15 January 2013

Lighthouses of the Danube

Heartly I admit that until last week I had no knowledge of the Danubian lighthouses. At least I had a suspicion that maybe I have seen one in Vienna. I was quite sure that there must be some in the Danube-delta, one for every branch, but those are belonging to the Black Sea – I thought. Then I came upon Béla Vályi’s monumental map on the Danube valley in the known Hungarian geographer, Jenő Cholnoky’s heritage. As I was browsing these sections I saw something strange in the mouth of the Tisza river: a lighthouse! Wow, does it still exists?


It does! Then I found more. To most of them I only managed to obtain images. There are a very few information on their construction date, aim or reason. There are quite small ones and also huge ones. Some of them does not exist anymore, and there are new ones. And it is quite possible that there are more of them. If somebody happen to come across some more, please do not hesitate to contact me! I think those who travel on the Danube on a daily basis have an enermous advantage comparing to me and the readers.

The repainted. The lighthouse of Titel (Тител) was once constructed by the Tisza river mouth, but nowdays the mouth has moved downstream, and the lighthouse remained. What is more, it no longer does belong to Titel, but to Stari Slankamen (Стари Сланкамен), situated on the other side of the Serbian Danube. According to the attached map, it was built in the Kingdom of Hungary and it stood in 1898. Once it was the "most Hungarian" lighthouse is now painted by the Serbian flag. 100 years have passed and a riverine forest has almost swallowed this lighthouse. 

Rijeka in Budapest. Present Hungary's one and only Danubian lighthouse would be standing at Petőfi bridge's Buda side bridgehead, if they had been rebuilt it after the siege of Budapest, 1945. This lighthouse, was built in 1937 commemorates the heroes of the k. u. k. (imperial and royal) Navy. It was modelled after the Rijeka harbour lighthouse (Croatia), which was the main harbour of the Hungarian Kingdom before 1918. The base reminds us the SMS Novara cruiser, flagship of Miklós Horthy, governor of Hungary. Upon it two bronze figures were standing, one bugler and the genius of attack, showing him the enemy. Inside, a naval history museum was installed. In 1945, 14th january the retreating german troops destroyed the bridge, and the lighthouse was never restored. Finally, its ruins were demolished in 1952.

The smallest. This small lighthouse is situated in a sheltered yacht club of the Bavarian town Vilshofen. Only 15 feet tall, because the town’s airport is in the neighbourhood. The Federal Aviation Authority permitted only this height to the enthusiastic members of the local sailing club. It was built in 2009, unfortunately it can not give off light signals, not to interfere with the traffic on the river.

The oldest. Near the community of Luberegg – on the left bank of the Danube river, facing the famous Abbey of Melk – there are two ancient towers close to the main road. They are not similar to other lighthouses, but their function was. Built in the 1780s, they helped the raftsmen going upstream after twilight. Piles of wood were burning upon them, so the timber merchants and transporters could work at night as well. Later the wood was replaced by gas, and finally, in 1985, electricity.

The extraneous. This lighthouse never operated on the Viennese Donauinsel. In fact, this is not a lighthouse, but only a part of the Wagner opera, The Flying Dutchman’s scenery. It was constructed at the Lake Constance stage at Bregenz in 1989, later transported to the Technical Museum in Vienna. Finally it found its place on the long Donauinsel in 1997. It soon became part of the city landscape, a favourite theme for many photographers, despite it is functioning as a weather station and a city webcam. 

The ad. This lighthouse is an advertising spot for a boat rental company in Vienna, Wagram street (and bridge). It stands in the middle of the Old Danube on an earthwork, closing 3/4 part of the old river bed.

The pylon. Vienna's third lighthouse used to stand on the so called "Praterspitz", where the Donaukanal returns to the main branch, just east from the city. According to old photos and postcards, it was already in use by 1910. However it has disappeared since. Possibly it was demolished when they constructed the Freudenau hydroelectric power plant.

The unexpected. I would have never thought, that there can be a lighthouse in the Porta Hungarica, just below the castle of Devín (Dévény, Theben). Unfortunately I could not find any information on this building. From afar it looks like as if a bored millionaire extended his estate with a look-out tower. Although it is close to the mouth of the Morava river, it is possible that we are dealing with a real lighthouse here in Devín.

The restaurant. This thick lighthouse in Bratislava's (Pozsony, Pressburg) Karlova ves (Károlyfalu, Karlsdorf) suburb has probably already been built as a restaurant. Embraced by block buildings it is 900 yards from the river. So naturally the fish on its top is completely invisible from the Danube.

The two towers. These twin lighthouses are just south of Pancevo (Pancsova), Serbia where the Timis river empty its water in the Danube. The two towers were built in 1909, when this territory belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary. It costed 14 694 korona together with the necessary equipment. Currently none of them works, however they still indicate the volume of the river traffic on the Timis river. When the lighthouses were built, Pancevo had no access to the Danube.

The turkish. Sulina, a Romanian town in the Danube delta has the most Danubian lighthouses. This is due to the fact: the Sulina branch is deep enough for the modern, high-immersion ships. Sulina's oldest lighthouse was built in 1745 by a grant from Beshir agha, but this tower does not exists anymore. A new one - still called as "old" - was built in the last period of the turkish rule, 1869-70. When it was completed, it stood on the Black Sea coast, but since then man has to walk two more miles to the river end. It was closed around 1983, but fortunately the 18 yard high tower is open to visitors. Usually they refer to it, as the lighthouse of the Danube Commission, which organization controlled the international traffic until 1939. It was renovated in 2000, and it is the home of the Danube Commission Museum.

The most beautiful. Sulina also has twin lighthouses. The one on the left bank (first two photos) was constructed in 1887 and operated until 1922. It became abandoned, the equipment was stripped from the building. In 1940 it was repopulated by german troops, observing the enemy planes and ships but abandoned again in 1944. Currently nothing prevents visitors from climbing up to the lantern dome, 16 yards high.

On the southern, right bank stands its twin, 14 yards high. It was completely destroyed in 1922, but later in 1960 they rebuilt it for some reason. It is now empty and abandoned at the Sulina harbor entrance. These lighthouse twins kept much of their former beauty.

The ultimate. Because of silt deposits in the Sulina branch, the Romanian authorities were forced to build a new lighthouse on an artifical island at the very end of the Danube. Here, where the two breakwaters end, became the river the Black Sea. The new lighthouse was built in 1982, it is 65 yards tall, unpainted concrete. Its administrative offices can only be reached by boat.

Isengard. When the old lighthouse was burned down in Sfîntu Gheorghe, in 1980 - probably due to arson - the new 63 yards tall, thin lighthouse was already in use. It guides the ships to the southernmost navigable branch, like Saruman's tower, Isengard.

Of course, this list is not complete, if we will find (or they will construct) new ones this entry will be updated.

The world's (almost) every lighthouse in one place:



  1. Love your post - very informative. The pictures are beautiful too. I chance upon your post as I was trying to get some information of what like a lighthouse close to the Morava river. I was on the Danube earlier this year on a riverboat experience from Regensberg to Budapest - wonderful indeed. Thanks for your post.