Travel, encounter and experience German heritage alongside the Danube

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The settlement areas in the Transdanubian Mountains cover several areas in the west of Hungary. They reach from the northern shore of Balaton to the Danube and the Slovakian border. For those areas with a German minority, the following names are often used: “Schildgebirge” (Vértes Mountains), “Buchenwald” (Bakony) and “Ofener Bergland” (Buda Mountains). The latter was named after the German name for Buda (German: Ofen), the western part of Budapest which gained independence in 1873. For Schildgebirge and Buchenwalde, the Hungarian names are more familiar even in German texts: Vértes and Bakony.

After the victory over the Ottoman troops at the end of the 17th century, German generals and craftsmen settled in the cities. As early as 1686, Germans were living in Buda. As contemporary travel writing shows, the city was mainly populated by Germans in the late 17th century.

Rural areas were only populated by German settlers in the following decades. Initially, people of diverse origins lived in the villages: Germans, Serbians, Hungarians or Slovakians. Around 1800, a separation commenced and only few villages remained ethnically diverse.

Up until heights of 700 metres, the Transdanubian Mountains are densely wooded. After dehydration measurements were taken, agriculture was also possible in the hollows. Early on, glass and porcelain manufacture as well as potash and charcoal production were important for the region. In 1826, a porcelain manufacture was opened in Herend which is still the most important brand for porcelain in Hungary. On the north-western edges of the mountains, natural resources such as lime, porcelain clay, brown coal and bauxit can be found. In the 20th century, the importance of bauxit mining grew steadily which lead to an industrial growth of the region.

Agriculture only remains as a means of self-supply in the mountainous areas. The only two exceptions are the area around the capital and the northern shore of Balaton. Since the rapidly growing population raised the demand of food products, some villages developed intensive agriculture. Thus, villages specialising in viticulture and fruit production emerged in the fertile parts of the Buda Mountains. On the other side of the Danube, with its plains, vegetables are grown and vineyards north of Balaton have come to be famous.

Although also being affected by displacement after World War II, many villages in the Trandanubian Mountains maintained the German culture of their “Swabian” population. In many settlements, heritage societies, choirs and brass bands were founded and newly revived festivals resulted in a revival of Danube Swabian culture.

Wine cellar in Etyek from the 18th century.

Wine Festival i Mór 1934.

The dynamic group of statues of Golgota from 1770.