27 December 2012

Spiritual landscape of the Danube in 1941

In year 1941, Hungary regained most of its old parts, like southern Slovakia, Subcarpathia, northern Transylvania and Vojvodina. The Hungarian High Commands took efforts to revise the old maps of these territories. This country-wide mapping project started with aerial photography of Hungary. These images were assembled into orthophotos and also received labels and geographic coordinate system. You can see the result here, although many prints have been destroyed during the second world war. The surviving prints can be found at the Institute and Museum of Military History, Budapest. Recently these maps were digitised, as a member of this project I found many traces of long lost danubian branches in these black and white images.

section 4859_2 A new lake will be born.

Csallóköz (Žitný ostrov, Slovakia), largest island of the Danube. The river fills the gradually sinking relief of the Kisalföld (Little Hungarian Plains) with its sediments since the end of Pliocene. Before ththe planned river regulation works, this river has been finding its way in a new riverbed every year. This mighty alluvium has many unseen reliefs, aprons, abandoned branches, etc. , which can only be spotted from the air. If we fly above this terrain, everything becomes clear. Once abandoned wide river beds - almost unperceivable from the ground - can be seen. Their width tells us, how much water did they carry in the past. The broad river beds were the main courses of the Danube. These inextricable meanders survived as living water surfaces until the late 19th century, when the river regulation works has begun in the Csallóköz. Since then, these floodplains became plough-lands. On the highest points of these floodplains, settlements emerged. Thats why, the northern parts of the picture has much less riverbeds.
But nowdays, the Danube can not carry enough sediments to keep up with the sinking Kisalföld. The dams in Austria and Slovakia are holding back the sand, mud and pebbles. So the filling up can not keep up with the sinking anymore. So it is possible that our ancestors will be bathing in the lake Csallóköz, as we do it in lake Balaton? 
section 4960_2 Roman fortress under the red mud pond
The castrum of Brigetio has quite similar geographic situation as the colonia of Aquincum (Budapest 3rd district). Here, just east of Szőny, the arable lands show us a paleo-holocene danubian riverbed, just like the Mocsáros trench in Aquincum. This large, ancient riverbed was probably filled up by the roman age. It is possible that the roman legions might not needed a ferry to cross to Brigetio. On the western tip of this island, another castrum was built, and it was called: Azaum. This area nowdays is part of the Hungarian aluminium industry - as a red mud holding pond. 
section 4962_3 Four islands of Budapest

The four remaining islands of northern Budapest. On the right bank the dense resindental area is covering the ancient roman colonia of Aquincum. Part of this ancient capital of Pannonia still can be seen in the Museum's garden. 

In 1941 they just started to build the Árpád bridge. The northermost Palotai Island is slowly filling up with sediments, but still can be recognised. The Óbudai Island is still used by horticulture these days. On the Népsziget the visions of the 1928 Budapest Olympic Games are fading away, its planned stadiums and racing courses were built on the Margaret Island. 

section 5462_1 Requiem for a river bend
Looking down from the sky on the gracious river bend of Fadd, Tolna county. It is still visible, but it is welted by levees, at Fajsz and the opposite side as well, since the 1830s. Once the main branch of the Danube is now deprived from fresh water. Agricultural lands are slowly taking the river bed, where the grain has to fight with the riverine plants. Man has to pay attention to those river sections where the levee crosses old river beds, because the Danube still remembers its old branches...
section 5662_1 Five river generations

Between Hercegszántó and Dávod, where the Danube leaves Hungary we can still investigate the rivers five generations from son to the great-great-grandfather. The oldest generation draws a perfect semicircle with its river bed near the loess-plateau of Bácska. Its mighty course tells us that the discharge here was about the same as todays main branch, the Mohácsi arm, so it is not a coincidence that it was once the boundary between Baranya and Bács counties.
Its moderate successor flows within this wide branch, but still leaves a geographical trace on the land, by drawing an old island on these plough-lands. The reduced discharge called forth narrower branches. This "grandfather-arm" is mostly covered by narrow, belt-shaped properties. The youngest river was cut from the father-branch, like a surgeons work with a lancet. Different sections of land are marking the border between Baranya and Bács counties.
section 6166_2 Timars two worlds
Temes Island is almost flooded by the regular spring-time high water, called the zöld-ár - green flood, named after the broken boughs that carried. The organic island was subdivided into separate islands, by the flood. Numberless islands were built by the river in this beautiful wide river section in Serbia, where the famous author Mór Jókai have hidden Noemi in his novel the "Aranyember" also published in english; Timars two worlds. The southermost village of the past Hungarian Temes county is surrounded by dams nowdays. They are necessary, because the construction of the Iron Gate in 1972 has risen the water level significantly, and threatened to flood the island, even the dam is 150 kilometers (100 miles) downstream.

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