29 July 2021

Wachau's nose

Finally, a hybrid solution was born... From the samples taken at the castle in Rossatz, the nose of the mayor's son was combined with the nose of a woman from Hamburg who has lived in Wachau for a long time. The result was a four-meter-high Danube-front artwork near the ferry in the Austrian village of St. Lorenz, home to 22 people. 

Wachauer Nase (photo © Ariane Reither)
Wachau in Austria is a must for anyone who loves the Danube. Climb the steep hillsides of Dürnstein and Aggsbach, taste the local white wines, touch the life-size "Willendorf Venus", marvel at the miniature churches in the miniature villages, cycle and sail through this magnificent valley. And on top of that, at the 2014 river kilometer, you can marvel at Austria's largest nose, which would make Cyrano de Bergerac expresses his appreciation.

But before we take a closer look at the nose, let's visit the nearby Romanesque church. 

Weißenkirchen and St. Lorenz on the 3rd military survey (mapire.eu)

The church of St. Lorenz is one of the smallest and oldest in Wachau. But it is still enough for a village of 22 people. Its history also has a topicality, ranked 12th among Austrian sites in the Frontiers of the Danube World Heritage nomination. This suggests that the Romanesque church on the right bank of the Danube, in the former province of Noricum, certainly dates back to the Roman age. 

St. Lorenz temploma 1938-ban. (forrás: Alte Ansichten aus der Wachau)

The Roman age wall of nearby Bacharnsdorf has already been mentioned on the blog. This building, which is at least 1600 years old, is important because it is an example of what a Roman watchtower in the Danube valley might have looked like, as it forms the wall of a family house. Its three levels could be used to construct, among other things, watchtowers of a similar age in the Danube bend. Although the 4th-century remains of St. Lorenz are similar in size, not much is visible. Two buildings, the south wall of the parish and the north wall of the church form the same structure. And as such it only appears in a small part, above the saddle roof of the parish. 

It seems that nearly a thousand years after the construction of the watchtower (in the 13th and 14th centuries), the walls of the church were still at this height when it was built. It is possible that the stones of other walls (which were in the wrong position for the temple) were also used in the construction.

Well, back to the nose!

The Nose of Wachau hides behind the Romanesque church of St. Lorenz (source)

On 13 October 2012, around 70 people gathered at the former castle of the Counts Schönborn in the center of Rossatz to model their sense of smell for the latest project by the Gelatin group of artists. After all, what other nose could be used for a sculpture of the "Nose of Wachau" than an original nose from the Wachau. During the convivial event, beer, local white wine, and apricot liqueur were served, sausages were roasted and the team of artists took plaster samples of the noses of the enthusiastic applicants. 

And the result? A four-meter-high, five-meter-wide, seven-and-a-half-meter-long work of art that rises upstream.

Nose modeling in progress (Photo © Gelitin)

It's like a giant buried on the banks of the Danube, with only its nose showing. Its nostrils can comfortably accommodate a few people. The Danube's floods fill it with silt, on which the vegetation then colonizes. The grass grows in it like the hairs on its nose. 

Within a short time, it has become a real attraction in the 'Austrian Danube Bend'.

Nostril caves

Here, the old and the new blend well together. In addition to fans of ancient ruins and medieval church architecture, contemporary art lovers will also find something for everyone at the Weißenkirchen ferry!

The wall in Bacharnsdorf

Roman architecture and archaeology along the Danube is a prominent topic on the Donauinseln blog. This time we present Gergely Buzás' book A királyok Visegrádja (Royal Visegrád), published in an unusually sophisticated format. However, this is not a typical book recommendation, as one of the chapters takes us all the way back to Wachau, Austria. From the reign of Emperor Valentinian I, in the 370s, we will wind our way back to Visegrad and the present. 

The wall in Bacharnsdorf (source)

Bacharnsdorf is a village of 37 inhabitants on the banks of the Danube in Wachau. Three other "Arnsdorf" share the narrow Danube bank with its neighbors, of which it is the smallest. To the southwest of Bacharnsdorf, Mitterarnsdorf, Hofarnsdorf, and Oberarnsdorf lie in a row on the right bank of the Danube. Each of these villages is named after an 8th century Salzburg bishop, Arno.

A terület különösen mostoha körülményeket biztosít az emberi megtelepedéshez. A Dunától délre a Dunkelsteiner Wald középhegység közvetlenül a Duna fölé magasodik, meredek falával akadályozva a parti forgalmat. Járható út nem is létezett a parton a középkor végéig, az utazók vagy délre kerültek,  St. Pölten felé, vagy hajóval utaztak a Dunán. Azt a kevés lapály ami a parton volt gyakran elborították a Duna áradásai. A római korban ez volt a birodalom határvidéke, a szemközti, meglehetősen ritkán lakott parton germán törzsek, markomannok éltek.

The area provides particularly harsh conditions for human settlement. To the south of the Danube, the Dunkelsteiner Wald mountain range rises directly above the Danube, its steep walls obstructing coastal traffic. There was no passable road along the coast until the end of the Middle Ages, travellers either headed south towards St. Pölten or traveled by boat on the Danube. The few flatlands that were on the coast were often devastated by the Danube's floods. In Roman times, this was the frontier of the empire, and the opposite bank, rather sparsely populated, was inhabited by Germanic tribes, the Marcomanni.

Roman settlements in Wachau's northern region (Namare=Melk, Cetium=St. Pölten)

The province of Noricum, largely in present-day Austria, was the western neighbor of Pannonia in Roman times. In the north, it stretched from the Danube to the Alps, as far as present-day northern Slovenia. Its eastern border was in the Vienna Woods, so Vindobona (Vienna) was still part of Pannonia. Because of its topography, it was a sparsely populated area, with its largest settlements in the valleys of the Inn, the Danube, and the Drava. Rome annexed this area in 16 BC, but it had some autonomy until the reign of Emperor Claudius when it was incorporated as a province. During the reign of Emperor Diocletian, the province was divided into two, and the Wachau with the entire Danubian border was called Noricum Ripense, while the southern part was called Noricum Mediterraneum.

From the fortress of Faviana (Mautern an der Donau) upstream, the floodplain has widened slightly by 13 river kilometers. There was no road along the bank, and the Roman soldiers had to cut through densely wooded valleys and then meander down to the river in the Dürrenbach valley when they were ordered to build a watchtower sometime during the reign of Emperor Valentinian I in the early 370s.  

The auxiliary troops sent out from Lauriacum (Enns) unknowingly built a castle that has stood the test of eternity (for now), despite the Roman military used it for only about fifty years. In the 420s, Rome abandoned the Danube frontier, and the massive tower remained hidden in the narrow floodplain. 

In the village of Bacharnsdorf there is a medieval manor house (number 7), which is still inhabited. Its northern wall is 9 meters high and looks nothing like the other paneled walls of the house (see picture above). Many burgi in Hungary, dating back a thousand years, would envy this massive 1.5-meter thick wall. This is the southern wall of the Roman watchtower built by Roman hands nearly 1650 years ago. Its base area was 155 square meters, and it had three levels, based on holes in the wall made for wooden beams. The south wall survives almost intact, but has been demolished to ground level on the north and west - its stones may have been used for the mansion. In its original state, it was covered by a tiled roof. The entrance was on the north, i.e. the Danube side, and on the first floor, where the soldiers' quarters are supposed to have been, there are only small windows. While on the second floor, used as a guard post, the soldiers could look out over the surrounding area through 2 to 2 arched windows on each side. Archaeologists have not found any traces of trenches.

The burgus of Bacharnsdorf from the side (source

Annak ellenére, hogy egy ekkora látványos faldarabról van szó, egészen 1964-ig nem is nagyon foglalkoztak vele a régészek, ekkor egy helytörténész azonosította a római eredetét. Az első feltárásra 1970-ig kellett várni, de utána felgyorsultak az események. 1985-ig sikerült régészetileg felmérni és konzerválni. Noricum provincia területéről a zeiselmaueri (Cannabiaca) erőd mellett a bacharnsdorfi burgus a legjobban fennmaradt római rom. Jelentőségét az adja, hogy az I. Valentinianus császár uralkodása alatt épült, sorozatgyártott magyarországi burgusokat is ez alapján lehet rekonstruálni. 

Despite being such a spectacular piece of wall, it was not much studied by archaeologists until 1964, when a local historian identified its Roman origins. The first excavation had to wait until 1970, but after that things picked up. It was archaeologically surveyed and conserved until 1985. In the province of Noricum, next to the fortress of Zeiselmauer (Cannabiaca), the castle of Bacharnsdorf is the best-preserved Roman ruin. Its importance is due to the fact that it is the basis for the reconstruction of the "mass-produced" Hungarian burgi, during the reign of Emperor Valentinian I. 

Theoretical reconstruction of the burgus of Bacharnsorf

Two of the watchtowers in Visegrád, in the Visegrád quarries, and the one at Szentgyörgypuszta, were built according to the type plans and were successfully matched with the burgus of Bacharnsdorf. Fortunately, the inscription of the construction of the stone quarry watchtower has survived, so that its construction date is known for the year. Given the identical construction, we are perhaps not far off the mark if we also date the construction of the watchtower at Bacharnsdorf to 372.

And here we turn back to the present, to Visegrád, where in 2018 the Mátyás király Museum published Gergely Buzás' book "The Royal Visegrád", only 10% of which deals with what we are dealing with now; Roman history. The publication was illustrated by Pazirik Informatikai Kft. of Pécs with spectacular computer graphics, one of which we have already presented - from where else but Visegrád. In addition to the watchtowers at the Visegrád quarry and Szentgyörgypuszta, the Lepence castle is also mentioned, which was slightly larger than the previous two, measuring 18*18 meters. The fortress at Gizellamajor with its four corner towers and the military camp on the Sibrik hill, which in the 11th century could have been the oldest surviving Roman ruin in Pannonia. With relatively little work, the fortress of Pone Navata became the seat of the early Árpád-era county of Visegrád. 

The rest of Royal Visegrád presents the architecture and archaeological remains of the five hundred years of the Hungarian Middle Ages, tracing the history of the castle and the royal palace up to the recapture of 1685. The 136-page, lavishly illustrated book is a fitting memorial to the past of Visegrád. 

What better way to say goodbye than with a short video of the excavation in Szentgyörgypuszta:


  • Buzás Gergely: A királyok Visegrádja, Mátyás Király Múzeum 2018.
  • http://archeologia.hu/konyvajanlo-buzas-gergely-kiralyok-visegradja
  • http://okorportal.hu/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2004_2_groh.pdf
  • https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limest%C3%BCrme_in_der_Wachau
  • https://www.sulinet.hu/oroksegtar/data/telepulesek_ertekei/Bolcske/pages/Pannoniai_kutatasok/nemet/008_wosin.htm
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

27 July 2021

First image of the newborn Kis-Háros Island

There are still a lot of people in Hungary who are older than the Kis-Háros Island near Nagytétény, Budapest. 

The Kis-Háros Island emerges from the Danube in 1940 (source: Hadtörténeti Múzeum, section: 5062_1)

Recently, an educational video about the island of Kis-Háros was uploaded to BudapestVideo.hu, showing the hidden natural values of the island. The nearly three-hectare area was protected in 1999, six years after the declaration of the neighboring "big brother" Háros Island. The video takes us back to a story we wrote 8 years ago, which raised a seemingly intractable question that has remained unanswered ever since: when exactly did the Kis-Háros Island form?
"The Kis-Háros Island was born as a gravel bar as a result of river regulation sometime in the 20th century. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact date of its birth, as the gravel bar gradually rose from the Danube." 
Before the above aerial photograph was found, the only answer to the question would have been sometime before 1967, as this is the earliest aerial photograph of the island on the fentrol.hu website. Earlier maps usually omitted the Kis-Háros Island. It is not on the 1941 military map and is also missing from the 1958 town planning base map of the Nagytétényi section. However, it could have been on the 1941 map, next to the last houses of the Baross Gábor district, which stretches down to the Danube, as far as the aerial photo was taken in 1940 is concerned. Unless it is a flyspeck on the map, the black spot is the Kis-Háros Island and its first reflection in the history of the islands in the Danube, which are constantly being created and destroyed. 

The Kis Háros Island during the autumn of 1968 (fentrol.hu)

That black spot cannot be a flyspeck for several reasons. If you compare it with the 1968 aerial photo, you can see that its location is correct. In the 1940 photo, the river color and the flooded bank make it look very much like they were flying over Nagytétény during high water level. Only the canopy of freshly sprouted trees on the gravel reef is sticking out of the water. This gravel reef is where it is because the sister island of Háros was annexed to the right bank of the Danube in 1911 (interestingly, Háros and Hunyadi Islands were probably administratively part of Szigetszentmiklós until 1950 and only became part of the capital through the Greater Budapest concept.

The Kis-Háros Island was therefore already an island in 1940, and the few meters of trees that settled on it suggest that the island's origins are not far off the mark if we put its origins in the second half of the 1930s. In this case, the age of the island would be around 80-85 years. 

To conclude, here is the educational film about the island that inspired this post:

Thanks to the crew for their thought-provoking work! 

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