Hotels in Sopron - Hungary
A short history of
its 115 monuments and 240 listed buildings, SOPRON can justly claim to
be "the most historic town in Hungary". Never having been ravaged by
Mongols or Turks, the inner town retains its medieval layout, with a
fusion of Gothic and Baroque architecture that rivals Castle Hill in
Budapest. Sopron is also a major wine-producing centre and the base for
excursions to Esterházy Palace, the vintage steam train at Nagycenk and
other sites. The only drawback is its proximity to Vienna, which means
that Austrians come here in droves to shop, eat out and get their teeth
fixed, swamping the town over summer.
Around the Belváros
Heading up Templom utca, turn right along Fegyvertár utca to reach Orsolya tér. This cobbled square gets its name from an Ursuline convent that once occupied the site of the Church of the Virgin, sandwiched between two neo-Gothic edifices dripping with loggias. The one on the left hosts an Exhibition of Catholic Artefacts, while the arcaded building at no. 5 contains a small Guild Museum where ceramics (both originals and replicas) are sold. In former times, animals were butchered under the arcades and the square was the site of the Salt Market.
Új utca (New street) runs off to the northwest and is actually one of Sopron's oldest thoroughfares. Its chunky cobble stoned pavements follow a gentle curve of arched dwellings painted in red, yellow and pick. During the Middle Ages it was called Zsidó (Jewish) utca and housed a flourishing community of Jewish merchants. As elsewhere, however, they were accused of conspiring with the Turks and expelled from Hungary in 1526, only returning to Sopron in the nineteenth century. At no. 22 on the left is a tiny medieval Synagogue with a ritual bath in the courtyard. When last heard, the northern end of Uj utca was closed due to work on the water mains, compelling visitors to return to Templom utca. Heading up past the ornamental Töpler House, you’ll reach the Lutheran History Museum at no. 12. The adjacent Lutheran church dates from 1782, but only acquired its tower eighty years later, due to restrictions on the faith decreed by Emperor Josef B - as related in the museum. The Museum of Forestry (Erdészeti Museum) at no. 4 features displays on forestry and environmental protection. Next door another exhibition can be found in the former Esterházy Mansion at no. 2, now a Mining Museum covering the industry's history. Directly across the street at no. 1 stands the Chapter house, whose beautiful vaulted interior dates from the fourteenth century, with allegorical images of the seven deadly sins decorating the capitals of its pillars and. the bosses of its cross-vaulting. A full history and explanations of this excellently preserved building are provided in English and German. Beyond lies Sopron's historic main square.
The focal point of Fö tér is the cherubim covered Holy Trinity Statue, which local protestants took as an affront when it was erected in 1700 by Cardinal Kollonich, who threatened: "First I will make the Hungarians slaves, then I will make them beggars, and then I will make them Catholics." Behind it stands the triple-aisled Goat Church built for the Franciscans in 1300, where three kings were later crowned and Parliament convened on seven occasions. Its curious name stems from the legend that the church's construction was financed by a goatherd whose flock unearthed a cache of loot - in gratitude for which an angel embraces a goat on one of the pillars of its Baroque interior. Before crossing the square to visit the mansions on its northern side, check out the Pharmacy Museum at no. 2, which preserves the Angel apothecary founded by Tóbiás Marb in 1601. Though remodeled since then, its Biedermeier-style walnut furnishings and artefacts from the Dark Ages of pharmacology certainly deserve a look. Directly opposite the church stands the Fabricus House at no. 6, which unites a Baroque mansion built upon Roman foundations with a patrician's house from the fifteenth century. A Renaissance stairway leads up to a small museum of archeological finds, also noted for its "whispering gallery", while the Gothic cellar contains three large Roman statues unearthed during the construction of the town hall.
The Firewatch Tower
North-of the square rises Sopron's symbol, the Firewatch Tower (Tüztorony), founded upon the stones of a fortress built by the Romans, who established the town of Scarbantia here during the first century AD. As its name suggests, the tower was intended to give warning of a fire anywhere in town - while standing watch, the sentries blew trumpets to signal the hours. Ascending from its square, tenth-century base up through a cylindrical seventeenth-century mid-section, you emerge on to a Baroque balcony offering a stunning view of Fő tér and the inner town.
At the base of the tower is the Gate of Loyalty,
erected in honour of the townfolks' decision to reject the offer of
Austrian citizenship in 1921. The motif shows Hungaria surrounded by
kneeling citizens and Sopron's coat of arms, which henceforth included
the title Civitas Fidelissima (the most faithful town). Walking through
it, you'll emerge on to Külsökapu (Outer Gate) street, where the houses
are staggered for defensive purposes; and "errant burghers" and
"gossiping, nagging" wives were once pinioned in stocks for the
righteous to pelt with rotten food.
Beyond the Belváros
Ikva hid (crossing a narrow stream which flooded noxiously in the nineteenth century) points towards a couple more sights. Off to the right at Balfi utca 11 is the private Zettl-Larger Collection of porcelain, earthenware and weaponry, assembled by a nineteenth-century businessman.
For a longer walk, follow Pozsonyi út uphill past the House of the Two Moors (so-called after the turbaned statues flanking its gate) to the partially Gothic Church of Saint Michael, whose gargoyles leer over a decaying thirteenth-century Chapel of Saint Jacob. Nearby stand the cross-less tombstones of Soviet soldiers killed liberating Sopron from the Arrow Cross puppet government, which massacred hundreds of hostages before fleeing with the Coronation Regalia in April 1945.
The Fool's Castle
In the western garden suburbs lurks a bizarre Fool's Castle" (Taródi-vár), built by a local eccentric early this century and similar to Bory's Castle in Székesfehérvár. It is still inhabited by his descendants, who allow visitors to enter several rooms crammed with paintings and curios; and who have recently started tatting paying guests. There are no set hours, but you can usually gain admission whenever someone's at home; the curator charges whatever she can get away with. The Fool's Castle is located at Csalogány köz 8. Bus #1 from Széchenyi tér can drop you near the covered pool outside town - walk 50m back, turn left on to Tölgyfa sor, and then left again at the end.
The Lövérek Hills and the Bürgenland
South of town, the sub-Alpine Lövérek Hills are a standing invitation to hikers. Bus #1 or #2 will drop you at the Hotel Lövér near the start of the path up to the Károly lookout tower, which offers marvellous views of the surrounding countryside. Although several hiking trails continue into Austria, only locals may pass through the low-key checkpoints. Both sides of the border are inhabited by bilingual folk engaged in viticulture, following the division of the Bürgenland region between Hungary and Austria (which got the lion's share) after the collapse of the Habsburg empire - an amicable partition, it seems, since nobody complains about it today.
Other regions, important cities
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