One view of Selim Cave; entrance to Outdoor Museum of Mining and Industry; Jászai Mari Theater; lookout tower
Tatabánya, in western Hungary, lies about 36 miles east-southeast of Győr, as the crow flies. (Following the road, it is 40 plus miles distant.) Although it is a recent conglomeration of the settlements of Alsógalla, Felsőgalla and Bánhida, the area has been inhabited since the Stone Age.
Bánhida was mentioned in an official document as early as 1288. The area was occupied by the Turks in the 16th century, and the population accepted the Reformed version of Protestantism. After the Turkish occupation, the area became the property of the Esterházy family, which brought in German and Slovak Catholic settlers.
Coal was discovered in the area during the late 18th century, and it eventually became an important industry. The first tip-cart of coal was brought to the surface in 1896, and a mining town developed in Alsógalla.
After the fall of the short-lived Communist government in 1919, the miners staged a protest against the drastically increased work week and the arrest of many union leaders. The gendarmes shot into the crowd, killing several people and wounding many. September 6th has since been named nationwide Miners’ Day.
In 1947, Tatabánya became the County seat.
In the 1980’s, mining and the metal industry began to fade, and an industrial park has taken over the economy, housing manufacturers of plastics, medical supplies and car parts.
Having been a mining and industrial center, there are not too many tourist attractions in Tatabánya, apart from the Turul monument. But that commercial history has been made visible by the Outdoor Museum of Mining and Industry (Bányászati és ipari skanzen), exhibiting the implements once used and giving a glimpse of the miners’ lives. An actual mining shaft was reproduced as a lookout tower, known as the Ranzinger Vince kilátó, from which there is a great panoramic view of the city and its surrounding plain. (Ranzinger Vince was an Austrian mining engineer, who played a major role in the development of the city’s coalmining industry.)
Another point of interest is Szelim Cave, not too far from the Turul. Legend has it that it was named after the Turkish Sultan Selim I (also known as “Selim the Grim”) who, it is said, set fire to the people hiding there from the invading Turkish forces. The cave is some 135 ft. wide and 45 ft. high, so it is easily noticeble even from a distance. It is famous for the archaeological artefacts found here, dating from the Paleolithic to the Copper Age.
The locals are also proud of the Jászai Mari Színház (also known as Népszínház) named after a 19th and 20th century actress (1850 – 1926).