It is certainly no exaggeration to say that the counties lying at the western country-border – Zala, Vas and Gyõr-Sopron Counties – form the luckiest region of the country. The hills of Zala with their ample harvest, the gentle slopes of the foothills of the Alps, the fields of Kisalföld have always guaranteed subsistence for their hard-working people, whereas its strong castles and the vicinity of the western world protected it from the suffering caused by the long rule of the Turks which lead to the loss of population at certain parts of the country.
Its greater towns were significant settlements even during the rule of the Romans, because the Amber-road connecting the North Sea with the Byzantine Empire crossed its area. The rich finds of Szombathely (Savaria) from the Roman age reveal the story of a flourishing town. According to the legend, when the chiefs of the conquering Hungarian tribes looked around from Saint Martin Hill, and saw the beauty of Pannonia, they decided to settle there. A hundred years later, their descendants founding the state built the Abbey of Pannonhalma at the same site. They constructed fortress-like churches in the villages distributed among the tribes, that could be used for defence in case of necessity. One of the few remaining churches is the circular church of Kallósd built in the 13th century. The most beautiful example for the “clannish monastery churches” is the Roman church of Ják. The beautiful carved casing of its gate is famous all over Europe. The well-constructed border fortresses resisted the sieges of the Turks, the heroism of their defenders brought ever-lasting glory to the town of Kõszeg. As the Turks could not establish themselves in the area or they could do so just for a very short period, the settlements of the region survived the period of Turkish rule intact. This is why such gems like the old city of Sopron or the villages of Õrség famous for its ancient structure of settlements have been preserved in their original beauty.
The vertical walls of the Zala Hills were covered by nearly contiguous forests. The remnants of these old pinewoods and beech woods can still be found there.
The entire area of Kisbalaton is a nature conservation area. Several protected species of birds find shelter on its marshlands. Fertõ-Hanság National Park was formed for preserving the wildlife of its marshlands. In addition to protecting the special sub-Alpine flora and fauna of the lower region of the Alps, it is also responsible for protecting the small villages forming part of the historic monuments in the area.
We can find some internationally known thermal spas in the region. The curative waters of Zalakaros, Balf, Bük, Kapuvár and Bogáta attract tens of thousands of foreigners here every year. Apart from the excellently constructed spa in Sárvár, it is worth visiting the exhibitions organised in the Ná dasdy castle which has been beautifully rebuilt.
The famous wine-growing areas of the region are the one in Zala, producing white wines, the ones in Somló and in Pannonhalma- Sokoró known for their spicy white wines, and the one around Sopron.
Walking round the villages of Õrség preserved nearly intact, we can step back several centuries in time. Everybody becomes enchanted by the atmosphere of this specific area revoking the past.
In Göcsej Museum and Göcsej Village Museum of Zalaegerszeg we can see the products of folk art and folk architecture of the area. Rábaköz was famous for its specific traditional costumes which, unfortunately, can only be seen in museums today. In Kapuvár, the ornamental costumes and characteristic, painted furniture of the local people are shown in the country museum.
Several aristocrat families possessed castles in the western part of the country covered by forests. The most famous of these is the Eszterházy castle in Fertõd, however, the Széchenyi family also had an estate around this area. The “greatest Hungarian”, the outstanding politician of the reform age, Earl István Széchenyi was born in the family’s castle in Nagycenk, and he also died there. A memorial exhibition was organised in his honour in the beautifully reconstructed castle. Hédervári castle in Hédervár and Ebergényi castle in Vasszécsény serve for the purposes of tourism.
The rivers of Duna and Rába are excellent for angling and for water sports. There are excellent opportunities for horse-riding at nearly every significant place of tourism.