25 May 2021

The southern tip of the Égető Island

A pile of wood, some planks, a cyclist on a beach, a boat and the Naszály mountain in the background are the backdrop to the Égető Island in 1941 I stumbled across on Fortepan. The island is still an island here, and anyone cycling by today would not recognise the landscape, if only because the southern tip of the island, which is visible in the picture, is no longer there, if it is still an island tip at all.

Égető Island, 1941 (Fortepan 128884)

In the southern part of Vác, next to the cycle path along the Danube, you will find the Égető Island, a quite unknown Danubian island. A similarly old but undated picture of the northern tip of the island has also came to light, which differs from the southern tip in that it is still in roughly the same place. In 1941, the narrow island consisted of just one row of trees, and the keenest eye could tell you exactly how many there were. 

Anyone looking for the island's contours is in for a rough ride these days. The Égető Island gradually merged with the coast, and walking along the main branch you can easily pass the inconspicuous north and south inlets. The oxbow is narrowed, with standing water for most of the year and drying up completely during low water periods. 

The development of the Égető-sziget: (Blue line: Old Danube riverbeds, yellow line:  flood-free zone, red line: current shoreline)

 The southern tip of the island, visible in the initial image, is now hidden in the interior of the island. Today, when the water still flows in the oxbow (mostly during floods), it flows back into the main branch 300-350 meters to the south. The width of a single row of trees has also increased several times. There are no longer any beachgoers in this stretch, the floodplain forest and undergrowth has slowly pushed them away from the shore. The oxbow has become silted up, the level of the riverbed is higher today than it was three quarters of a century ago.

The oxbow of the Égető Island (on the left) in 2016.

The 1941 photograph captures a young Égető Island for posterity. It is as if we are seeing our grandparents smiling in their youth...

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

17 May 2021

Artificial spring on the Szentendrei Island


Despite the fact that the collector wells on Szentendrei Island supply a significant part of Budapest's drinking water needs, there is no natural lake or watercourse on its surface. This is why the spring at the Upper Torda groyne opposite Vác is a curiosity. 

Emerging gravel bank above the groyne at the Torda Island

There are no streams or natural lakes on Szentendrei Island, except of course for the backwaters of the smaller islands nearby. And there is no natural spring. This 'dryness' has geological reasons, the island is mostly made up of river gravel and sand, blown out of the riverbed. In such an environment, rainwater immediately drains away, down to the groundwater table, which is heavily influenced by the Danube. At low tide, the groundwater mirror follows the Danube's water level, allowing precipitation to flow below the surface into the river. When the groundwater level rises, the Danube also swells the groundwater.

It is important to note that this is the natural state. Three lakes have been created on Szentendre Island as a result of human activity. All of them are gravel or sandpits. There is one east of Kisoroszi, one near Pócsmegyer and one at the former highest point of Szentendrei Island, Surány. It is not only the lakes that are man-made but also the only spring I know of.
Minimalist film footage of the Danube and this spring, for example, is occasionally taken during field trips and can be followed on the Danube Islands YouTube channel.

This spring is located at the base of the 1682 river kilometer table, about 100 meters above the groyne, opposite the upsilted southern tip of the island of Buki in Kisvác. There is a dirt road from the Tótfalu side of the Vác river to this point. On the way, you can also see the Révész Island and the island of Torda, unless a large flock of sheep prevents you from passing. Its location means that it is certain to be flooded by the highest tides. Its waters run in a straight line between a few coastal willows to the river, with no major bed.

View on the Torda gravel bank at Vác

The existence of this spring is a curiosity on the "dry" island of Szentendre. Its development is linked to the collector wells of the waterworks from Kisorossi to the 1682 river kilometre marker. It emerges just below the southernmost well, separated from it by a planted poplar forest. It is probably an overflow from the pipe network, so it is possible that there are several similar ones in areas of Szentendre Island that are closed off to visitors by armed guards.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

13 May 2021

Through high water and hell

It makes me long for the days when I have to go to work. Then I can sleep two hours more. Outside, everything is pitch black, or the first rays of dawn are turning the sky into twilight colors. The alarm clock is on the hour, you can't sleep more than that. No need to pack, just dress warmly, because it is still chilly. Packing is kept to a minimum, I'm not going to carry anything unnecessarily in the jungle. My grandfather's rubber boots still fit, and something long-sleeved to protect against mosquitoes and spiders. The only things that are really necessary are a camera and a bank card, everything else is just extras. Maybe this time it won't fall into the Danube like happened at the ferry of Horány. I'll buy breakfast at the station, nothing's open here yet anyway. There's no one on the street, but I have to walk a long way to catch the train, if I miss it everything will be ruined, the connection, the ferry and ultimately the whole day. The air is crisp and the Danube is mirror-like, like those summer mornings in Budapest when I watched from tram number two on the way to work. You can even sleep on the train on the way there, there's even room. I'm already napping upstairs on the train, while everyone back home is still asleep and will remain so for hours. You have to get to the front of the train, then you can save half a minute for the subway. Why rush like that? Why don't I sleep in my bed at home? The same questions as at four in the morning somewhere in Gerecse Mountains, when there were only a dozen kilometers to go to Tata for the Kinizsi 100 badge...

The subway is infrequent, but it looks like I'll make the connection, and there will even be time to buy a newspaper for the long-distance train, along with the inevitable cocoa drink in the morning. I'll need it, as the journey will take hours. To where? Anywhere. I just made it up the day before, because I read an interesting article at work that I had to look up in some old books and maps. Would be nice to see if it's still there? Or has it been swallowed up by the river? Can you walk it in a day? Yes. Let's go, it's the weekend. Of course, we should have gone to bed early, but we still had to figure out the route, which would be complicated by life. It's as sure as "this shouldn't be here" or "this should be here" will be said on the spot. And where am I anyway? My Nokia C2 won't tell me, and my map is 80 years old because of course, this isn't Slovakia, where there are usable tourist maps of every square inch of the country. 

It used to make me sick, but now I can read on the moving bus. The train has never been a problem. Three newspapers can be read in one journey if something is left, it's good for the journey back home, if not, there's a Scandinavian noir novel, in which the inquisitive inspector doesn't investigate the past of an island in the Danube, but the method is similar, and so is the story structure. Time flies by and you don't have to stare at the strips of asphalt slicing up the living world. Nothing interesting happens on the morning bus anyway. Sometimes you have to put the newspaper down. If the driver is telling the only other passenger besides me about the suicide of a family member, if there are newly released, drunk convicts waving knives, or if my bicycle is being tipped over by some less socialized individual on the train. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, we should buy something to eat and some "island chocolate" (to be consumed at the endpoint of the trip) in the village before we are swallowed up for half a day in the riverine forest (what a nice name, for those who haven't spent much time in one). Where is the pub? In case I'll have to return here. Oh, and the timetable, it does matter. Just in case, I'll check and even take a photo of the national park sign, in case it's more up-to-date than my prehistoric map rescued from the antique shop. 

I'll turn off there, cross there (what's the water level? Will my wellingtons be enough?), hope the mud won't be too deep. It's probably passable there (usually not), if not you'll have to detour to the dirt road. But it is a waste of time, you can cut it off here (you can't). Hope there won't be many mosquitoes (yes there will). At most I'll escape them onto the embankment (ah, that would be a detour again). Oh well, not many mosquitoes, how can there be? They were eaten by spiders, which are so big I could easily end up like that. Sometimes the easiest terrain is the most humiliating. You just have to walk out to this chapel. It rained a little, but who would have thought that some tractor had just plowed up the dirt road and was only dropping kilograms of fattened clay from my wellingtons (more incomplete preparation would be my 6-year-old Martens boots). When the sun is shining, it is usually forty degrees in the shade. I might not get sunstroke, but it would be nice if that cloud didn't pass the sun. Anyway, I'm sure another one will come along, it just has to reach the horizon first. Anyway, I'll turn off down this dirt road here and I'm there. But where's the dirt road? It should be here, but the good farmer has plowed it up and planted it with some genetically modified corn that grows three and a half meters high in a ten-centimeter row. Anyway, I'm going over. But which way is ahead? What's that rattling? That's a nice deer. I hope it doesn't run me through.

Now, here's the forest, and there's even a driveway. Beautiful, the sun shining through the foliage. Nice, there's shade at last! Well, look what happened to the other tire track, I had it a while ago by that muddy pit by the waist-high nettles. Too bad I didn't bring long pants. But who would have thought that nettles would grow in the floodplain? Anyway, for the seventh time, I'm not leaving my thick black jeans at home and I don't give a shit about the heat. It's the end of the world here, the anglers have finally disappeared. Luckily, this path is also comfortably accessible. The Danube is almost here! Or rather, the oxbow that used to meander somewhere around here 80 years ago. But at least we'll have the old riverbed to remind us of it. Shouldn't the old stone dam be here? Let's have a look. With the half an eye this ash-leaved maple hasn't knocked out yet. The trail's gone somewhere anyway, while I can wobble over scattered andesite blocks. I'm just about to cross this few metres of blackberry bush. Not ripe yet, bad luck. It's not easy to wade through, but it's nearly the end. Now I've got a bleeding leg, luckily only one of them. I'll wipe it off later at the Danube, but I've got to cross this nettle patch first. What the hell's next? (Just the usual, eh?) Is there a stick to beat the nettle down to at least knee level? No? Deep breath then, the pain will be gone in a day anyway. If I remember correctly, it doesn't sting that much. But the point is, far away there seems to be some water. 

The nettle is gone, I don't even feel it so much, thanks to the blackberry stems. I hope nothing comes in my way, I already have thistles in my hair, I don't know what will get the cobwebs and stickyweed (Galium aparine) out of my pants. I'll rub it off with dry sand. If there's anything like that because so far it's just mud. It's supposed to be a cure for rheumatism. Or for the stinging nettles. In any case, the mosquitoes won't bite through this crust that's dried on my leg. They're breeding nicely here, so I don't know why I had to come here a week after the floods had receded. Goodness, how am I going to look tonight at the Dark Tranquillity concert?

The forest seems to be thinning here... I left behind the bastard indigobush, gone the blond poplar, which in spring can bleach any cloth. There are only willows and mosquitoes. And the driftwood stuck between them. And half a cow stuck between the driftwood. I'd rather go towards the stuck fridge, there's probably a thinner layer of pill bottles there. Wow, these pants would be good for mosquitoes. It's not that bad yet. I'm getting hungry, but I'll eat on the beach, somewhere nice. Where there's not such a cloud of mosquitoes. It'd be nice if the tavern of Dunakömlőd would show up here, a beer would be nice too. On the way home, when I've looked back at the whole thing from the top of the loess wall - I'll have to climb that too. I hope the bus doesn't abandon me like it did at that pub, I drank with the local intelligentsia for another two hours before the bus driver saved me. I wish the rubbish was less. We should organise some rubbish picking on the blog without even mentioning the circumstances. Everyone would be cursing...

Finally, the backwater is here! But how do I get to the riverbank? You can't, the mud is waist-deep under two inches of water, between the waterlogged trees. It's like the island at Sturovo, although there was more rubbish. Back to the driftwood, at least it's dry. Just don't break one under me, then I can go back into the mud. What exactly am I doing here? I couldn't even take a picture. How is this going to be a blog post? I'll have to come back here in the winter, that's for sure. I'm going to look for this dam or something, see if it's still there, it was there eighty years ago. They didn't steal it... Maybe I can get out to the main branch, maybe I can see the sun there. I miss it now. I should have walked here 80 years ago, this jungle used as a garbage dump wasn't here then (riverine forest, what a nice name, isn't it?). Let's just say I'd have been stung by the Sun, lying on the side of the embankment vomiting. I need a hat, don't I...? 

The forest seems to be clearing up over there! Boat horn, the smell of the Danube! At least another Danube smell, not this muddy one. The luring scent, the taste of sunshine. The herd of cumulus clouds. Just get me out there, I'll cross anything now! But I've got to get a photo of that egret or whatever it is! But it flew away, and I'm not Crown Prince Rudolf, who as an ornithologist has done much to make these animals thoroughly hate humans. My goodness, what a big tree it landed on, at least five meters around its trunk. It's been here a long time... No, it's only a willow tree. Then maybe it's not even on my map. You can go out to the banks of the oxbow here. That's a nice picture, once again. There's what I was looking for. I can't believe it was built at least a hundred years ago! It could even be from the Roman ruins, which will be somewhere down here unless the treasure hunters have already destroyed it. I'd like to shake hands with the half-wit who came here to hunt for treasure. It's not going to be a World Heritage site, but at least the museum could come out and excavate, there's never been an excavation here anyway. I'm not going to write about it, I don't want anybody to come here like they did to the Helembai gravel bar. You don't necessarily have to write about protected plants either. They're going to be torn down anyway. I've got it, I've got it photographed, I've got to write it down on the way home, I've got to ask a few people what it is...

Can you go out to the main Danube branch here? The estuary is finally here, but there seems to be too much water... Anyway, I'm not going back into that forest, boots off, trousers off, maybe not more than eighty centimeters. This wooden stick will help me. Wow, damn. I hope nobody sees me. Anyways, I'll wash it off. I've got mud here instead of clay. Instead of mud, it's sand, finally. The water's flowing here, there's the sandbank across the river at the end of the stone quarry. Asps are splashing, chasing the fry. Cumulus clouds, caressing sun, sparkling sand, silence, peace, comfortably numb. You can have lunch here, lie back, close your eyes. For another decade I could listen to the wind blowing the sand, the leaves rustling, the water splashing between the stones. 

Here I am, I'm home. I'm back...

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)