Water is an ancient element whose fundamental role in our lives and whose multifaceted nature are best reflected by the following lines of 19th century Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty:
"Water is an ambiguous element: it floods the earth yet it provides nourishment;
It forms an obstacle yet it offers the brave a highway across worlds...
It’s bitter when squeezed from your eyes by pain,
But pure pleasure when running down your cheek as a tear of happiness.
It’ll kill you when rivers flood, yet gently cure you when you’re sick,
And its virgin fountains are invigorating:
Nature has given water two distinct powers,
And the human mind has converted it into a divine blessing...”
The history and development of the relationship between man and water is very much part of the culture of any nation. Learning and spreading knowledge about this relationship is an important task of society. Over forty years ago, this was the idea that the leadership of the Körös Area Water Management Directorate had in mind when they took the first important steps towards creating spaces for the presentation of knowledge about water in its many shapes and forms and for the preservation of the relics of the past. Károly Bodoki created a Water Management Museum in Mezőberény, an exhibition space dedicated to nature protection within the Peres pumping station, and, later, another exhibition room at the Gyula needle dam.
The same motivation drove us in 1986 when the building at Városház utca 25 – just across the street from our headquarters in Gyula – was nationalised and placed under the management of our directorate. The building, by then under protection as a monument of historical significance, had functioned as the city’s steam bath for nearly 80 years. With many details preserved in their original condition, and with pools that were astonishingly beautiful even in their ruins, the building was an ideal space, after some renovation, for presenting the history of the region, of its waters, and of its spa culture.
At that point, time nearly stopped. Mainly because of the lack of funding, nearly two and a half decades passed by the time the plan was implemented and the dream came true. This period saw repeated starts and halts, periods when things sped up and times when we just waited for something to happen. Our concept changed several times depending partly on the terms and conditions of the available grants under the various programmes and partly on our financial possibilities.
Planning and implementing the renovation of this monument of historical significance was a huge challenge. The project was carried out in several stages as there was a need to harmonise the objectives of preserving the architectural and cultural heritage with the needs and requirements of modern-day functionality.
Once architectural renovation was complete, a new era started in 2003. European Union funding became available for more and more projects, and we had high hopes that funding was sure to come within the near future. Once again, many years passed, but we never gave up. Even after half a dozen of project proposals were written, submitted, and rejected, we stayed the course and stuck to the idea that the building – beautifully renovated but empty – should eventually fulfil its worthy mission as an exhibition space.
Eventually, our project proposal submitted under the Hungary-Romania Cross-Border Co-operation Programme 2007-2013 was granted support in 2010. The call for proposals specified a cross-border element, wherefore we established a partnership with the municipal government of Szalacs (Sălacea), a commune located in Romania, further away within the catchment area of the Körös (Criș) Rivers. As part of that cooperation, we jointly implemented a project under the title Houses of Landscape and Water History in the Valley of the Rivers Körös (Criș), Berettyó (Barcău), and Ér (Ier) for Exhibition, Education, and Information Purposes. The short name of the project – TÁJVÍZHÁZ – is now also the name of the Gyula exhibition space.
The objective of the project is to preserve and promote the environmental and cultural heritage, to provide education and information in support of protecting natural values, and to improve cooperation between the partners. Our Romanian partner converted the building of the former Komáromi Mansion in Ottomány (Otomani) into an exhibition space, also renovating the natural surrounding of the house.
The exhibition space of the Gyula TÁJVÍZHÁZ offers the general public information about the landscape, the waters, and the natural treasures of the Körös area, including useful knowledge about the region’s medical spa culture. We tried to put together an exhibition that is both entertaining and educational: it includes a combination of traditional and modern displays, multimedia, print publications, as well as museological materials for educational purposes. We also created facilities for smaller conferences and seasonal exhibitions. In cooperation with our Romanian partner, we set up a common website, which promotes our exhibition all around the world, offering a wide selection of extra information through a menu bar.
It is these thoughts with which I welcome you, dear Visitor, to our website, hoping that you will enjoy its content and we can soon also welcome you as a visitor to our TÁJVÍZHÁZ Exhibition. I promise you one thing: it will be a unique and special experience.
Gyula, December 2012
Director Sándor Bak