A delightfully charming and picturesque town shaped by its Austro-Hungarian Buildings, Backa Topola in Serbia is home to 23 local communities with a population of 33,321. A favourable geographical location meant that people settled here very early on. In the middle ages, the inhabitants were all Serbs. From 1750 onwards, it was populated by Hungarians and Slovaks.
Today, it is Serbian territory, but it feels like a glimpse into a Hungarian world. When the town was first mentioned in recorded history, it was chiefly Hungarian. Five and a half centuries later, it still is. Even today, 60% of its people are of Hungarian descent. Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, the town was laid to waste. However, through the collective efforts of the Hungarian settlers, it rose from a wasteland to a vibrant community.
Castle of Baron Pal Kray
Located in the centre of the town of Backa Topola, in close proximity to the Catholic Church, it is the second tallest in Europe. It highlights the importance of the town in the ancient Era. It was built for the Hungarian Baron Pal Kray, who wished for it to be his family’s residence.
With a rectangular floor plan, this building consists of a ground and first floor with its main facade and entrance facing the street. Characteristic of the period it was constructed in, the central portion of the facade has been protruded and decorated by plaster mouldings and highlighted by the wrought iron balcony. The side facades remain undecorated. Vaulted rooms are present on the ground floor, with the corners having niches at positions of previously located furnaces. The colour is a mixture of burgundy and orange with a hint of the elegance of terracotta.
This structure is a testament to the transition between the Baroque and Rococo styles of architecture in Backa Topola. The opulent Baroque comes alive with the symmetry of the row of windows. However, unlike the lavish nature of Baroque, Rococo maintains a degree of privacy.
As of today, the castle is home to a gallery and the regional museum of the city, which opened in 2002. Collections of natural history, ethnography, literature and art are presented here. In addition, the museum houses the library of architect Imre Harkai.
Art Colony of Backa Topola
The art colony of Backa Topola, founded in 1953, was the second artist colony in former Yugoslavia. In an old school building, not far from town, lies this quaint colony, which has served a tourist purpose since 2018. The first participants and founders of the colony were József Ács, Pál Petrik, Stevan Maksimović, Zoran Petrović, Boško Petrović, and Miloš Bajić. Thanks to the efforts of the IPA Cross-Border Cooperation Program called Fine Arts in the Development of Tourism in the Bácska Region, the Art Colony was renovated in 2014. The building has a total of eight double rooms with bathrooms, a kitchenette, and a multifunctional space that can be used as a dining room, lecture hall, and exhibition hall. It is situated in the heart of the village, away from the noise and din of the city, close to the lake.
The “small synthesis” program was one of the projects undertaken by the art colony whose aim was to integrate art and contemporary architecture. The colony also improved the quality of living and working spaces in the village. Their efforts bore fruit when several schools, hostels, libraries, and health centers were enriched with frescos, ceramic compositions on the wall, outdoor sculptures, and mosaics which bridged the connection between arts and the environment of Backa Topola.
Most participants were artists from the local region, although some were from Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. The Yugoslav Wars did have some effect on the colony in terms of broad concepts and aims, but luckily, it remained uninterrupted. Therefore, exhibitions continued to take place. The collection of paintings, graphics, drawings, and sculptures has accumulated over the years. They are now placed in the Art Gallery of the Kray Castle, where exhibitions are organized as well.
This Pannonian House, in Backa Topola, built in 1843, features architectural styles characteristic of the territory of Vojvodina: the walls and woven roof are attached with wooden wedges and a roof cover of cane. The traditional interior layout consists of a front and back room with a kitchen in between. In one room, there is a built-in oven. It has an outlet discharge covering the belt in front of the courtyard facade. Originally the attic was without pillars during the first phase of its development, but corrections were put in place due to the weakening of the longitudinal bearing beam. As a result, the facade facing the street has a triangular gable deeply recessed under a sloping eaves. The two attic openings are framed with decorative and shallow mortar frames.
Backa Topola in Winter (no date) NOTHING AGAINST SERBIA. Available at: http://sajkaca.blogspot.com/2011/12/backa-topola-in-winter.html
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Castel of Baron Pál Kray (no date) Dvorci Srbije. Available at: https://www.dvorcisrbije.rs/en/castle-pala-kraia-backa-topola/
fortchoteau1 and fortchoteau1 (2020) Vojvodina, Europe Between East And West. Available at: https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/tag/vojvodina/
(no date) Routes and cultures. Available at: http://www.kulturput.rs/?page_id=547&lang=en