Lake Balaton

1 – 4 June

Once we leave the traffic of the capital behind it is only a short drive before we get to the shores of Lake Balaton, a massive freshwater lake in the western part of the country. With a shoreline of 197 km it is the largest lake in Central Europe and thanks to its clean and shallow waters, beaches, resort towns and volcanic hills it is a popular holiday destination too. Close to the town Tihany, which beautifully sits on a peninsular with a picturesque abbey overlooking the lake, we meet our couchsurf host Tom. He lives in a very old, little house surrounded by vineyards and nature, only accessible via a dirt road – a nice contrast after the big-city-life that we experienced in the past few days. We quickly drop off our bags and head down to the lake to go for a refreshing swim before the sun fully sets. However, we are not the only ones enjoying the cool water and the last light of this beautiful evening in the early summer. As predicted, we have to share the lake with millions and millions of mosquitos that, above all, seem to be very interested in tasting some tourist blood… Even though Tom ensures us that mosquito bites are healthy and good for the body we are happy to find shelter in his house eventually. With joined forces we manage to prepare a basic but delicious dinner made from various leftovers and accompanied by freshly baked bread. Before we pass out, our attention is caught by some strange sounds coming from right outside the house. Equipped with some torch lights we go and check what the Hungarian wilderness has to offer – and we are pretty shocked and amazed at the same time by what we find: two hedgehogs having sex!

When we wake up in the morning the hedgehogs are gone but the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The three of us decide to start the day with a little stroll through Tihany. The view from its pretty abbey located on a little hill definitely makes up for the sweaty way to get up there and before we go down to the lake we enter a few little shops selling lavender in many different forms (from lavender ice cream to lavender beer) as well as sundried chilies. We already came across these chilies in many souvenir shops in Budapest (not only sundried chilies but also towels, napkins, bowls etc. with images of chilies) and realize that it is some kind of Hungarian specialty. A little d-tour takes us to a small lake on the peninsular where we find some trees full of delicious cherries, so by the time we find a nice, shady spot on the shore of Lake Balaton our stomachs and pockets are filled and we cannot wait to jump into the water to cool down on this hot summer day.

Since we have no food left in the house we decide to have a BBQ at the lake. The sunset-spot where we went for a swim the day before would be very attractive, however, it is part of a national park and thus not allowed to have a BBQ there – in theory. Nevertheless, Tom guarantees that it is fine and that nobody will say anything. We start collecting wood and get into trouble right away, before we even start our BBQ. It turns out that it is a private property but at least we may take the wood that we already collected and Tom insists on carrying out our plan to have a BBQ inside the national park. We walk in, packed with wood, food, cutlery, dinnerware, drinks, sauces, etc. and pass some people who are still swimming and sunbathing. The way they look at us indicates that they are clearly not used to this kind of scenario and it really feels a bit strange when we light up our fire eventually. After some time our off-the-wall BBQ is hot enough and we start to believe that our crazy idea in fact turns into a success, when it happens: a park ranger walks up to us and asks us (in Hungarian) what the hell we think we are doing here. We know that this is the end of our BBQ and that we are lucky if we manage to get out of this without paying a fine. Since Sami and I obviously do not understand a word, we have absolutely no idea what takes them so long but Tom and the park ranger keep on arguing and discussing… until suddenly, the park ranger walks away and Tom announces with a big smile on his face that we can go on. Apparently, he somehow convinced the park ranger to make an exception. Tom summarizes we are lucky that the park ranger’s boss is not around and that, provided we are quick and do not leave anything behind, we may finish our BBQ session. Awesome! We cannot believe what just happened but we are very thankful that in some parts of the world people do not just blindly follow the rules but adjust them here and there if the situation requires…


2 thoughts on “Lake Balaton

  1. I absolutely loved reading this adventure. It reminded me of the one you had in Uruguay (I think) when you were trying to camp in a broken tent and walking along remote beaches to discover little hidden settlements. It has that same wanderlust. After reading your Budapest post, you seem to have been lucky with getting out of paying fines, like your parking ticket at 9:10am and then being allowed to cook a BBQ in the park despite being caught by the ranger!

    1. You are right, and I think the adventures you recall took place in Cabo Polonio (Uruguay) and Florianópolis (Brazil). This is the spirit when traveling and this is exactly why I love it so much. These kind of things simply do not happen “at home”… and luckily, the “tourist bonus” magically seems to solve certain situations without paying any fines.

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