PILISSZENTLASZLO, Hungary: Desperate to escape the pandemic lockdown, thousands of Hungarians have flocked to the country's famous National Blue Trail to savour the calm, open air of the woods.
Meandering for about 700 miles from Hungary's western border with Austria to the northeast, the Blue Trail originated in 1938 and was recognized as Europe's first long-distance trail.
It was featured by National Geographic in 2020 among the best trips to take in the world. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/best-trips-2020
While in previous years between 6,000 and 8,000 people bought the Trail's booklet to collect stamps proving they had hiked various sections, more than 26,000 people started collecting the stamps in 2020, said Csaba Nemeth, a guide who knows the trail inside out.
"People have realised that ... spending time in the forest can have a great healing impact, it relieves stress, there is fresh air and quiet ... so you get a different sense of time," he said.
Even the chilly winter weather has not reduced the trail's appeal, and many families set out on the muddy trails on a foggy weekend near the village of Pilisszentlaszlo, north of Budapest.
The Miklosis walked 10km with their six children, and the small kids enjoyed being able to run around.
The couple, who both work as architects, have also used hiking to meet with relatives and friends, in order to limit the risk of infections.
They hope to hike the entire length of the Blue Trail within about five years. They had planned to do so long ago, but the pandemic has given them extra incentive.
"You can forget about your everyday problems a little and break away from ... these negative experiences and impressions that you get every day," said the father, Tibor Miklosi.
(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Mike Collett-White)