03 June 2018

Map form 1778 summarizes the history of the Háros Island

If we take a look at Szigetszentmiklós' map (located south from Budapest, on the Csepel Island) from the year 1778, we find the Háros island on the top left corner. And almost all the information — written in German — we need to know about its entire history. So for those who does not like to read we completed a summary of the Danubian Island's history based on the below map.

Háros village and island in 1778. (source: maps.hungaricana.hu)

Here are 10 things you did not know about the Háros Island:
  • Despite the Háros island is part of Budapest's XXII. district and thereby Transdanubia it used to be closer to the other side of the Danube; the Csepel Island. 
  • That is why it's name originated from Háros village, located on the eastern bank of the river. 
  • The inhabitants left Háros after village was completely destroyed by the icy flood of 1838. Its church hill can still be seen on the map. 
  • Háros was also called Pheasant Island, namely it functioned as a game preserve for a while.
  • Therefore a gamekeeper's lodge (Jägerhaus) was built on and from the ruins of an old church (Alte Kirche).
  • This old church was founded in 1264 as the monastery of St Eustace. 
  • Its ruins were still standing at the end of the 19th century, later it disappeared without a trace.
  • The monastery of St. Eustace was probably destroyed before the Turkish invasion, due to the rising level of the Danube. During this process the inhabited island became a flood plain.
  • There were two other islands on the left bank of the Danube next to Háros, the Mészáros (Butcher) island on the north and an anonymous island to the south, which is now part of the Háros island.
  • The "Fischerhütten" (Fisherman's cottage) phrase on the Csepel (right) side reminds us of a nearby settlement's name, Halásztelek (Fisherman's plot), but this was part of Tököl under the name Herminatelep until 1951. 

01 June 2018

The two bridges of Ada Kaleh

The island of Ada Kaleh was famous of many reasons; its Turkish inhabitants, its rose petal jam, its cigars, its minaret, its fate and history. And it was famous for its fortress, the survivor of many sieges. This fortress was not only built to hinder the Turkish forces sailing up on the Danube, but it also guarded a river crossing. This crossing has been witnessed by two bridges in the 18th century.

Ada Kaleh in the 18th century

The first fortress of Ada Kaleh was started to built in 1691 by Veterani, a general of the cavalry of the Habsburg monarchy. This general gave the name of the famous Veterani caves nearby. Due to its strategic position the fortress witnessed many sieges. At the end of the 17th century the fortress was built up by weak earth ramparts so a Turkish counter attack captured it and the peace treaty of Karlowitz (1699) left the island in Turkish possession. In 1717 Habsburg troops besieged Ada Kaleh and after months of encirclement eventually they captured it in August and two years later the Treaty of Passarowitz confirmed the conquest. 

After the peace treaty a new fortress has been constructed with twenty year's effort. The rectangular shaped fortress was made up by stones and bricks, positioned in the middle of the island, but ramparts and bastions protected the entire area. On the right side of the Danube (then Turkey, now Serbia) a watchtower has been built and named fort Elizabeth. This tiny outpost was connected to Ada Kaleh through a pontoon bridge — according to a contemporary drawing. Fort Elizabeth has been demolished by the independent Serbian government in 1868. 

The new fortress on Ada Kaleh remained in Austrian possession until 1738, when a new war broke out between Austria and Turkey. After several month of siege, the Turkish army managed to capture the island with the just finished fortress. The seriously damaged Ada Kaleh was rebuilt and the German settlers has been ousted and replaced by Turkish people. 

Ada Kaleh in 1790.

After a half century's peaceful period a new Austro-Turkish war broke out and the fortress changed its owner once more, however only for a short time. In 1790 Austria captured Ada Kaleh, but they were forced to leave after the peace treaty of Sistovo. 

This short Austrian rule is represented with another pontoon bridge, which can be found on mapire.eu, the map of Wallachia in year 1790. The bridge connects Ada Kaleh with the left side of the Danube and obviously served military purposes. This second bridgehead was situated near a gap on the ramparts seen on the 1737 situations plan. There is no such gap on the other side, facing Fort Elizabeth, this pontoon bridge might have a bridgehead near one of the bastions. I found no evidence if these two bridges co-existed, but it might have happened during times of war or when Fort Elizabeth and Ada Kaleh has been built at the same time. 

The two bridges of Ada Kaleh

After 1790 a peaceful era started on the island lasting with only one period of war (1916-1918) until 1972, when the whole island submerged due to the construction of the Iron Gates 1. dam. The Turkish military did not maintain the two pontoon bridges, as the fortress slowly lost its military importance (and garrison as well). With the decline of the Turkish rule on the Balkans Turkey has first lost the left side of the Danube, and later the right banks as well. But Ada Kaleh itself remained in Turkish possession until 1912. The inhabitants had to use boats and regular Danubian passenger ships to leave the island. But that is another story...