What is easily noticeable in the Vojvodina landscape, as its specific quality , are the villages with straight streets. They were created as a consequence of the intervention of the Habsburg  government : old, unregulated  Serbian and Rumanian villages were altered during the eighteenth century in such a  way that  they got streets crossing each other   under a right angle, or  the road was the main street , all the other streets  regularly spreading from it on both sides. When new, colonist villages, or new colonist parts of the old  villages were  concerned, they were planned symmetrically from the beginning. Although their form was imposed  on  its inhabitants regardless of their nationality, the native population considered  it as something typically German . Together with the regulation of villages,   the regulation of the arable area was carried on, as well as the regulation of fields inside it.

 At  first site it is noticeable that the villages in the Vojvodina ( not only the Swabian ones) differ from the villages in other parts because  the houses are built according to a certain pattern. This was imposed by the Habsburg government, as well as the village type. However the origin of this type of the houses called “colonial” or “Pannonian”(in German and Serbian literature) is disputable. According to one thesis, the origin of it is the adapted so called “Franconian house”.  It was characterized, above all,  by the same layout of the premises  as in the “colonial” or the so-called “Pannonian” house . The houses were turned towards the street with their  narrower side, and the plan of rooms consisted of one room towards the street (later a parlor), with a kitchen (entered from the yard) in extension. Later, with the increase in needs and the standard of living , a few more premises were added in the continuation. But, there are also substantial differences between the “Franconian house” and its match in the Southeast  Europe. Above all , in Germany and Austria these were  log-cabins. On the contrary, in the southern Hungary, because of the lack, wood was used only for the most necessary parts (beams, doors and roofing), while the walls were made of firmly packed earth, and the roofs of straw, reed and shrub. This was the  traditional way of building of the local inhabitants, applied by the Habsburg Government  in need to build houses for the colonists. The second important difference was that in Germany and Austria the “Franconian houses” used to have  several floors from the fifteenth century on, but in the southern  Hungary they  used to  have  only the ground floor all the time. Pretty later they got an attic.

After all, at the beginning  the colonist houses were rather primitive, and not much like the described ones, which implies that at first, the local contribution, and not the German impact, was crucial. We can stress the  fact that the greatest number of the houses for the colonists was  built by the Serbs, as unpaid labor or for wages, which can  be considered as the Serbian contribution.

The most significant difference in relation to the supposed German prototype was the  hallway (“gong”) – eaves along the yard side of the house, which became more and more widened during the nineteenth century. First it was not leaning on pillars, but later they became obligatory. In this way a certain kind of verandah was

created, which protected from the sun during summer (where in this season people worked, ate and even slept), and from the rain and snow in winter. The area under it was in time somewhat  raised  and  paved. The origin of “gong” is not quite clear, but some German authors, despite the German name, see a Serbian product in it, maybe brought from Kosovo. Even,  by the Germans much liked, the summer kitchen, which was separated from the rest of the house to prevent its heating, and to enable the housewife to save time for tiding in the period of most intensive work

in the fields, is not of German origin (but Serbian, Hungarian or Romanian).

From all that was quoted , it can not be said precisely what is the origin of the “Pannonian” or the “colonist” house. It seems it was a creative mix of German and local  construction tradition, certainly according to the instructions of the Habsburg Government. The Germans gave the basic plan ( the arrangement of the premises and the organization of the  yard around the house, and the Serbs the way of construction, the materials and, hence concluded, the “gong”.

 The original “Pannonian/colonist” house developed during the nineteenth century further, loosing in its new  forms some characteristics of the authentic type (“elbow  house”) , or over time substituted by “front house”. It was typical that these novelties (as well as new building materials – brick and tile ) were always first introduced by Germans, because , as a rule, they were wealthier : when their standard of living allowed it, the Serbs and members of other nationalities followed their example later on. However, the houses were built according to the authentic plan, enriched  with a “gong” and tiled roof,  until the middle of the twentieth century. This testifies how well they were adapted to the climate conditions of the Vojvodina, the available building materials and (which is not  unimportant) the level of  wealth  of the people who had built  them. It is typical that these  kinds of houses, precisely because of the financial reason, were built for the longest period not by the Germans, but specially by the Serbian population. When German impact is concerned, it was crucial not only on the arrangement of rooms, but also on their furnishing : in this case also the Serbs and others, with a certain delay, followed the German examples in furnishing of house. On the whole, the village houses in the Vojvodina originate from a creative mixture of the elements of the local architecture and the German influence.

In the first years after  the German settlement, the peasants were not free to choose the crops they would grow : the Government, or the feudal  owner decided about that. But, at that time, they were specially interested in the growing of potatoes and corn. The potato was brought to the Vojvodina by Germans, which is shown by its  name in Serbian, that is derived  from the words Grundbirne or Krummbeere. It seems that the growing of this vegetable spread rather  slowly among the population at the beginning , and the pressure of the Government was also needed. This is no wonder  when we have in mind the inborn peasant conservatism. Furthermore,  this pressure of the Government was at the same time necessary to expand the growing of potatoes in some parts of Germany. The German colonists brought hemp to the Southern Hungary as well, and they were its main producers almost  until the middle of the twentieth century. Some Swabian villages became main growing, production and sales centers of hemp. Although some authors state that Germans brought the corn too,  it seems it was brought to this area already during the Turkish rule. On the other hand, the German origin ( in Austrian and  Danube – Swabian form) of the Serbian names for tomato, cauliflower, asparagus, savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, horseradish and others, implies  that these plants were brought by the Swabian colonists.

The preparation of food is naturally connected to the field crops and the methods of land cultivation.

There is no other such significant area of everyday life where the  German impact  was so  wide, deep and lasting . The German colonists served as transmitters of culinary influences from the Court in Vienna,  as well as the Central European  ones. They enriched  to great extent the cuisine of the Central Danube basin. These influences still make the base of the Vojvodina cuisine. The Germans handed down

the recipes for different kinds of soups, noodles, dumplings and pastry dishes, sauces, side dishes, different kinds of salads, cakes and strudels. Some of these dishes were not originally  German but French, but they  arrived to the Vojvodina  through the Germans. Beside the preparation of many kinds of food, the Germans taught the Serbs and other nationalities how to conserve food – prepare compotes, different kinds of sausages  and ham. This influence was not only connected with food preparation, but also with the way it was consumed. The Serbs took over from the Swabians many types of tableware, often together with the name for it, and the table manners too.

 Nevertheless, when  clothing is concerned , the Germans took more from their neighbors  than  vice versa. Soon after arriving  to the new homeland they abandoned their old  folk costumes, accepting the local , which was more appropriate  for life and work in diverse climate conditions. Parts of clothes

that the Serbs accepted from them were, above all, blue linen work aprons**and wooden clogs***. Those items, however, were never common among the  Serbs. On the contrary  the peasant footwear, sheepskin coats , fur vests, fur coats and fur hats and folk trousers, were generally accepted by the Swabians.


* Because of the nature of the literature used and the fact that the Serbs, as well as the Germans, lived also out of the borders of the present Autonomous Province of the Vojvodina, these borders will be trespassed from time to time, according to the need.

A special thank to Dr Zoran Janjetovic for his permission to translate and publish excerpts from  his scientific work.


German merchants and miners started to settle  in the Kingdom of Hungary at the beginning of the 12th century, but this migration was not extensive. The colonization of Germans along the lower Danube area started intensively after the long period of Turkish rule (1552-1718)...