Doberdò: Hungary plateau and the Isolated Tree

Almost a year after the outbreak of the First World War Italy joined fighting and was preparing an attack on the Isonzo front.

May 24th, 1915, the honvéd of the First Infantry Regiment arrived from Budapest in Doberdò; in a few weeks thousand other Hungarian soldiers followed them. They came from the capital and especially from Drebcen, Szèkefehèrvàr, Karánsebes (Banat, today is in Romania), Nagyvárad (Oradea, Romania) , Temesvár (in Romania) and in a small number also from other places of the vast  Kingdom of Hungary: Pécs, Sopron, Eger, Pozsony (today Bratislava in Slovakia).
During the first six Battles of the Isonzo (June 1915- August 1916) the 17th and the 20th Hungarian division had the task to defend the Doberdò plateau from the incessant Italian attacks. The Front shaped in horseshoe extended from the confluence of Vipava and Lisert of Monfalcone, through Monte San Michele, San Martino del Carso, the heights of Polazzo and the Karst edge of Redipuglia, Vermegliano and Monfalcone. As a result of VI Battle the Commander of the VII Austro-Hungarian corpus, Archduke Joseph August, ordered to his troops to withdraw from the territory of Doberdò and to take a stand on the other side of Dol.

The Hungarian cemeteries overflowing with fallen soldiers remained to guard the plateau, about ten thousand of them still hold in the Austro-Hungarian Cemetery of Fogliano-Redipuglia.

Doberdò, the country that summarize the whole of territory, in the imaginations of the Hungarian people still remains as an awful page, but at the same time glorious and almost mythical in its history. Even the sound of the word »Dobedò« evokes in the mind of the Hungarian people the incessant drum of the artillery fire (dob = drum). The » brutal massacre« of Doberdò, despite immense tragedy that represented for hundreds of thousands Hungarians, today it is perceived like a symbol of the »Great Hungary«, historical European state, that just during the Great War found the twilight of its existence together with the Austrian Empire.

Hungarian itinerary on Doberdò Karst

1st Itinerary

Hungarian chapel and embrasures on Mountain Brestovec

On the 20th May, 2009, the Hungarian president Sólyom László inaugurated the restored Hungarian Chapel. After the Battle of Caporetto, the last of the XII battle of the Isonzo and the only one which was programmed by the Austro-Hungarian army, Hungarians could repossess the Doberdò plateau and rearrange the numerous cemeteries, that have been abandoned Italians more than one year before.

Of the numerous monuments built by Hungarian, nowadays only one is still remains: the chapel built by the 4th Infantry Regiment Honvéd nearby Visintini. The vast grasslands under the chapel are the only rests of the great cemetery of the 17th division K.uK. Leaving the car at Visintini and visited the chapel it could be possible to climb up on Brestovec (altitude 209m), home of an ancient castle from the Bronze Age.

After the VI Battle the Italian army equipped the top of the mountain to host a system of embrasures, never used during the war, but worth a visit for the wide panorama of the Karst territory from Doberdò to Komen (SLO) and because are conserved many Italian trenches. Trespassed the tunnel it is possible to descend on the right side towards the street of Dol, where was existed some cemetery of the 20th division Honvéd and some Italian cemetery, to continue toward Visintini or to run through again the same road.

To complete the theme we suggest visiting the Austro-Hungarian cemetery in Fogliano di Redipuglia, the museum of the Great War and the Ossuary Redipuglia, places achievable by car in 20 minutes from Visintini.

Duration: approximately 2 hours
Guide: expert of the Hungarian sites and the Great War
Difficulty: easy, suitable for all
Typology of the ground:  macadam and dirt road
Clothing and footwear: climbing-boots or gym shoes, bottle of water and a flashlight.

2nd Itinerary 

Hungarian monuments: the Isolated Tree between San Martino and San Michele

Till June 1916 near the church Diruta in San Martino del Carso grew a tree, the only survivor in the desolation of the karst stones, swept by Italian grenades. The Archduke Joseph August, the commander of the 6th army corps, described it: »I’m seized by a painful feeling every time I look at this mutilated tree, arise in the middle of the heap of ruins and fragments of stones. A gelid pang in one’s heart with a grievous question: probably are you the symbol of our destiny, poor little tree?”. Men of the 46th Infantry Regiment K.u.K Szeged decided to save it and to send it to their hoping of their return to home.

In the 2013, almost a century after the cut, the Isolated Tree (a Doberdói fa for the Hungarians) returned to San Martino on the occasion of a precious exhibition arose from a Italian-Hungarian collaboration. Immediately behind the church of the village is an indication for the monument arose in memory of the foot-soldiers of the 4th Regiment Honvéd, dead in 1915 to defend San Michele. If we continue on one’s way and cross the street, which goes to mountain San Michele (altitude 275m), we can reach the side of a little valley, celebrated by the poet-soldier  Giuseppe Ungaretti in his verses. The Hungarian poet and friend Csorba Győző translated these verses. If we turn to north-east and cross once again the street we soon reach the peak nr.4 of San Michele, a basic bulwark of the Hungarian defences.  Just ahead it is possible to visit the cave Lucachich, the seat of the commander of the 20th division Honvéd, General Lukachich Géza, the entrance of the Schönburgtunnel, the embrasure tunnel of the Third Italian Army. Finished the visit of the holy place of mountain San Michele (panorama and Museum of the Great War) we return to San Martino.

Duration: approximately 2-3 hours

Guide: expert of the Hungarian sites and the Great War
Difficulty: easy
Typology of the ground:  macadam and dirt road
Clothing and footwear: climbing-boots or gym shoes, bottle of water and a flashlight.