2016. April 12.
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Sopron and Lake Fertő (UNESCO)

Sopron is a city in Hungary on the Austrian border, near the Lake Neusiedl/Lake Fertő. When the area that is today Western Hungary was a province of the Roman Empire, a city called Scarbantia stood here. Its forum was located where the main square of Sopron can be found today. During the Migration Period, Scarbantia was believed to be deserted. By the time Hungarians arrived in the area, it was in ruins. In the 9th–11th centuries, Hungarians strengthened the old Roman city walls and built a castle. The town was named in Hungarian after a castle steward named Suprun. In 1153, it was mentioned as an important town.

In 1273, King Otakar II of Bohemia occupied the castle. Even though he took the children of Soprons nobility with him as hostages, the city opened its gates when the armies of King Ladislaus IV of Hungary arrived. The king rewarded Sopron by elevating it to the rank of free royal town. During the Ottoman occupation of Hungary, the Ottoman Turks ravaged the city in 1529, but did not occupy it. Many Hungarians fled from the occupied areas to Sopron, and the citys importance grew.

While the Ottomans occupied most of central Europe, the region north of lake Balaton remained in the Kingdom of Hungary (1538–1867) (captaincy between Balaton and Drava). In 1676, Sopron was destroyed by a fire. The modern-day city was born in the next few decades, when Baroque buildings were built to replace the destroyed medieval ones. Sopron became the seat of the comitatus Sopron. The town was the seat of the Ödenburg comitat near 1850. After the compromise of 1867 and until 1918, the city (known with the dual bilingual name of Sopron - Ödenburg) was part of the Habsburg-ruled Kingdom of Hungary.

Following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ethnic Germans inhabited parts of four western Hungarian counties: Pozsony (Pressburg in German; Bratislava in Czech/Slovak), Vas (Eisenburg), Sopron (Ödenburg) and Moson (Wieselburg). These counties were initially awarded to Austria in the Treaty of Saint Germain (1919). After local unrest and Italian diplomatic mediation in the Venice Protocol,[Soprons status as part of Hungary (along with that of the surrounding eight villages) was decided by a controversial, local plebiscite held on December 14, 1921, with 65% voting for Hungary. Since then Sopron has been called Civitas Fidelissima ("The Most Loyal Town", Hungarian: A Leghűségesebb Város), and the anniversary of the plebiscite is a city holiday. However, the western parts of Vas, Sopron and Moson counties did join Austria and today forms the Austrian federal state of Burgenland, while Pressburg/Pozsony was awarded to Czechoslovakia.

Sopron suffered greatly during World War II, it was bombed several times. The Soviet Red Army captured the city on April 1, 1945. On August 19, 1989, it was the site of the Pan-European Picnic, a protest on the border between Austria and Hungary, which was used by over 600 citizens of East Germany to escape from the GDR to the West. As the first successful crossing of the border it helped pave the way for the mass flight of East German citizens that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.1989. 

During the Socialist era, the government tried to turn Sopron into an industrial city, but much of the medieval town center remains, allowing the city to remain an attractive site for tourists. Today, Soprons economy immensely benefits from the European Union. Having been a city close to nowhere, that is, to the Iron Curtain, Sopron now has re-established full trade relations to nearby Austria. Furthermore, after being suppressed during the Cold War, Soprons German-speaking culture and heritage are now recognized again. As a consequence, many of the citys street-and traffic-signs are written in both Hungarian and German making it an officially bilingual city due to its proximity to the Austrian frontier. Visitors admire the large number of buildings in this city that reflect medieval architecture - rare in war-torn Hungary. Sopron boasts so many dental clinics—more than 300—that the city is known as the "dental capital of the world.

Sopron is a significant wine producing region, one of the few in Hungary to make both red and white wines. Grapes include Kékfrankos for red wine and Traminer (Gewürztraminer) for white wine. In climate it is similar to the neighbouring Burgenland wine region in Austria, and several winemakers make wine in both countries. Blue Frankish, Tramini, and Green Veltelini are well-known Sopron wines. Soprons Blue Frankish and Pinot Noir wines are particularly prized. The architecture of the old section of town reflects its long history; walls and foundations from the Roman Empire are still common, together with a wealth of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, often artistically decorated, showing centuries of stability and prosperity. 

Lake Neusiedl  is the largest endorheic lake in Central Europe, straddling the Austria-Hungarian border. The lake covers 315 km2 of which 240 km2 is on the Austrian side and 75 km2 on the Hungarian side. The lakes drainage basin has an area of about 1,120 km2. From north to south, the lake is about 36 km long, and it is between 6 km and 12 km wide from east to west. On average, the lakes surface is 115.45 m above the Adriatic Sea and the lake is no more than 1.8 m deep. In the past, rainfall and aridity caused significant floods (which in 1768 enlarged the lake to its maximum documented size of 515 km2) and significant decreases in the lakes level, although frequently there seemed to be no apparent connection with the weather situation.

 

Today the water level is controlled by a sluice on Hungarian territory near Fertőújlak, and bilateral issues are dealt with by the Austro-Hungarian water commission which was established in 1956. Before the regulation works of the 19th century, the lake extended in the south-east to the marshlands of the Hanság which have been increasingly drained and claimed for agriculture from the 16th century onward. Originally, the lake was thus closely connected to the Danube and the Rába river systems. In 1993 the National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel gained international acceptance as an IUCN Category II preserve. In 2001 the national parks in Austria and Fertő-Hanság in Hungary were together accepted as a World Heritage Site. Lake Neusiedl See and its surrounding areas in Austria also enjoy protection through the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

 

 

 

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