The Fire Tower has an additional and very important historical role in the life of Sopron. At its base is the so-called 'Loyalty Gate' a baroque door frame over the arch underneath and above, a wonderful sculptural story called 'The people of Sopron paying homage to the mythological figure of Hungaria'. This commemorates the fact that in the 1900's after the Treaty of St Germain and Trianon, four Hungarian Counties were ceded to Austria. Sopron however did not choose to accept this and by a plebiscite held on December 14th 1921, decided to stay with Hungary. Hence The Loyalty Gate and Sopron's reputation as faithful to Hungary. All of this makes history come very much alive here and you begin to understand some of the reasons why Sopron claims to be 'the most historic town in Hungary'.
Every town must have its connections with a famous son or daughter and in Sopron's case the chosen son is the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. There are references to him all over town particularly at the Liszt Ferenc Cultural and Conference Centre and at the Storno House on Fo ter. The cultural centre claims to stand where Liszt used to perform and I wonder if it was on this spot ( obviously in another building ) that he gave what was reputed to be his first concert in Sopron at the age of 9. The Storno House reminds us that Liszt played there twice in 1840 and 1881 but it would have to be said that an examination of Liszt's biography shows fairly tenuous connections with Sopron and Hungary in general. He was born in the then village of Doborjan, outside Sopron and now, Raiding in Austria. He moved to Paris with his parents at the age of 11 and while he always considered himself to be Hungarian, he admitted that he could only barely speak the language. Still he did compose all those Hungarian Rhapsodies and the people of Sopron are adamant that he's one of their own.
The Fire Tower ( Fo ter ) is the actual tower which gives its name to the square below it. I was a bit mystified about the importance of this Fire Tower until I got back home and read about the great fire of 1676 which destroyed most of the town and almost all of its medieval buildings. So this tower, which had originally been the north tower on the old city walls, was re-built and played the vital function of lookout tower to warn of potential invaders approaching the town and to spot any dangers, fire included. The tower guards were hugely important in the life of the town and sounded their trumpets every quarter ofan hour from the balcony. In 1622 Queen Elizabeth's coronation took place in Sopron and King Ferdinand 11 gave the town a double-headed eagle as a gift .This eagle is now at the top of the tower.
It's possible to visit the tower and (if you have the energy) to climb 200 steps and enjoy the view from the balcony. Looking up at this balcony it's really easy to imagine the guards blowing their trumpets and flags fluttering behind them. The Fire Tower really is special and it's quite unusual to have such a building, rather than a castle or cathedral, the main focus of the town. This is one of the reasons that makes Sopron different and worth visiting.
Near the old town there is a Liszt Street with a plaque and bust of Listz. The bust is outside the conert hall.