Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape

The Fertö-Neusiedler Lake and its surroundings are an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land use representative of a culture. The present character of the landscape is the result of millennia-old land-use forms based on stockraising and viticulture to an extent not found in other European lake areas. The historic centre of the medieval free town of Rust constitutes an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement representative of the area. The town exhibits the special building mode of a society and culture within which the lifestyles of townspeople and farmers form a united whole. The Fertö-Neusiedler Lake has been the meeting place of different cultures for eight millennia, and this is graphically demonstrated by its varied landscape, the result of an evolutionary and symbiotic process of human interaction with the physical environment.

The lake lies between the Alps, 70 km distant, and the lowlands in the territory of two states, Austria and Hungary. The lake itself is in an advanced state of sedimentation, with extensive reed stands. It has existed for 500 years within an active water management regime. In the 19th century, canalization of Hanság shut the lake off from its freshwater marshland. Since 1912 completion of a circular dam ending at Hegykö to the south has prevented flooding.

Two broad periods may be discerned: from around 6000 BC until the establishment of the Hungarian state in the 11th century AD and from the 11th century until the present. The World Heritage site lies in a region that was Hungarian territory from the 10th century until the First World War. From the 7th century BC the lake shore was densely populated, initially by people of the early Iron Age Hallstatt culture and on through late prehistoric and Roman times. In the fields of almost every village around the Lake there are remains of Roman villas. The basis of the current network of towns and villages was formed in the 12th and 13th centuries, their markets flourishing from 1277 onwards, when they were relieved of many fiscal duties.

The mid-13th century Tatar invasion left this area unharmed, and it enjoyed uninterrupted development throughout medieval times until the Turkish conquest in the late 16th century. The economic basis throughout was the export of animals and wine. Rust in particular prospered on the wine trade. Its refortification in the early 16th century as a response to the then emerging Ottoman threat marked the beginning of a phase of construction in the area, first with fortifications and then, during the 17th-19th centuries, with the erection and adaptation of domestic buildings. The remarkable rural architecture of the villages surrounding the lake and several 18th-and 19th-century palaces add to the area's considerable cultural interest. The palace of the township of Nagycenk and the Fertöd Palace are included in detached areas of the core zone outside the buffer zone.

Széchenyi Palace, at the southern end of the lake, is a detached ensemble of buildings in the centre of a large park, initially built in the mid-18th century on the site of a former manor house. It acquired some of its present form and appearance around 1800. The Baroque palace garden was originated in the 17th century. In the late 18th century an English-style landscape garden was laid out.

Between 1769 and 1790 Josef Haydn's compositions were first heard in the Fertöd Esterházy Palace. It was the most important 18th-century palace of Hungary, built on the model of Versailles. The plan of the palace, garden and park was on geometrical lines which extended to the new village of Esterháza. There, outside the palace settlement, were public buildings, industrial premises and residential quarters. The palace itself is laid out around a square with rounded internal corners. To the south is an enormous French Baroque garden that has been changed several times, the present layout being essentially that of 1762.

Historical context

Two broad periods can be discerned: from c 6000 BC until the establishment of the Hungarian state in the 11th century AD and from the 11th century until the present. The nomination lies in a region that was Hungarian territory from the 10th century until World War I.

The landscape began to be developed from at least the 6th millennium BC. Then, early Neolithic communities lived in large permanent villages: a row of such settlements follows the southern shore of the Lake. Cultural and trading connections with neighbouring areas are characteristics of a later Neolithic phase. Distinct cultural attributes distinguish a phase at the beginning of the 4th millennium when settlements were on different sites and cattle-raising was the basis of the economy. Metallurgy was introduced around 2000 BC, and thereafter this area shared in what appears to be a general European prosperity in the 2nd millennium BC. One of its manifestations was the dispersal of amber: the Amber Route connecting the Baltic and the Adriatic passed near the Lake.

From the 7th century BC onwards the shore of the Lake was densely populated, initially by people of the Early Iron Age Hallstatt culture and on through late prehistoric and Roman times. In the fields of almost every village around the Lake there are remains of Roman villas. Two in Fertörákos are accompanied by a 3rd century AD Mithraic temple which is open to visitors. The Roman hegemony was ended in the late 4th century AD, however, by the first of numerous invasions, beginning a phase of continual change and bewildering replacement of one people by another until the Avar Empire in the 9th century. Hungarians occupied the Carpathian Basin and became the overlords of the Lake area around AD 900.

A new state and public administration system was established in the 11th century. Sopron, a place with prehistoric and Roman origins, became the seat of the bailiff and centre of the county named after it. The basis of the current network of towns and villages was formed in the 12th and 13th centuries, their markets flourishing from 1277 onwards, when they were effectively relieved of many fiscal duties. A migration of German settlers started in the 13th century and continued throughout the Middle Ages. The mid-13th century Tatar invasion left this area unharmed, and it enjoyed uninterrupted development throughout medieval times until the Turkish conquest in the late 16th century. The economic basis throughout was the export of animals and wine.

Rust in particular prospered on the wine trade. Its refortification in the early 16th century as a response to the then emerging Ottoman threat marked the beginning of a phase of construction in the area, first with fortifications and then, during the 17th-19th centuries, with the erection and adaptation of domestic buildings. The liberation of the peasants after 1848 and the political situation after 1867 promoted development and building activity was renewed. The most important events locally in the second half of the 19th century were the construction of railways and the completion of the water management facilities. In the 20th century, the Austro-Hungarian frontier created after World War I divided the area into two, but true isolation started only with the establishment of the Iron Curtain between the Communist world and the rest of Europe after World War II. It was at Fertörákos, 'the place where the first brick was knocked out of the Berlin wall,' that participants at a Pan-European Picnic tore down the barbed wire and re-opened the frontier which still crosses the Lake.

Justification for being a World Heritage Site

Criterion (v): The Fertö-Neusiedler Lake has been the meeting place of different cultures for eight millennia, and this is graphically demonstrated by its varied landscape, the result of an evolutionary and symbiotic process of human interaction with the physical environment.

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