Vojvodina plain, intersected by rivers, and nature that has left its treasures as a gift, rich and unique flora and fauna, but also its beauty that leaves no one indifferent. Nature Park “Old Tisa” is on the right bank of the river Tisa. It is the longest still water with the whole stream (24km long). So called Dead Tisa near Novi Bečej is part of famous Čurug meander and was dug through in the late 1858. In place of still water a fertile soil was created. That is why this place is called Pearl Island.
In many ways, this island is not quite common, from the way it originated, the high quality of the land to the mysterious history of the Count Rohonczy family.
Nature Park Old Tisa near Pearl Island preserved its natural values from the 19th century when Old Tisa was separated from Tisa’s flow. This ground of high and specific quality was created artificially by the construction of a melioration system that has restrained the often unpredictable nature of the Tisa River. In these water, wetland and forest habitats live 67 species of phytoplankton, 27 species of zooplankton, 148 taxon of vascular flora, 21 plant communities, one kind of oligochaeta (type of earthwarms), large number of insects, 29 species of fish, 9 species of amphibian and 4 species of reptile, 183 species of birds and 27 species of mammals of which some are endangered species.
This natural resource is a significant habitat for endangered species of plants and animals of water and wetland habitats. It is precisely this vegetation as well as autochthonous forests that are significantly moist habitat for nesting and migration of birds in Vojvodina. Fishponds also play the important part. Together with the river Tisa they are feeding base for rare birds.
Since 2008, Rohonczy family estate and the summer house on the Pearl Island has belonged to the Old Tisa Nature Park. It covers 391ha of the territory. The land that belonged to the Rohonczy family was the most fruitful and the finest of the alluvial-deluvial type. Because of the stillness of the Dead Tisa water that has a mirror effect, sunny days are the longest in this region. This is especially good for growing fruits, vegetables and vines. The Pearl Island is best known for grape variety called Muscat Krokan. There aren’t firm evidence about the origin of this grape variety, it is presumed that this vine was imported from France even though other sources said that this vine came from Algeria. What is certain is that we can thank to Count Rohonczy for being the only one who produce this prestigious wine of Muscat Krokan brand.
The fragrant clusters of this variety are cylindrical and conical, weighing 120-150 grams. The berry is of middle size, round and green. It collects up to 22% of sugar and the grapes contain 5-7g / l of total acids. The variety is medium-late. In terms of quality, it is classified as a group of quality wines, although some vintners classify it as premium wine. Muscat Krokan wine can be classified as an aromatic wine. This extraordinary wine is bright yellowish with greenish reflection, it is very drinkable, refreshing and full. The high content of the extract gives it its fullness. It is a premium white wine with a protected geographical origin.
If we want to get the real story of the Pearl Island and its beauty, we need to go back to the past…
The history claims that Count Rohonczy planted this vine on a several locations in Europe in the 19th century, but the only place where sprouts survived was the Pearl Island near Novi Bečej. Actually, this region became well known in the world because good geo-climatic conditions for growing this unique autochthonous variety. In 1781, the Austrian government decided to sell all sipahis in Banat and Turkish Bečej, i.e. today area of Novi Bečej municipality, got into the ownership of Pavle Hadžimihajlov, a trader of Greek-Aromanian origin who won it on the auction. He and his family also got the title with the estate. Pavle Hadžimihajlov had three granddaughters. One of them, Klara Šišanji, was married to a son of Austrian army Colonel, Lipot Rohonczy. What is important for this story is Klara’s dowry. She brought to her new home about 650 morgens of exceptional land on the Pearl Island. Lipot Rohonczy was a great farmer and very aware of the land quality and the value of his wife’s dowry. Unfortunately, he died young and all the family’s glory acquired his son Count Gedeon Rohonczy.
Gedeon built large villa,i.e. family house in Turkish Bečej, and summer house and economical premises on the Pearl Island. Soon this area looked like a small settlement whose citizens were his workers, family and service.
He had two marriages. After he divorced Flora Lónyay he got married again with Etelka Krajcer in 1893. They had two daughters Marijeta and Etelka. His wife Etelka helped him with the estate. She made her well known juices and strawberry jams, as well as other kinds of jams. She endured his dissolute lifestyle. He was known as a passionate gambler and a card shark. The story goes that he lost the estate and the castle one night playing cards. Trying to recover the lost he suggested his playmates a bet: if he succeeded from the distance of the rifle to hit the apple from the head of his wife, all his debts would be canceled. The bet was accepted. They woke up his wife, put the apple on her head, the rifle was fired and the apple was hit, of course!
Rohonczy cultivated high-quality fruits and vegetables that were packed nicely and exported them with his trademark and his family coat- of- arms to Europe and even Russia. Before Muscat Krokan, the Pearl Island was known by its melons which were called ‘’The Pearls of Tisa”. Large, round yellow melons were spilled on the moon as pearls… He produced this melon by crossing the Turkish Rose and Eastern Queen. It is important to emphasize, at that time, this vegetable only flourished on the Pearl Island. This made him famous in the world of olericulture. He was also successful in cultivated table corn, peppers and tomatoes. He actively participated at the fairs connected with pomology and viticulture all over the world and he had significant results. At the Paris Fair in 1900, he got “Grand Prize” for his 5kg basket of fruit. It’s interesting that at the Budapest Fair in 1904, he improvised on his stand the miniature wine production from harvest to bottling! His stand was, of course, the most visited. He took the chance to share his promotional flyers and originally promote his products. The melons were quickly forgotten, but Count Rohonczy and the Pearl Island stayed remembered by their greatest pearl in this region- vine called Muscat Krokan. Papers says that he had 100 morgens of vine, 60 morgens of Muscat Krokan and 40 morgens of Sassella.
Muscat Krocan wine was very special and was kept only for rich people, politicians and famous people of the time. Count Rohonczy gave this wine as a present to his friend all over the world. He shared it wisely because it was never a lot to share. Consequently, its price was high. If we try to recalculate the value of the bottle from that time into today European Community currency, we will get the amount of incredible 1000,00 euros.
The story goes that the railway of a narrow track was built for the transport of wine to the Bečej station.
Count’s social life was very various, active and thrilling. He was in politic, he was elected to the State Parliament as a Member of Parliament where he defended the interests of fruit-growers, viticulturist and vegetable growers. He actively participated in the fight against floods near Szeged in 1879.
He raised horses on his estate. His stable got about 100 horses. Some of them accomplished top results on the races across Hungary and abroad. His famous racing horses were called Ez Tip, Zabfalo, Ugrifiles, Sivarvanj… However, for accomplishing top results it was not enough to have the best horse breeds, but also a stableboy, a trainer and the experienced riders.
Beginnings of ice skating were related to French, but the first ice skating teams were organized in England in 1742. Speed skating and figure skating were developing alongside. We are almost certain that Gedeon Rohonczy attended the first European Championship in Art Skating in Hamburg in 1891. On December 2nd, 1869 he established Budapest Skating Association. Since the opening of the skating rink in the city’s park Gedeon had been on the ice. He was more attracted to the figure skating. On a competition in 1889, as the newspapers wrote, he became noticed with his partner Matilda Jungfer. Since the 90’s of the 19th century he had organized beautiful shows on ice and carnivals under the masks. On one such occasion in Dobschina, Slovakia in 1893, the show lasted for two hours. Thirty-two dance couples took part in it and danced waltz. The participants who didn’t have place to sleep over continued to dance until morning! On the other show where 500 people took part, Gedeon was the head, the director and actor with the part of a carnival prince! And on top of all he had his own invention – ice skates known as “Rohonczy Columbus Skates”! He patented his innovation in the USA on September 15th, 1891. They were easy to put on and took off from shoes with screws. He also invented a special ankle belt called “Achilles”. He sold them very successfully. We found in the adds of Budapest’s weekly newspapers for selling winter sports equipment which a trader Vaselya István put in, that Columbus Skates cost 17 kr. and the Achilles Belt 2 kr. in 1914.
ROHONCZY AS A GAMBLER, A CARDSHARK, A PARTIER, A BOHEMIAN…
Everything he done in his life, he done with passion and great enthusiasm. He was capable of creating large business empire, but also to spend a lot of money on gambling, partying and expensive whores. This man had wealth on the palm of his hand, he was gaining it all his life, fighting for prestige in society in every aspect of it. He set himself high goals and usually he achieved them. To accomplish it, it wasn’t enough to get the succession, but to have great desire and ideas and persistence in work. He was a politician, a producer, a trader, a sportsman, a marketing manager. After work, he relaxed in a tavern, a gambling house, on the racetrack and at the ice balls. He spent most of his time at the National Card Casino, surrounded by women and Gypsy music! He was gallant with women. Ladies liked him because he was tall and handsome with full lips, always in a good mood. Handsome Gedeon had a life motto: “Who does not like wine, women and songs-a fool to remain till the end of life!”
At the time, a duel was the usual way to defend an honor, especially among aristocrats. Gedeon was easy to go into duels, for defending his honor or just for pleasure. He was a top swordsman and he handled the weapon perfectly.
Rohonczy often criticized the musicians while partying in Budapest, that they couldn’t play so well as his Gypsies from Turkish Bečej. Of course, city musicians were full of themselves, they listened with disbelief and dismissed the thought that some musicians from the province would overshadow them. On one of the occasion, cheerful musicians asked Gedeon: “ So, Mr. Senator… could your musicians play so well?” “Now you are going to hear!”, said Gedeon and turned the light off. At that moment, in the dark, started virtuoso playing – czardas one after the other. People were moving and clapping, they wanted lights to turn on. The lights came on and Gedeon theatrical presented his sweaty, charmed musicians from Turkish Bečej, who thanked to the guests with a deep inclination !!!
He loved playing cards. Sometimes cards were played to the dawn in his castle. Bets were sometimes too big. Thanks to one of them, we got Muscat Krokan vine. Gideon took a bet with Count Lederer from Čoka, who would plant a better vine the following year. The bet has fallen and the following year shined a unique grape variety on the Pearl Island and the barrel was filling with unique wine Muscan Krokan!
Muscat Krokan came from afar. Accidentally or purposefully, fate wanted this vine to find its home right here, on the Pearl Island, near Novi Bečej.
The magnificent vineyard of musk scent, overshadowed even the sun by its beauty and the sun as a dear friend caresses it with its golden rays, and since then they have embraced each other.
Except the vineyard and the summer house, there is an old wine cellar from 1912, on the estate. It was built and used by Count himself. Old oak barrel and traditional production technology and wine-care, authentic glass barrels of great capacity and still at some places the coat-of-arms of this Count’s family … give us an experience that is to remember.