The Most Loyal, The Most Faitful
Studying a map of Hungary you will see a small piece of it – about 80km west of Győr – jutting into Austria. This piece of land contains Sopron, a city of 60,000 inhabitants known as “the most historic town in Hungary.”
The reason for this has to do with several factors: including the fact that it was NOT ravaged by Mongols in the 13th century nor Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries or for that the Austrians during the imposition of Habsburg Imperial Rule.
It even managed to avoid the worst excesses of the German and Soviet fighting during World War II. Sopron has pulled a Houdini act on Hungarian history, escaping the ravages of conquerors, rulers and invaders.
The city is known throughout Hungary for its loyalty. Following the First World War it was slated to become part of Austria. This even though the Austrians were also on the wrong side in the war, for that matter they were in charge of a large part of the wrong side.
Nonetheless, the Austrians actually GAINED territory after the war. Some of this territory came at their ally, Hungary’s expense. This was one of the many paradoxes of the post war peace settlement.
The Hungarians though were able to negotiate for a plebiscite to take place among Sopron’s citizens. It would decide whether they wanted to be in Hungary or Austria. In 1921, 65% of the citizens (basically the entire Hungarian citizenry of the city at the time) voted to stay in Hungary.
That is why Sopron has been given the title (depending upon the translation) “the Most Loyal” or “the Most Faithful” town.
This most Hungarian town also might just be the most beautiful when it comes to historic architecture. Sopron’s is packed with Baroque style buildings. Out of the 115 monuments and 240 listed buildings one of the most famous is also one of the tallest, the Firewatch Tower.
The guards who staffed the tower for centuries not only kept a watch out for fires, but they also blew trumpets from the balcony every 15 minutes to keep the citizens informed of the time. That’s quite a lot of trumpeting!
Unfortunately, the Firewatch Tower guards could not stop the great fire of 1676 that would consume the upper half of the structure. The rebuilding that followed, successfully meshed one architectural age with another.
The tower’s base is built on the old Roman town wall. The cylindrical lower half goes back to the 12th century and is quintessentially medieval in character. The tower is then topped off by a Baroque balcony and helm roof. Now that’s a whole lot of history in a single building!
This is a great place to get magnificent views of the city. It will also help you understand the inner town’s layout. This is a must since the Belváros (Inner City) winding streets can make your head spin in exquisite disorientation. Descending from the tower, it is time to begin a stroll deep into the Belvaros.
Walk the cobbled streets and travel back into the corridors of time. Here in the very heart of Sopron you will discover the pulse of a nation, faithful, self-confident, forever loyal.
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