Neusiedler See (World Heritage)

The area between the Alps and the Hungarian Plain has been populated for thousands of years. The cultural area is at the crossroads of several cultural and linguistic areas as well as different climatic zones and fauna and flora regions. The Neusiedler See is the westernmost steppe lake in Eurasia, its wetlands, salt marshes and reed belts form the habitats for a diverse world of birds and plants. On the Hungarian side, the Fertő-Hanság National Park and the Fertőd Castle are world heritage sites.

Neusiedler See: facts

Official title: Cultural landscape of Lake Neusiedl
Cultural monument: Cross-border site; Cultural landscape Neusiedler See / Fertö with parts of the National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel and the shore area; Old town of Rust on Austrian territory; on the Hungarian side the Fertő-Hanság National Park, Fertőrákos settlement, Széchenyi Castle in Nagycenk and Esterházy Castle
Continent: Europe
Country: Austria, Hungary
Location: Lake Neusiedl
Appointment: 2001
Meaning: The only steppe national park in Central Europe with a large variety of animals and plants, resting place and wintering area for many migratory birds

Neusiedler See: history

16000-12000 BC Chr. Formation of Lake Neusiedl through post-glacial tectonic subsidence
Around 4000 BC Chr. Groundwater rise and swamp
70 Designation of the lake as “Lacus Peiso” by Pliny the Elder
1318 Partial drying out of the lake
1740-42 Lake almost dried up
1811-13 Complete drying up of the lake
1921 Prevention of the plans to drain Lake Neusiedl by the population
1935 First demands for the establishment of a national park
1977 Awarded the title “Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO
1983 Inclusion as “Ramsar area” in the list of internationally important wetlands
1993 Foundation of the cross-border national park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel / Fertő-Hanság

Cross-border natural and cultural landscape

For thousands of years, different cultures have come together at Lake Neusiedl. Humans have influenced nature for generations. In the region of the world cultural heritage Fertő – Lake Neusiedl, the influence was carried out particularly cautiously and forms a perfect interplay with the natural landscape to this day.

The Neusiedler See is a steppe lake – around 30 kilometers long and 7 to 15 kilometers wide. It is extremely flat, at its deepest point it measures only around 2 meters. The lake is surrounded by a wide belt of reeds that are home to over 300 species of birds, including many migratory birds that use the lake as a resting place on their annual journey. Typical is the juxtaposition of many different habitats, including oak forests, sand steppes, shallow salt lakes, called lacquer, as well as marsh and wet meadows, so that an extraordinary variety of animals and plants could settle. Such rare steppe residents as the South Russian tarantula, the ground squirrel, the steppe iltis and the moonhorn beetle live there.

According to computergees, the lake belongs to the region of the cultural landscape of Neusiedler See as the centerpiece, on the Austrian side there is also the entire bank area with the lake communities from Mörbisch am See to Illmitz as well as the listed old town of Rust and parts of the National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel. On the Hungarian side, Fertőd Castle and the Fertő-Hanság National Park are also part of the world cultural heritage.

At Lake Neusiedl, people have managed to use the landscape economically while still maintaining the natural habitats. The history of this cultural landscape in Burgenland begins in early history. Finds from the Stone and Bronze Ages suggest that people were at home on Lake Neusiedl as early as 8000 years ago. Originally, the lake was surrounded by thick oak forests, but these were completely cut down in Roman times. The result was an increasing desertification, which brought about the Pusz Valley landscape, which is known today. Around the year 1000 the lake was completely dried up after a warm period, in the following period it was also referred to as a swamp or a river, depending on the water level. Today Lake Neusiedl is mainly known as an attractive tourist region.

Since the Neusiedler See was on the Amber Road, an important trade route between the Adriatic and the Baltic Sea since pre-Roman times, different cultures met there early on, including Germanic, Slavic and Finno-Ugric peoples. At the end of the Great Migration, Ostrogoths settled in this area, followed by Avars, Franks, Slavs and finally Magyars. In 1242 the Mongols invaded the area by the lake and destroyed the local population. In the period that followed, more settlers from southern Germany were brought into the country. Today only different place names remind of the Slavs, who also settled near the Neusiedler See.

With 1900 residents, the free town of Rust is the smallest administrative district in Austria. Most of the buildings in the old town date from the 16th to 19th centuries, including the numerous town houses with their Renaissance or Baroque facades, bay windows and stucco decorations. The most important building in the city is the Fischerkirche, which was built between the 12th and 16th centuries. The frescoes from the 12th century, which were uncovered and restored 800 years later, are particularly worth seeing. Today the entire old town is a listed building. Viticulture has always played an important role in the life of the city. Rust’s nickname “City of Storks” is not unjustified. Even today, around ten pairs of storks breed on the chimneys of the old town in the summer months.

On the Hungarian side of the Fertő – Neusiedler See cultural landscape, a few kilometers southeast of the lake is the Fertőd Castle, also known as Esterházy Castle. It is one of the largest and most beautiful rococo castles in Hungary and was built as a hunting lodge by Prince Michael Esterházy at the beginning of the 18th century. A visit to the Palace of Versailles in 1764 inspired Prince Nicholas I to undertake a large-scale renovation of the building. This is why the complex is still called the “Hungarian Versailles” today.

Neusiedler See (World Heritage)

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