Lake Balaton, A Beautiful Hungarian Retreat

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I’m fortunate to have extended family in Hungary. They were kind enough to welcome me to stay with them at their vacation home at Lake Balaton, about 2 hours outside of Budapest. Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Budapest.

En route to Balaton (note – they don’t say ‘Lake Balaton’ just ‘Balaton’), we stopped at Rege Cukrazda.  In a picturesque small town, this cafe was the perfect place to stop.  Perched atop a mountain (or tall hill?) the cafe has a view nearly as good as its desserts.  I think it had been a long day for everyone so the espresso and cakes were precisely what was needed.  If you find yourself on the west side of Balaton, meader to Rege and you won’t be disappointed!

The west side of the lake is mountainous with deeper water while the east side is flat with more shallow waters. I stayed in idyllic Fenvyes, on the southeast side. As it was September, the tourist season was over but fortunately the weather was perfect, about 80 degrees, sunny, with a gentle breeze. The sunsets from this side of the lake are stunning, with a view of the mountains in the background and the water glistening in the foreground.

Along the waterfront are restaurants (etterems), food and drink stands, souvenirs, water bikes and boats, as well as a sidewalk stretching the length of the waterfront. As motorboats are not permitted (sailboats only), the water is much more peaceful and serene than I am accustomed to…Swans glide by, windsurfers dot the horizon, families wade out far from the shore in the shallow waters, fisherman abound, and sun bathers basque.

While I was only there for a weekend, it was a much needed respite in the middle of my trip. Along the waterfront we ordered the best lemonade I’ve ever had. Each individual glass is made fresh with mineral water, something sweet, limes, and lemons. It was a refreshing, sublime thirst quencher.

If you do go to Balaton, you can reach either side by train. The trains are a bit old but they run along the water and provide a beautifully scenic view the whole way. I took the train back to Budapest and the first class ticket cost 3850 HUF or about $18.75.

While I by no means am an expert, I feel confident in asserting that to only go to Budapest is to miss out on so much of what Hungary has to offer. Don’t miss Balaton!

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