The Transylvanian Carpathian Association – past
Mountaineering and walking in nature as a tourist movement only gained momentum in the second half of the 19th century.
The Alpine Club, the world’s first mountaineering club, was founded in London (1857), followed by the Österreichischer Alpenverein (1862), then the Schweizer Alpen-Club and the Club Alpino Italiano (1863).
The movement needed 10 years to reach Hungary: on August 10, 1873, the Magyarországi Kárpát Egyesület (MKE – Hungarian Carpathian Association) was founded in Ótátrafüred.
The public law of associations in Hungary also matured around this time, therefore opening up the possibility to register associations from April 29, 1873.
On January 23, 1881, the Saxon tourist association, the Siebenbürgischer Karpatenverein (SKV), was founded in Transylvania.
The Erdélyi Kárpát-Egyesület (EKE – Transylvanian Carpathian Association) was founded in 1891 in Kolozsvár/Cluj at the suggestion of the Erdélyi Magyar Közművelődési Egyesület (EMKE – Hungarian Cultural Society of Transylvania).
The founding assembly of the association was held on January 11 in the large hall of the town hall, but the association started its activity according to the statute on May 12, 1891, hence this may be considered the birthday of EKE.
Thus, our ancestors set foot on trails and paths more than 130 years ago and we have been hiking ever since, our boots echoing under the rock walls upholding the sky. We keep promoting nature walks, environmental protection and the importance of knowing our own country. We tend to think that these principles and goals are eternal, similarly to certain organizational rules. According to historians, one of the wisest decisions of EKE’s central leadership was to organize county-based departments. In this way the association managed to cover the whole territory of Transylvania, and, despite the fact that other Hungarian tourist organizations had already existed, EKE was able to form the Székesfőváros Department, then the Vienna Department, but it also had departments in Bratislava, Dévény and other, more distant places.
EKE has become a benchmark for tourism. Its establishment represented a substantial qualitative leap in the development of domestic nature walks. We owe that level primarily to its first president, Count Bálint Bethlen, and its first vice-president, hereditary honorary member, József Sándor of Páké – they kept professionalism in mind in every aspect of tourism. The founding of the association was preceded by long, yet fruitful study trips abroad. During these trips the founders recognized the cohesive and community-forming effect of rambling practiced in an organized form, and they started a journal of the association, extended the operation of EKE to spas, started building shelters, opened a museum and organized events engaging large numbers of people. The ideology and forms of nature walk began to crystallize, and, what is most important, the absolutely necessary staff of volunteer guides was trained.
After its founding, EKE had 34 departments and divisions with more than six thousand members.
The association celebrated its five-year anniversary in the year of the millennium, when they organized the first folk ball – all the halls of the old National Theatre in Kolozsvár/Cluj were filled with the elite of Transylvanian Society.
Between 1892 and 1948, the association published the journal Erdély (Transylvania). On October 12, 1902, at the initiative of the association the Kárpát-Múzeum (Carpathian Museum) was created and opened with a collection including a folk music library as well as a library of tourist books and maps. The museum was set up in the birthplace of Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary and Croatia, as the city donated the building to EKE in 1891, and it was opened immediately after the inauguration of the Mathias Rex statue group and the new building of the Franz Joseph University. The inauguration was attended by Archduke Joseph, the patron of EKE, who already opened the ranks of founding members with a donation of 1,200 crowns in 1897. The ceremony began with the consecration of the Erzsébet flag, called EKE-flag.
The list of famous EKE members is very long, but we would like to highlight a few personalities and great predecessors: dr. Jenő Cholnoky, Gyula Merza, dr. Ernő Balogh, Gyula Czárán, dr. Sándor Ferenczi, Endre Orosz, dr. Antal Herrmann, dr. Vilmos Hankó, dr. Gyula Szádeczky-Kardoss, dr. Lajos Szádeczky-Kardoss, dr. Béla Vikár, dr. Márton Roska, Dezső Radnóti, János Csató, Gyárfás Győző, dr. Vilmos Hankó, dr. Antal Herrmann, Dezső Réthy, dr. Béla Ruzitska, dr. Nándor Urmánczy, Gábor Téglás, Oktáv Hangay, dr. Géza Czirbusz, János Xántus, dr. Béla Páter, dr. Ernő Balogh, Károly Lehmann, Gyula Erasmus Nyárády, Attila T. Szabó, dr. Sándor Tavaszy and Géza Vámszer.
After the Second World War, EKE continued to operate under the name of Erdélyi Népi Kárpát-Egyesület (ENKE –Transylvanian People’s Carpathian Association), and after having been nationalized, it was merged into the Országos Turisztikai Hivatal (National Tourist Office).
At the time of nationalization, EKE had 18 tourist hostels and shelters, among which the most popular were the Bors Mihály in Turda Gorge, the Uz Bencze in Hargita Bath, or the tourist hostel in Valea Vinului.
EKE – present