Frontier Past & Present
As soon as you arrive in Siklos your eyes will be drawn to its magnificent castle. Siklós Castle is the most intact example of a fortress type castle in the whole of Hungary.
It is an all in one total package combining elements of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles. It has stood the test of time and the vicissitudes of warfare. If anything, the castle’s setting made it so prominent and defensible that both the Ottoman Turks and Habsburgs decided not to destroy it, but instead utilize the structure for their own purposes.
The magnetic pull of the castle leads many visitors to bypass several of Siklos subtler delights. Keep in mind though that Siklós is no one attraction town. To understand Siklós place in Hungarian history be sure to visit some of its other delights.
Today it is Hungary’s southernmost town, but even before Hungary’s borders were drastically altered by the Treaty of Trianon, Siklós guarded the frontier against would be invaders. First and foremost, Siklós is a frontier town.
The Turks were the most notable of these conquerors and they left a distinctive architectural mark on the landscape.
The Malkocs Bey Mosque is an amazing piece of reconstructive architecture. The Turks constructed it in the mid-16th century. After they were expelled it was used as a house. Later it was turned into a mayoral office. Re-creation of the mosque only began in 1990.
Much of the reconstruction was based on a description of the mosque by Evilya Celebi, the noted Ottoman traveler who went through Siklos during its Turkish heyday. The award winning renovation is just as notable for its contrasting shapes as its intricate interior. Here you will notice a square stone base supporting an octagonal brick upper half. The mosque’s pinnacle is crowned by that quintessential symbol of the Turks, a crescent moon.
Within a stone’s throw of the mosque you will find another architectural work that is part of the Turkish conquest’s legacy. A Serbian Orthodox Church that was built at the onset of the 18th century.
Thousands of Serbs fled the Ottomans by making their way north into Hungary. Many of these put down permanent roots. Their staying power was marked by Orthodox Churches such as this one in Siklós. These structures were a sign not only of the church’s power, but that the Serb community was cementing its presence in the land of the Magyars.
One other vestige of the frontier is much more modern and visible in Siklos. You may notice that Hungarian is not the only language used at shops here. That’s because quite a few Croatians avoid high sales taxes in their own land by crossing the border to purchase much cheaper products in Hungary.
With Croatia due to enter the European Union in the summer of 2013, cross border shopping sprees should only increase. Siklós past, present and future is tied to its place on the frontier. Take some time on your visit to experience its diverse heritage.
You will come away with a deeper appreciation of Hungary’s complex history and place in the larger European world.
written by CHRIS WILKINSON
edited by CHRIS KOVACS
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