Thursday, August 26, 2010

Western Hungary (Lake Balaton)

My first look at Lake Balaton.

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe. It is sometimes referred to as the Hungarian Sea since Hungary is landlocked. The lake is huge and draws every single major water sport to its shores. I saw sailing, jet skiing, swimming, water polo, and who knows what else. It is the place to be in the summer. It was jam packed with tourists. Every camp site was erupting with people. I could not believe how many people were there. It a lot of ways it reminded me of Myrtle Beach or the Jersey Shore, but not nearly as tacky. To add to their sophistication level, they even had a long row of nice wooden huts that sold wine and breaded pastries. I think that was the busiest part I visited.

Outdoor movie theater.

Lake Balaton from Tihany.

One of the nicer parts about Lake Balaton for me is that they had a bike path going almost all the way around the lake. It often shared local roads, but they were quiet roads. This was the first place in Hungary where I saw a very well marked bike path that was quiet. It usually made for easy riding. I wound down my first day at the lake over my possibly favorite dinner in Europe: Wild rice, fried breaded cheese, and cranberry sauce. They usually serve it as an appetizer. I love it.

If you got away from the popular spots, this was typical Balaton.

A courtyard near Lake Balaton.

I left the lake on my third day to head for Slovenia. On the way, I decided to soak in some hot springs and get a massage. The baths in Budapest were amazing and I was hoping for a repeat. However, I didn't get that. I am not sure if I got more or less, but I definitely have more stories. The thermal baths at Heviz are not baths. It is one big pond. I am sure there has been a little bit of man made work but it looks like a natural pond with water lilies, floating moss, and even tad poles sharing the water with you. There were even a few birds that were nesting underneath the main building, but, thankfully, no geese. I was entranced watching the mother fly back and forth trying to feed her greedy chicks. They were all so big they were about to fall out of the nest.

The thermal 'bath' at Heviz.

Another entrance to the thermal waters.

The complex was built on cement stilts above the pond. It included changing rooms, a wellness center with sauna, massage rooms, cafes, and who knows what else. It seemed a little posh and cost a bit more than I would have liked to get in. There were three other entrances to get. I am not sure if they cost more or less. They had their own systems, but you could walk anywhere and use any part of the pond. In the main complex, they had a small part of the pond that was warmer and had a bubble blower. There was only one and everyone lined up to use it. When the bell sounded, people just moved along. I was impressed that it did not need any policing. After a couple hours in the pool, I got a Refreshing Massage, which is the worst massage I have ever gotten. It was similar to what you get after a marathon to flush out the lactic acid, but they applied even less pressure. Oh well. My muscles definitely felt like something was better than nothing. Afterwards, I headed for the border. I didn't make it. I chose my worst campsite yet and ended up losing my bike computer getting into my campsite.

We use the world cultures to make a buck. They should use as well, but I never thought I'd see a piece of Colorado in Hungary.

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