(Listen to the music while reading blog post.)
For me lake Balaton is the Riviera. My heart is full of sunshine, I took only my swimming dress for the journey. It passed already a couple of times but summer at lake Balaton always waiting for us. We are sunbathing on both shores of Balaton, I feel no limit, summer lasts forever.
These lyrics sentences are translated from Hungarian songs from the ’90s, all on summertime by our biggest lake called Balaton. (quotes from Németh Lehel, 4F Club, KFT and UFO.)
Usually the average Hungarian – if not living there – tends to visit Balaton only in summertime (when the livin’ is easy). This is such a big cliche that a truckload of Hungarian songs were written on it, summer in Balaton definitely left its mark on our pop culture.
There is nothing wrong with this attitude, I also love staring the lake through my wine glass on a lazy summer evening, chilling in one of the wineries of Badacsony hill. But maybe, just maybe, this big lake is undeservedly forgotten when one can’t swim in it. Furthermore, it’s been a long time since the lake was frozen this much, and as born in the capital, I can only recall memories of icy-snowy Balaton from my childhood. So when the unusual cold (14 degrees below zero, daytime) comes to Hungary, one day I decide to get a train and see ice-covered Balaton with my own eyes.Bloomers, food pack for the days expecting the worse, get on the train, romantic mood on. Except for me, there is only a foreign couple sitting in the coupé, but even they get off at Székesfehérvár, so I don’t really expect a big crowd at the lake. The journey is quite enjoyable, I really appreciate that I don’t have to drive, I am staring out of the window, smiling happily, sun is shining and from safety of the well-heated coupé I can take even the extreme cold easy. The landscape is covered with snow wherever we go and this makes time slowing down somehow, I am getting more and more relaxed and catch myself seeing my own country with a traveller’s fresh eyes.
Sziszó comes to get me at the train station and after a nice lunch and an even nicer coffee we are heading to Tihany and the inner lake. Just to realise that there is a kind of fiesta there, the ice is stable enough to make the small lake become a skating-rink, people are not afraid to come out to the cold and have some fun on the sugar-covered ice of the lake, with the amazing background of the Abbey of Tihany. Idyll.Certainly, the buffet guys having some trade sense quickly realise the opportunities and build a small bar here, so that the frozen skaters could warm-up with some mulled wine or hot tea. The marketing is quite successful, because after an hour spent on the lake, even we are going to have some tea before heading for our original aim, the so-called Hungarian sea. And arriving there….! No words exist to describe the landscape… I am just standing there like a giant snowman, Sziszo might think I froze. The only reason she are not freaked out is that from time to time I murmur something like “oooo” and “aaaa” and “wooo” and “yay” and so on. OK, if you know me, you can substitute these with words less polite. The point is that I am lost in the beauty. I have a feeling that I haven’t seen something like this in my entire life before. Shattered ice covers the lake, like some artistic tribute to the fierce winter wind. It’s like being on another planet. Everything is cold, hard, sharp and edgy, but in the meantime this ice-creatures have some harmonic rythm which is really calming. I can clearly imagine the wind that created these shapes, it’s ethernal force and I am even more impressed. On the top of all, somebody made an ice statue in the middle of the lake, like those steinmanns in the Alps (you know those signs by the trekking routes made of stones) and the setting sun is glammering on it beautifully. N ow I am off. Literally. I just can’t break way from this view. But it’s getting late and we have to go, even if I protest like a little child. I turn back three times to take the last, then the last-after-the-last and finally the I-swear-this-is-the-very-last pictures and then we leave the lake in its icy calmness.
Balaton, I love you.