MEGYER, Hungary (AP) — Mayor Kristof Pajer was looking for a way to save his tiny Hungarian community from extinction. The solution? He put the whole village up for rent.
After his campaign went viral, bookings have poured in from around the world.
The village enterprise now employs 15 people, including five locals, and has received nearly 70 million forints ($241,000, 228,000 euros) from the European Union to restore homes to their original "peasant style" and build a small community center.
For 210,000 forints ($730) a day, visitors get access to seven guest houses that sleep 39 people, a bus stop, horses, chickens and four hectares (10 acres) of farm land.
Guests are offered the temporary title of deputy mayor, giving them the right to oversee law and order and rename the four village streets for the length of their stay.
A decade ago, the village Megyer, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Budapest, was on the edge of ruin. The population had dropped to only 18 after the fall of communism also put an end to the collective farms which were a key source of employment in the area and many residents moved away.
After falling in love with Megyer's peace and quiet during a chance visit in 2005, Pajer and some friends purchased properties in the village and turned them into guesthouses. But business was slow and they "couldn't get over the tipping point to operate them profitably," said Pajer, who has been mayor since 2006.
"Then we got the idea ... to create a unified package for tourists," he said.
Pajer, an engineer who commutes between Budapest and Megyer and also manages a couple of rock bands, has been organizing a week-long rock festival in Megyer since 2011.
"A thousand visitors pitch their tents all over the village during the festival" at the end of June, said Pajer, who is also turning a vacant, two-room house into the village museum.
Since an advertisement about the village on a Hungarian website gained international attention last month, hundreds of reservations have been made from as far away as Australia, South Africa, Sweden and the U.S.