Round tour in the look-out tower history
Conquering mountains might be some primal instinct; otherwise it would not be so desirable to get higher and higher towards the unknown. Perhaps there are more pragmatic reasons for the upward aspiration, but the point is that those who conquer the top own the breathtaking view. You can read about the history of look-out towers this week.
Erzsébet tower, the iconic
The look-out tower is situated on one of the highest points of Budapest, on János Hill, or Pozsonyi Hill formerly. The name Pozsonyi was given to it, because you could see the towers of the Castle of Pozsony in clear weather. The name János surely came from the Saint John statue that was erected here. The János Hill became populated during epidemics, because it is an old tradition that people escaped to the country from contagious diseases if they could. People living in Budapest could not find a more suitable location than the Buda Hills. Later it became fashionable to move here and build cottages on the hill. Meanwhile, tourists also explored the place, which meant profit to restaurant owners, thus inns and taverns proliferated in the region.
János Hill Look-out Tower, Budapest, 1904. – postcard – MKVM CC BY-NC-ND
We cannot forget about associations either, which advanced the life of the touristic sight significantly. For example the Budapest-Upland Tourist Club (Association of Svábhegy presently), which contributed to the delivery of the road from Budakeszi Road to János Hill. But what is it worth without publicity? The look-out tower was extremely lucky in this point of view as well. An influencer celebrity of the period, Queen (and Empress) Elisabeth visited it several times, four times, in order to admire the panorama. That time, a wooden tower, a so called gloriette stood on the elevation, which was exposed to the adversity of weather, so it was in a rather bad condition at the end of the century.
Glück, saviour of look-out towers
Then Frigyes Glück came, whose name was connected to the construction of the Árpád look-out tower on Gugger Hill. He was the owner of the Pannonia Hotel at Astoria, and he thought it was not enough to bait tourists with his hotel, but some attractions were also needed. The family Glück had been lived on Svábhegy for a long time, and as the chairman of the later Association of Svábhegy he lobbied for the look-out tower construction obviously in 1904. The amount that was necessary for the realisation of the project was finally collected from a profitable hotel conference, a charitable Swiss hotel owner and the capital city Budapest. The capital encharged Pál Klunzinger with the preparation of preliminary plans. His situation was made more difficult by customers with different demands, and the adjudicator of the tender was Frigyes Schulek, which was also puzzling. Finally, the building was built according to plans modified by Schulek, thus a small wonder that it is so similar to the Fishermen’s Bastion. The inauguration ceremony of the Elisabeth Tower started at 11 am on 8 September in 1910. Owing to careful plans, the tower fits to the range of the hill and they also made sure that surrounding trees could not grow on it. Its popularity was unharmed for many years and even complaining restaurant owners were reconciled to it. It was a constant sight on postcards, and became an iconic building of Budapest. Nobody dealt with it during the socialist era, but a huge red star was placed on its top floor. By 1981, its condition was so ruinous that it had to be closed down. The capital gave it to theatre Vidám Színpad that restored the building in 1992. The foundation of the building suffered badly the load of the red star. It was completely renovated in 2005.
Look-out tower made from a shot foundry
After the capital city, we are visiting the look-out tower of Tata. Originally, the shot foundry “Turul” operated here. Antal Stieber started producing small shots in 1939, because there was a great demand in shots between the two world wars. Why did they need a tower? Because the melted lead was dripped from 30 metres into a water container on the ground floor during the producing process. The drops took globular form and they solidified in the water this way. As the producing process developed a lot since then, the building lost its original role and functions now as a look-out tower, and to salute the famous architect, it took the name of Jakab Fellner. There is only one similar tower in Hungary, in the settlement Kölesd-Borjád in Tolna County.
Gems of Mecsek
The “crown jewels” of Mecsek Forest Park are the look-out towers Sós-hegyi, János, Kis-Tubes and the TV Tower. The Tubes is the highest peak of the Middle-Mecsek. Many people might remember its name from the news of the two-thousands, when the NATO wanted to install a radar station there. Fortunately, it did not happen. Tourists can still admire the scenery for example from the Kis-Tubes Tower, which stands at the height of 577 metres, built by Tibor Kiss’ plans and has been open to visitors since 1959. Still in Mecsek Mountain, there is another tower: the János Tower. The beautiful quarry-stone tower that stands at the height of 611 metres was built by public contributions. The former tower was built in 1910 and was named after János Rauch, but it was demolished in 1981. You can see the Mecsek from its top all around, and even the silhouette of Badacsony stands out in clear weather.
Look-out tower Zsitvay or Nagy-Villám
Its original name was Jubilee Tower, which refers to the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hungarian Tourist Alliance in 1933. The denominator of the tower on the top of Nagy-Villám was Dr. Tibor Zsitvay, former minister of justice, and the chairman of the Magyar Turista Szövetség (Hungarian tourist alliance) that time. After the WW II, the tower was renamed, thus it was called Nagy-Villám (great lightning) for a long time. It was one storey shorter when opened, because five thousand pengős were missing for the finishing. Its final form was constructed by 1938. Regarding its appearance, designers wanted to fit it to the historical sights in the surroundings (Visegrád), like the Citadel of Visegrád and Solomon Tower. The building that was restored in 2006 offers a gripping view.
The symbol of Miskolc
The city would have needed a fire-watch tower already in 1901, which would have served touristic aims as well, but the first look-out tower was built only in 1906, saluting Ferenc Rákóczi. The Rákóczi tower was made of wood and was soon pulled down. The second tower was built in 1934, based on Bálint Szeghalmy’s plans, and was also called Rákóczi Tower. It was destroyed during the Revolution of 1956, in ambiguous circumstances; some said that the Soviets set it on fire; others said the revolutionists did it. Today’s look-out tower was made out of concrete, based on Miklós Hofer and György Vörös’s plans. The TV tower offers a 180-degree panorama. The 72-metre-tall building has been standing above the city since 20 August 1963. A scary curiosity is that the swing of its aerials might be 45 cms in strong wind.
Translated by Zita Aknai