Hungarians refer to Lake Balaton as the “Hungarian Sea”. Central Europe’s largest lake covers fifty miles in the traditional Transdanubia region west of the Danube River. As the train from Ljubljana to Budapest passed by the lake it seemed to go on forever. Yesterday, I decided to take a day tour and get a closer look. The lake is about a two-hour drive from Budapest.
The Transdanubia region is a series of hills and highlands with forests and rich agricultural areas. It has some of the densest and greenest forest I’ve seen.
“Lake Balaton is one of Hungary’s most precious treasures. The summer water temperature is around 80 °F, which is warmer than the average air temperature in the morning and evening. The water and mud of the lake are excellent remedies for nervous complaints, anemia, and fatigue.”
Siófok and Keszthely
The Lake Balaton area is known for its beautiful vineyards and excellent wines. Our tour stopped in Siófok on the southern side of the lake. Siófok is a port and Lake Balaton’s “party town” with many beaches and parks. It serves the boat routes on the lake.
Keszthely is the oldest settlement of Lake Balaton. It was an important hub of commerce in Roman times. One popular Keszthely attraction is stately Festetics Mansion with its ornate wrought iron gate surrounded by an English park with 400-year-old chestnut trees.
The Balaton Museum has information about the lake’s formation, flora and fauna, and history, including archaeological memorabilia. You can also see camels, water buffalo, and zebras roaming along Lake Balaton! They’re part of the Safari Park and Africa Museum established by Endre von Nagy, a Hungarian explorer and hunter.
It was a long day and the last group tour I’ll take for a while, but visiting Lake Balaton was a special experience. Tomorrow I’m head to Salzburg, Austria.