Lake Neusiedlersee, Austria:
The Sea of the Burgenland
Lake Neusiedlersee is a lake in the border area between Austria and Hungary; the Austrian part can be found in the Burgenland province. The German name refers to a town of the same name (Neusiedl), the Hungarian name Fertö is more appropriate - it means swamp. The Neusiedlersee is one of Europe′s very few steppe lakes; in terms of surface, the lake is Austria′s biggest. Lake Constance is bigger, but the Austrian share of it is smaller. On both sides, the Austrian and Hungarian one, the region is part of a National Park. I like this area very much and have spent several vacations there; for details, please see my article on the Seewinkel and Rust. This article will be specifically about the lake, not its surroundings.
Lake Neusiedlersee is very shallow - about two metres at its deepest point - and its surface depends a lot on the amount of water that is in it. When the water levels are low, the surface is much smaller; on average, the Neusiedlersee is about 320 square kilometres large, of which 240 belong to Austria. Due to the spherical shape of the Earth, one can not see the shore at Mörbisch from Neusiedl - the difference in levels amounts to almost 10 metres. The Neusiedlersee is known for its many birds, attracted by the vast regions of reed. After the river delta of the Danube in Romania, the Neusiedlersee is the largest reed area in Europe. The birds, in turn, attract a great deal of birders and other nature enthusiasts and are the basis for a constant stream of tourists coming to the Burgenland.
Reed Cropping at the Neusiedlersee
The reed, by the way, is a relatively recent development: It grew mostly between 1909 and 1965. There are several reasons for it: The Neusiedlersee is a salt lake, its salinity is about one twentieth of that of seawater. With the construction of the Einserkanal, a canal connected to a drainage system, the salinity decreased and favoured the spreading of reed. Another reason is the agriculture around lake Neusiedlersee, which brought nutrients into the lake (a phenomenon called eutrophy by limnologists). The administration of the national park pays local farmers to harvest about 10 to 15 percent of the reed each year.
For tourists, the few towns with access to the lake might be of interest. These are Illmitz, Podersdorf, Weiden, Neusiedl, Rust and Fertörakos (the latter one in Hungary). All these places have lidos and offer facilities for water sports, but only Podersdorf is free of reed. Podersdorf is a disgusting mass tourism ghetto full of fat Viennese chave-scum, in my humble opinion.
The ground of the lake comprises of sands; water comes into the lake almost exclusively through rain, some 20 percent come through minor creeks. As mentioned above, the water level shows strong fluctuations - 60 to 80 centimetres over the course of a year are normal, with the lowest level in August. During the winter, water is taken from the Neusiedlersee through the Einserkanal, in order to prevent floods in the following spring. Balancing the amount of water to the right level is a tricky business: If too much water is removed before the canal becomes dysfunctional in spring, when its targets have higher water levels and won′t accept any water, the level of the lake is too low. This harms tourism and agriculture, and won′t cause the locals to cheer.
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