Ajka (German: Eickau) is a town in Veszprém County, in the Ajka District. The city is located along the main road 8, 30 km west of Veszprém, 40 km north of Lake Balaton, in the Transdanubian Central Mountains, along the fault line dividing Bakony to the north and south, in a half-basin open to the west. In the north Magyarpolány, in the south Öcs and Halimba, in the west Kolontár and Devecser, while in the east Kislőd and Úrkút are the neighboring settlements. Several small streams flow through the area: the Torna and Csinger streams in the inner area, the Széles-víz, and the Csigere and Polányi streams on the border of the settlement. There is also an artificially created boating lake in the town.
Stone Age finds have also been found around the settlement, proving the presence of Stone Age man. I. e. Around 1,000 Celts settled in this area and occupied the Illyrian castles. Flóris Rómer, a prominent researcher at Bakony, also found the remains of such an earthen castle in Töröktető, which was named Cservár.
The Celts were later replaced by the Romans. From the second century a tombstone was unearthed, which Publius Sextus Acurius Dexter and his wife Julia Prisca had erected for themselves while still alive. Even Romans lived here when the Huns appeared in the countryside. They were followed by the Eastern Goths, the Longobards, and then in the 6th century by the Avars.
Later, the area became Frankish and then Slavic, found here by the conquering Hungarians, who occupied Transdanubia in the 10th century under the leadership of Prince Árpád and settled.
The villages, from which the town of Ajka was later merged, were found in both 11–13. It was founded around the 16th century. Ajka, Berénd, Bódé and Padrag were named, and Csékút, Gyepes, Rendek and Tósok were names of geographical origin. Ajka is named after a former landowner genus derived from the German name Heiko. Heiko was a German knight who came to Hungary with Gizella. The first surviving written mention of the place (Eyka) dates from 1214, but the settlement itself is much earlier. It is mentioned as Ayka in 1278, by which time it already had a temple.
Mining and industrialization
In the following centuries, Ajka developed slowly. The real development came in the 19th century, after the discovery of coal reserves in the nearby Csinger Valley in 1836. The supplies were found by a shepherd who set fire to the area and the fire did not want to go out. The research was started by Gyula Puzdor, the owner of the area. Extraction began in 1869. Bernát Neumann founded a glass factory in 1878 based on coal and railways.
The Catholic church was built in 1933-34 in the heart of the city.
In 1937, based on the patent of Imre Bródy, the world's
first krypton factory was built in Ajka-Csingervölgy, the building
of which can still be seen today.
Later, large quantities of bauxite were found, and an alumina factory and aluminum smelter were built in the city. The power plant was established in 1941-42 to serve these.
In 1950, Bóde (Wuding in German) was annexed to Ajka, and on November 1, 1959, Ajka was declared a town and the municipality of Tósokberénd (German: Duschigwehrend) was added, including the Tósok, which was merged in 1950. On January 1, 1960, its population was already around 15,000. At that time, several factories were built in the city, and it became clear that the settlement would become an industrial city. By 1972, there were already 32 plants operating in Ajka.
In the 70s, the development of the city center began. The House of Culture, the Zenit and Horizont Department Stores, the Town Hall and the Hotel Ajka were built, which are still the defining buildings of the city center.
In 1971, Ajka became the district seat, and from Devecser, in addition to the district office, the court and the prosecutor's office also moved here. The new police headquarters was built in 1981. In 1977, Ajkarendek (German: Eickaureindel) and Bakonygyepest (German: Jepsching), and then in 1984 the Padragkutat, established in 1961 by merging Csékút and Padrag, were also attached to the city. In 1987, Ajka won the Hild Medal for "three decades of activity in creating a city with a human face."
After the regime change
The regime change has shattered the city’s industry, but municipalities are working to facilitate the establishment of new plants and restructuring. In the 1990s, the New Atlantis Regional Alliance was formed with the goal of reviving Ajka and its environs and initiating development. As a result, new investors are appearing in the city’s industrial park. In 2005, the implementation of the Agora Plan, which provided for the renovation and reconstruction of the city center, began. Since then, the city has been noticeably developing and organizing.
The 2008 financial crisis did not spare Ajka either, but it soon recovered from it and there was a year when it reached 1% of the country’s GDP. By the end of the 2010s, the city was already struggling with severe labor shortages.
In 2010, a major industrial disaster, the so-called a red mud disaster on the lips hit the city and its area. However, its development has not stopped, and in the 21st century there have been several major, spectacular investments in Ajka, including the renovation of a city swimming pool and the construction of an ice rink that even larger cities can envy.
During the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in 2020, the Magyar Imre Hospital in Ajka also operated as an epidemic hospital.