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The Hungarian Riviera

The Hungarian Riviera

  • To me Lake Balaton is one of the best places in the world! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to travel and there are some incredible places in this world, but we shouldn’t forget what we all have available within our own borders.

As the popular meme states, ‘tis the year when most of us fail to travel to some exotic island for our holiday not for lack of funds, but because of COVID. This year’s cashlessness-induced self-loathing has successfully been averted, and that’s a good point for 2020, if rather a weak point.

But still, after the year we’ve had (and are still having), we all deserve a break. I mean big time! Sandy beaches and sunbeds, and sexy people bringing us, also, sexy people, drinks with little umbrellas in them. Until such time as that’s actually possible, our broke asses must make do, virus or no virus.

Pardon my bias, but to me Lake Balaton is one of the best places in the world! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to travel and there are some incredible places in this world, but we shouldn’t forget what we all have available within our own borders. Hungarian people have Balaton. We’ve even written quite a few songs about it in fact, like the following classic:

Catchy, right?

I’ve spent months in my family’s lake house and while the family time was forgettable, splashing around in the “Hungarian Sea” and gently toasting myself a nice shade of tan will forever remain my fondest childhood memories.

To this day, every year me and my girlfriends go to that same lake house. We eat carbs, inhale spritzers (fröccs) and rake over a year’s worth of shit together.

The largest lake in Central Europe

What’s the big deal you ask? I’ll tell you. Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, the biggest body of water our country has, and as such, has been dubbed the Hungarian Sea. It’s perfect for swimming, windsurfing and many other fun activities for us, summer-lovin’ folks. Most of the shore has now been made a part of the corporate machine, thus you have to pay to tan your derriere. However, there are still a few spots where you can do said tanning free of charge. Like most tourist destinations, prices are hiked up, and the pandemic did nothing to help this tendency. But let’s face it, when vacation time hits, economising goes out the window, at least for a few days.

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A few things that you absolutely must add to your list

If you’ve never been to Balaton, here are a few things that you absolutely must add to your list of holiday activities. Don’t worry, none of them require too much effort:

  • Splash about in the water. Duh! Don’t let the mud and kelp discourage you, they’re part of the lake’s charm, however seemingly gross.
  • Rent a pedalo (pedal-powered boat thing)! We kind of failed to do this in the past few years but it’s so much fun! Just make sure you hold on to your swimsuit when climbing out of the water and onto the pedalo, our dear Balaton has been known to get freaky and leave its bathers pantless, regardless of who might be watching.
  • Eat lángos! This is a must! For those of you not knowledgeable of Hungarian gastronomy, lángos is THE street food of our people. Deep fried dough slathered in crushed garlic, sour cream and grated cheese. Need I say more?
  • For other Balaton-specific gastro-adventures, I can also recommend hekk (European hake, deep fried after being coated in flour and paprika), corn on the cob and cotton candy. The latter two should explicitly be purchased on the shore from vendors’ carts in-between splashing sessions, because that is the Balaton vacay life!
  • To wash all the carb madness down, I recommend a nice spritzer (fröccs), but a cold beer is equally acceptable. Pro tip for the allergy-stricken: allergy medication and spritzer combos are guaranteed to put you in a nice buzz that’ll last you through the day. Throw in some natural sedatives and you’ll really have something.

All in all, a holiday at Lake Balaton is pretty much like a holiday anywhere, but even without a sentimental attachment, you cannot deny the beauty and calm of the water, and the silence that goes with leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city behind.

Fair warning: once you visit, you will not want to go home! The lake will have your soul…

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