Lake Neusiedlersee, Austria:
Part III - History of the Neusiedlersee

A few words on the history of the Neusiedlersee: Findings from the stone age and bronze age provide evidence that the region around Neusiedlersee has been populated for some 8,000 years. In the year 9 A.D., the Romans got hold of the Celtic kingdom Pannonia and incorporated it into their Empire as a province. At this time, the area around Neusiedlersee was populated by the tribe of the Boiers. They lived in dense oak tree forests, which were later cut down by the Romans to get wood for the construction and maintenance of Carnuntum. The first vineyards, for which the region is famous today, were also created under Roman rule. The quarry in St. Margareten served as a major source of building stone.

In the Age of Migration, all sorts of tribes and peoples moved in and out of the Neusiedlersee area: Awarians, Franconians, Slavic people, Magyars and Visigoths. During the Middle Ages, the Petschenegians are defeated by the Magyars and moved to the region to guard the border. They obviously didn′t do a very good job, as Bavarians moved in after the 11th century. In 1242, the residents around Lake Neusiedlersee were slaughtered by the advancing Mongolians. Following that, Bavarians moved in from what is southern Germany today; they use the ruins of a previous town and call it "Neusiedl" ("new settlement"). The multicultural fun continued: Turkish armies looted the area in 1526, then again in 1683; the Kuruzzen-wars of 1711 concentrate - among others - in this area.

More Recent History of the Neusiedlersee

By this time, the locals from the Neusiedlersee area must have gotten used to hiding in the swamps or the Leithagebirge hill range once in a while. At least is appears that they survived in sufficiently high numbers to maintain a constant population in situ. After the Napoleonic Wars (at least those concentrated in Lower Austria and around Vienna, as well as Tyrol), the situation changed and tranquillity dominated the region. A naval college for boys was build in Neusiedl, they were supposed to learn how to sail. See the article on the Wolfgangsee for a similar institution in Ried. After 1898, the Hungarian government ruled that the German names for places and the lake were illegal; the Hungarian name had to be used from now on.

This policy changed only after the Burgenland became part of Austria as a result of WWI′s peace "negotiations". Lake Neusiedlersee was now referred to by its German name (at least on the Austrian side of the border) and property of the Burgenland. The Great Depression forced many people from the underdeveloped Seewinkel area into emigration, or at least to moving to Vienna (bad enough, in my opinion). During WWII, allied bombers that attacked the industries of Wiener Neustadt were often fought by the Luftwaffe over Lake Neusiedlersee. The last parts of ammunition and plane pieces from WWII were found in the lake in the 1990ies - so far, that is.

In 1956, the region became a side-stage for global history once again: During the Hungarian Revolution, many anti-communist refugees escaped to the Austrian Seewinkel via the "Brücke von Andau" (Andau Bridge), today a wooden bridge as unspectacular as it had been in 1956. After the Soviets succeeded in suppressing the revolt, the iron curtain hermetically divided Lake Neusiedlersee - until 1989, when hundreds of Eastern Germans on vacation escaped to the west via the border. This was one of the first incidents that showed how seriously close communist rule was to disintegration in Eastern Europe.

Go to: "Neusiedlersee Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV"

Back to "Burgenland Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official Website of the Burgenland

Official Website of the Neusiedlersee

Official Website of the National Park Neusiedlersee

National Parks: Nationalpark Neusiedler See

Seewinkel area around Lake Neusiedler See