Lake Balaton

Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
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Trip End Jun 13, 2004


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Flag of Hungary  ,
Thursday, April 15, 2004

I entered Hungary on Tuesday morning. Simple formalities. The Slovenians waved me through and the Hungarians simply flicked through my passport. Six km into Hungarz I arrived in the small town of Lenti. I only stopped long enough to get some florin and a map. Within 30 minutes I was on the road to Kesthely on the shores of lake Balaton. Within another half hour the rain started, gently a t first then in angry squalls.

In mid afternoon I took shelter from the lashing rain. By the time I had eaten lunch the wind and stopped and the rain was not so heavy so I pressed on. Skylarks and blackbirds took advantage of the short breaks in the rain to put on a performance, but they were always rained off after a few minutes.

I was surrounded by huge arable field and patches of forest. Some of the houses showed signs of needing a little repair and I was regularly over taken by trabants, ladas and the old style skodas.

In Keszthey, a large town on the shores of lake Balaton, I found a small family run campsite. The owners were very friendly and helpful, even though they spoke German in preference to English.

A famous Hungarian painter called Janos Halapy (1883-1960) dedicated his career to capturing the beauty of Lake Balaton in all its moods. He spent six months every year leaving by it getting to know its people and environs. There is a room dedicated to him in the Balaton Museum. A glass cabinet displays numerous press cuttings about his life and work. Fortunately some were in English.

the rest of the museum has displays about Balaton's wildlife and the traditional way of life of the locals. None of the info was in English, but still interesting. After spending Thursday morning in the museum, I set off in the afternoon top explore the Kiss Balaton (Little Balaton) area. It is a small lake which feeds into Balaton and is characterized by huge reed beds. I soon found the cycle path that leads to the national park.

I wasn't disappointed.Teh sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, but it was still pleasant enough for T-shirt only. During the afternoon I saw a weasel/stoat (I can never remember which is which), a fox who sat and looked at me for ages before slinking off, and birds everywhere. Marsh Harrier above the reeds, blackcaps in the bushes.

I was loving the place, cycling really slowly and stopping every few metres to look at something new. Such a leisurely afternoon, to celebrate I bought a couple of beers for later on the way back.

William, an English guy travelling round Eastern Europe in a landrover, checked in as I cooked dinner. We ended up going out for a few drinks in the evening.

The two day cycle to Budapest started on Saturday morning. Amazingly the sun was shining for the second day in a row, the first time since Cyprus for me!!

Early on I made painfully slow progress. However this time it was because there was just so much to look at. The cycle path followed the railway along the lake shore and I kept stopping to take photos or look at things with the binoculars. We get Blackcaps at home, but they were all around me here. Every bush and tree seemed to have a bird of some description claiming it as its territory. Birds of prey soared overhead and egrets waded through the flooded fields. i wanted the day to last for ever.

It came to an end however in Balatonamadi after a 90km cycle. I figured that left about 100km for Saturday. I had the tent up and the supper cooked just as the rain started to drum against the canvas.

It played its tune all night and into the next morning so I was back into the water proofs again. This trip turned into an expedition, I had underestimated the distance by quite a bit, had difficulty finding the cycle paths and indeed a road I could cycle on at times, it got worse as I got closer to Budapest.

Having worked my way into the city I started asking directions to the hostel in the area I knew it to be in. the map in Lonely planet was very vague, but I knew I was close. After initially being sent the wrong way by some locals, not on purpose, they were really nice, I found the hostel by asking directions in a pizzeria on the assumption they probably delivered pizzas to it. Bingo, it was only three streets away.

So, once again I arrived in the capital city, exhausted and soaking wet. I cycled 135km, by far the longest day yet.
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