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Vas County is situated in the westernmost part of Hungary, in the Western Transdanubia region. Vas is the third smallest county in the country, after Komárom-Esztergom and Nógrád counties, covering a territory of 3,337 square kilometers. The county borders Győr-Moson-Sopron County to the north, Veszprém County to the east, and Zala County to the south. Vas County also contributes to Hungary's western state border, neighboring Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The county's capital city is Szombathely, located in close proximity to the western edges of the state. The city's history can be traced back to the Roman Empire era. Szombathely was built on the Roman settlement of Savaria, which was initially founded around 50 AD. The city became one of the metropoles along the ancient Amber Road trade route. In current times the remains of Roman architecture are found and exhibited in the city. The Vas territory is hilly, with the Alps protruding to the region from the west. The rest of the area consists of Kemeneshát; providing a lower hills landscape. The most prominent river in the territory is Rába. The area also accumulates numerous thermal baths and medicinal springs. Vas territory is nowadays inhabited by approximately 257,688 people, with a density of population of 78 people per kilometer squared.
As a result of various landscape conditions, Vas County is filled with natural sights and protected areas. One such example is the Őrség National Park, situated in the south-western corner of Vas county. The national park territory is one of the few places that's been continuously inhabited since the conquest. Thus, nature and landscape have been shaped by generations of inhabitants. The Őrség Folk Monument Ensemble, located in Szalafő-Pityerszer, preserves and exhibits three authentic local houses, illustrating the traditional way of life and cultural heritage of its inhabitants. Őrség National Park is part of the Őrség-Rába-Goricko Nature Park, a three-country nature park, including the Slovenian-Austrian-Hungarian border areas of the Őrség and the Vend region.
The Vas territory is known for its numerous thermal baths and medicinal waters. Almost all the natural thermal wells located in the county contain thermal water with temperatures above 350°C. Some of the thermal springs in the area include Rábasömjén, Vasvár, and Mesteri. The higher hydrocarbons levels are the cause of the relatively therapeutic effect of the thermal waters. One among the numerous thermal baths is Bükfürdő, which features a connection between therapeutic waters and nature. The establishment offers thermal camping, a campsite which is directly connected to the spa. Except for the spa and saunas, the Bükfürdő features medical wellness, such as osteoporosis treatment provided by qualified doctors.
Concerning the cultural and historical sights, one of the relatively defining characteristics of the area is the Kőszeg Mountains and the thatched-roof cellar row in the chestnut tree near Cák. The wine cellar was built in the 16th century and, to this day, has been preserved. The cellar is protected nowadays and features an open-air museum showcasing, the traditional way of processing grapes, and producing wine. In one of the cellars, there is a cooper exhibition. Another prominent historical sight is, for example, the Roman Catholic abbey church, built between 1220 and 1256 in Ják.
Vas territory has been inhabited since ancient times. One of the oldest excavations in the region can be dated back to the Roman Empire era and is found in the capital city, Szombathely. The preserved relics of the Ruin Garden Forum, mosaics, and Sanctuary of Mercury are situated in the Roman Savaria Museum.
Vas County is almost entirely located in the middle of the West-Hungarian Periphery landscape, combining fundamentally different types of natural conditions. Geologically, the county can be divided into 5 central regions and 16 small regions. The main areas are Alpokalja on the west, Sopron-Vasi plain on the east, and Kemeneshát to the south, with the outskirts occupied by the Marcal Basin and part of the Zala hills. As a result of the raw materials richness, the name of the Vas County is associated with the grass deposits on which iron production has been built since Roman times.
The region is located in a mountainous area. The western edges of the county feature a natural landscape of the Alps. The Kőszeg Mountains, which are considered to be the easternmost extension of the Alps, are made up of crystalline formations. The southwestern part of the region is dominated by smaller hills with a dense water network. Kemeneshát, a gentler hilly landscape, occupies one-third of the county's territory. The hill complex consists of gravel alluvium depositions.
Vas County is rich in groundwater, above groundwater, and therapeutic waters. The biggest river flowing through the region is Rába. The territory also features several smaller, primarily artificial lakes. Concerning flora and fauna of the Vas region, probably the wealthiest part of the territory with the highest diversion is located along the former border. Nature is composed of mixed Pannonian and alpine flora and fauna elements. Some of the most represented species are pine, oak, acacia, beech, and tan. Typical and protected animals are butterflies, dragonflies, wall lizards, hummingbirds, birds of prey, foxes, rabbits, and deers. The species are part of the boreo-alpine flora and fauna, predominating the territory.
Vas climate can be characterized by the prevalence of Atlantic influences, which make its climate colder and more balanced than other regions in Hungary. An average annual temperature is 8.5-9°C. The warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 1.0°C. The driest month is February, with an average of 26.0 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 78.0 mm.
Archeological excavation in the Vas County territory has shown that the county has been inhabited since ancient times. Present-day Sé was settled in Bronze Age, Gór, and Sághegy from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Later, at the turn of the first decade BC, the territory belonged to the Roman Empire as part of Pannonia. The Amber Road, an ancient trade route from the North and Baltic Seas to the Mediterranean Sea, led through the Vas territory as well. For these reasons, the territory developed rapidly and became an important political, cultural and economic center for the county.
Later various tribes inhabited the area, such as Huns, later Goths, Longobards, Avars, and finally Franks. Since then, Vas has become part of the western border of Hungary. As the Hungarian feudal state was established, several castles were established in the Vas territory, such as Kőszeg and Sárvár, and two major castle towns, Karakó and Vasvár. In the 16th century, due to the Turkish invasion, a considerable amount of German, Slovenian, and Croat-speaking inhabitants moved to the area, creating cultural and ethical diversity. After the liberation, the county developed significantly due to its favorable economic and commercial opportunities arising from its border location. By the turn of the century, there were several significant factories in the county, mainly in the machinery, textile, and mill industries, which led to the urbanization of the whole county.
Resulting from peace treaties in the area that helped to end the First World War, the Vas County lost a significant part of its territory and population. Most of the territory was annexed to Austria in 1921. Nowadays, Vas is divided into seven self-governing districts. Significant minorities of the region are Croats, Gypsies, Germans, and Slovenes. Concerning the religious composition, the prevailing religion is Catholicism, mostly its Roman and Greek churches. A prevailing political party is a right-wing conservative Christian coalition, occupying most of the county parliament seats, not only in Vas County but also in most of Hungary's counties.
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