For most of the year, the island that plays host to Budapest's annual Sziget festival is far less lively. It has played host to ports, military camps, beach-style nightclubs, and was even home to Emperor Hadrian at one point. Today, the southern end of the island serves as a ship graveyard.
It was in the 1830s that the island first got the nickname of Shipyard Island (Hajógyári Sziget), when Count István Széchenyi founded the First Danube Steam Boat Association on it. In 1836, the first ship was put in the water, followed by the first military steamboat in 1848. During the Communist area, ships continued to be built on the island but at the end of the eighties, industrial activity here ended.
The island is now divided in two parts, that can be accessed by two different bridges. The southern part is closed and guarded. My uncle had to take me to a set of hidden gates to be able to enter the shipyard. Afraid of being discovered, and with dogs barking in a distance, I explored, amazed, these enormous empty factories, the inside of some boats still wearing old painted Hungarian flags.
The former shipyard is now supposedly run by the Yacht Club of Hungary. But the absence of activity led the government recently to buy the whole island back, with the plan to transform it into a recreational area for families. In the meantime, the remaining ruins of the shipyards are waiting to be destroyed along with the centuries of history they contain.
Alexandra Breznaÿ is a French documentary photographer who graduated from the International Center of Photography in 2010. After having lived three years in New York, she is currently based in Paris. www.alexandrabreznay.com