“Vienna, city of my dreams”, I've always wanted to visit there. Maybe it's because I love waltzing. Maybe not. Here was my chance to realize my dream. We were using our time-share entitlements to arrange accommodation but RCI had nothing available in Vienna. Would my dreams have to wait?
Where? Sopron is a small city just over the border in Hungary. Only an hour from Vienna.
Sounds good. The dream is still alive. With this good advice aboard we landed at Schwechat airport in the “city of my dreams”, picked up the hire car and drove on to the land of Liszt.
Next morning came the surprise. A quick reccy and we soon realized that Sopron was much more than out-of-town accommodation for Vienna's visitors.
Here is history. The town was on one of those many roads which led to Rome. Two thousand years ago we would have been in Scarbantia. Its not only the ancient history here that's interesting.
Here the medieval lives on.
Here is natural beauty. The rolling forested hills of the Soproni Mountains embrace one side of the town and the intriguing Neusiedler Lake approaches the other. (Yes. Sopron does have more than two sides. Actually, Sopron has many sides.)
Here is music and culture. Franz Liszt and Joseph Haydn were regular visitors and their heritage lives on.
It appears that my dreams must be put on hold. There is more than enough to occupy me here.
Oh yes, the fire tower. I mustn't forget the fire tower. You can't miss it. It dominates the whole town, not only the adjacent main city square. It is regarded as the symbol of the city. It's been there in its present form since the fifteenth century but it is built on Roman foundations – a remnant of the ancient Scarbantia. The tower had an important role to play in past times. The watchman in the tower didn't just watch out for fires. He had to be multi-skilled. He was to keep an eye out for approaching unfriendly forces, as well as signalling the approach of VIPs and wine shipments. He had to keep the tower clock ticking as well. Yes a man with many responsibilities. Someone to look up to.
One can imagine his utter disappointment when the tower was burnt down in 1676. It seems that some of the local lads had chestnuts roasting on an open fire.... Oops!! And it wasn't just the tower. No merry Christmas in Sopron in1676. But it's an ill wind. Most of the old houses around the main square were destroyed and replaced by attractive baroque buildings which give it its beauty today.
At the base of the tower is a gate which leads to the Fo ter (Main Square). This is called the Loyalty Gate. There is a background to this rather unusual name. Sopron (once known by its German name of Ödenburg) is on the border of German- and Hungarian-speaking people. After the Austro-Hungarian Empire was disbanded after World War I the border areas here were apportioned to Hungary, Austria or Czechoslovakia. Initially the Sopron (Ödenburg) area was allotted to Austria, but the people were unhappy and in 1921 a plebiscite was held. (Fancy governments giving the people a say in their future!) The result was that this area became part of Hungary. The sculpture above the gate was commissioned and erected in recognition of the Soproni people's loyalty to Hungary. Hence Loyalty Gate. The sculpture depicts the symbolic figure of Hungary (centre) with the faithful inhabitants of Sopron gathered around. Isn't that a good-news story?
A lot of history in that tower.