Komárom- One City In Two Countries
Komárom is a city that lies in both Hungary and Slovakia, split by the Danube River. Divided by the Trianon Peace Treaty that so severely affected Hungary’s borders, the city was once symbolic of the cultural separation caused by politics.
While the city is characterized by its forts and strategic location on the Danube River, it is also a beautiful city that is home to many museums and historical sites. It is worth strolling through the colorful historic downtowns (both of them), browsing in shops and sampling the cuisine, which looks and is named alike in both countries, but can have very different interpretations. One can visit Roman ruins at the Lapidarium Brigetionense, or see the history of the Hungarian Navy – yes, navy – or, admire the lovely frescoes in the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart. The city also includes an area, Koppánmonostor, named after a Benedictine monastery founded there in the 12th century. Here you can see superb villas built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In May, there is a three day festival called the Fortress Contests, which takes place in the Monostor Fort. Activities are centered on a military theme and include contests, sporting events, family activities, and cultural events.
Among the three forts of Komárom (Fort Igmánd, Fort Csillag, and Fort Monostor) Fort Monostor is the largest and is open to the public. Originally built to protect the castle and to slow advances on Vienna, the fort was never actually used for its intended purpose. By the time of its completion in 1871, Komárom was no longer a border town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The original plan, ordered by Emperor Franz I, was to use the well-situated city as a defense for the empire’s capital and to build several forts forming a defensive ring. These were built, and remain today, despite having lost their geographical significance by the time they were completed.
Because of the change in the shape of the empire and the advancement of military offenses, the fort was used instead as a training base and later as a transportation camp and prison. In more recent years, it served as the ammunition warehouse for the Soviet Army in complete secrecy for 45 years. Even today the secrecy surrounding this era remains and there are many tales guessing what really went on. Now open to the public, tours are offered and visitors can see the effects of the Soviet occupation on the fort, including many inscriptions on the walls from soldiers who remained in the fort for years, isolated from civil life.
Not what one typically imagines a fort to be, the Monostor fort is on a flat, sandy area rather than a hill. The nickname of “Fort Sandberg” comes from this unusual fact. Its roofs are made of earth, making it difficult to see from a distance and absorbent against the shock of attacking cannons. Its strange, yet apparently effective construction makes it a particularly interesting fort to explore and gives us an additional idea of what a stronghold can be. The fort is open to visitors from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
By car, take the M1 motorway. Or, take a train from Keleti train station in Budapest. There are also buses leaving from Budapest.