching during the journey, and explore the immensely interesting life of birds. Unfortunately, due to the damp air there are a lot of aggressive mosquitoes around. For this reason, and as protection against ticks, take insect repellent and dress accordingly.
If you watch carefully, you can spot pond turtles, different kinds of frogs, and grass snakes. Deer often rest near the cornfield beside the path, and they are surprisingly not too shy – they most likely became used to humans being around. There are plenty of foxes and rabbits hiding in the bushes; you can always hear them sneaking in the brush while walking on the path, and if you’re quick and smooth enough, you might even catch sight of them.
Many people do Nordic walking and cycling here. Be careful when nearing the marshland, either on bike or on foot, as the muddy terrain can be slippery. Merzse always offers an alluring journey; in the springtime nature truly awakens, in the summer beautiful green blossoms please the eyes, the autumn paints marvelous colors on the palette, and the winter brings silence and calmness to everyone’s life.
Merzse Marshland is pretty small, and most of the residents of Budapest have not even heard about it before, but it still awaits curious explorers at all times. It is not even far from downtown, as it is found on the edge of Budapest, 20 minutes away from Keleti Railway Station, traveling with a Budapest pass.
How to get there: Head to Rákoskert from Keleti Railway Station. From the station turn right on Kísérő Street, and continue until you reach the level crossing. Keep heading straight until you see the twisty and forested path; from there, the signs will show you the right way.