Lake Balaton


  We were visited in the morning by the inhabitant of the little cabin we were parked next to.  


Imran, who gave us a big bag of apricots and insisted on showing us how to get water from the well. It was a very impressive structure with the bucket splashing down at 50 m.  

 Hungarian is one of the hardest languages with nothing in common with English so our conversation with Imran was interesting. I think he extolled the virtues of the pure spring water and it did taste good. We told him that we were going to hike up around Badacsony and he made all the appropriate noises of admiration. 

We headed up the north side on the web of narrow steep tracks that weave their way all over these hills, past some of the vineyards for which the area is famous.  

 Even though the mountain is relatively small and separated from the other wild areas by villages and farmland we came upon a big deer and there was loads of wild boar rootleing and diggings.  

 The well worn paths at the end of the farm tracks took us up through lovely woods rich in species  

 to a well constructed lookout tower at the peak.  

   With great 360′ degree views of the other 13 volcanic mountains of the area 

 and Lake Balaton itself stretching away into the distance big enough for the Hungarians to consider a sea.  


There were many monuments to various people and events at the many viewpoints along the trails and some sported fine graffiti from back in the day when tagging took a bit more time and effort than the spray can wielding folk of today put in.  


In a big loop around the top we discovered a couple of the old basalt quarries and read about how the monadnocks were formed and the different types of volcanic rock origins.  

 Of course we had to go foraging for volcanic bombs and holey-bubbly basalt or bread stones to add to our collection at home.  


When we got back to the van Imran reappeared, this time with a bag of plums and damsons. We gave him a coffee with a good dollop of the “Missis” in it and he seemed genuinely sad when we told him we were going. We gave him all our Hungarian change and waved goodbye. 

We were very hot again and needing a swim we drove to a quieter more downmarket bit of the lakeside to the west and found a simple campsite near the shore where the washing machine was soon in action and we went to the pay-as-you-enter beach.  

   Well, when I say beach I mean park really. But they are nice spaces with trees and flowers and grass is better than sand for lying around on. So after initially recoiling in horror from the tourist trap honeypot of Lake Balaton we learned to appreciate its peculiarities and wished it well. 

The next day was our last in Hungary and we spent the morning doing what we’ve done a lot. Bobbing about in healing waters. These waters were at 35 degrees and were in the largest thermal lake in Europe at Hervis. The lake is fed by two springs gushing and mixing in cave 40m down and supplying so much hot water that the entire 4.4 hectares lake is replaced every third day. Set in a forest and park of over 50 acres the whole” wellness and therapy” complex with dozens of different treatments and massage on offer is owned and run by St Andrew Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and is full of people floating about amongst the pink and purple waterllies.  

     In the centre was an enclosed pool full of the “healing” mud which amazingly also had loads of little fish in- and a duckling.  

 Sally got out pretty quick when she was approached by one of these  

 but it seems they were friendly enough so we carried on bobbing about with everybody else.  

 There was a big indoor pool in the centre of the lake, directly over the springs and these were the hottest of all.  

 But it was more fun out amongst the lillys. For about 100€ we could have had a stop cellulite package but unfortunately our time was up and we had to saddle up and head for the border, Slovenia bound.

Our visit to Hungary felt a bit short but we had a family get together to get to. We will think of the country as being full of natures bounty. In fruit and nuts and veg and berries. In timber and wood and lumber. In waters , hot , cool and mineral and in friendly unintelligible people. 

After driving across miles of wheat prairies and forests we arrived in Slovenia to an afternoon thunderstorm. The cloudscraping mountains got nearer and nearer and finally we were amongst them at a tiny camp high up a valley in the eastern Slovenian Alps.  

 An eccentric place and owner who welcomed us with some wickedly strong liquor in exchange for the Irish flag we ve been carrying around.  

   We went down to the rushing river to cool off but it was freezing. Very different to the healing waters of Lake Heviz.  



A peaceful night on the artillery ranges was followed by a successful early morning dog walk when I came across my third snake, luckily this one already dead.  

 The great hunter proudly returned to his women who gratefully received the bounty and set to work.  

 Soon after we started hiking in the forested hills of the Bakony region another 30km north she was thrilled to discover her second treasure of the day, a dead fox from which the skull was soon to join the stinky things to deal with list.  

 It became a rather unattractive adornment to her knapsack which kept me upwind and did little to improve our communication with the family groups we met along the way.  


Up until the fox find our path had been rich in more appetising riches. Mulberry trees 

 wild raspberry, walnut, Apple, cherry, chestnut, hazel and what I thought was hops 

 for the beer and even wormwood to make absinthe.  

 And fields of glorious ripe grain.  


Most of the long looped walk was in deep hardwood forest, this time un harvested old coppice.  

    We went through stretches of sunken gullies in the limestone and past cliffs and caves. There was even a bit of scrambling with metal pegs and cable.  

   The micro world was busy too with ants nests and fungi and little life.  

   We were very glad to be walking in the deeply shaded forest with the canopy far above our heads as the temperature shot up whenever we came to a clearing. The last couple of Kms were on the road into Csesznek past the castle ruined not in the multiple sieges it has suffered but by earthquake and fire caused by lightening strike. There’s a lesson there somewhere.  

 We were parked up in a nice little flat area with picnic tables and benches and plenty of shade. There was even a water pump in the neat cemetery opposite used mainly to water the flower planted graves.  

 Obviously a popular village with day trippers and walkers we arrived back to the van to find it surrounded by coaches but they were gone before too long and we shared the space with two camping trekkers on a long distance hike. We called to the village inn for a two course dinner and a couple of pints each which involved a lot of Google translate and cost us about 6€ each. Walking up to the castle gates we discovered it was closed for repair work four 4 days but it looked good in the sunset from the van at bedtime anyway.  


We did another long loop through the woods the following day. After winding up every dog in the village by parading ours past their fences we thankfully left the yapping and yelping behind and entered the cool and shade of a lovely sunken ” holloway”.  

 These tunnel like tracks and trails have been worn down into soft ground over centuries and often with a hedge on either sides whose root system resists the erosion and creates a canopy above. There are some still surviving in southern England than Robert McFarland explored with Roger Deakin and some of the old Irish borreens are the same kind of thing. Anyway, they make for contemplative walking thinking of the multitudes that have passed by on what is now a pedestrian irrelevance to mainstream transportation.  

 The karstic area is studded with hollows and sinkholes and cut with gorges and steep valleys and the forest trail had us yo-going up and down. Being limestone there was little surface water so we frequently had to stop and give the dogs a drink.  

 These woods of beech, oak and hornbeam had been coppiced for centuries and I was hoping to come across the charcoal makers I’d read about but no luck.  


Looping back towards the village from a different direction we passed a cliffy bit with climbers doing their thing  

  and we tried to get a better view of the castle.  


Time to head south to the Balaton uplands and give the lake another chance. It was hard work. Temperatures rising, tempers fraying, parking nightmare. How can the majority deal with these conditions?

After too much toing and froing we at last succeeded in leaving the van in shade and accessing the water. We were not alone.  

 Hoards of summer camps disgorge onto the beaches of Lake Balaton in the summer and the nearest thing the Hungarians have to a seaside is swamped.  

 I was too hot to care about honeypot overcrowding and just needed to swim but even that wasn’t easy as the water is very shallow and there are patrolling lifeguards to make sure you don’t go out of your depth.  

 But we managed it and coolness was achieved. We even frolicked in the ripples ( there aren’t any waves) and sat on the grass under a sun umbrella eating ice cream. 

Worried about the dogs parboiling in the van we escaped the Hungarian Riviera and drove inland to the Balaton Uplands where, as luck would have it, we found a great park up at the end of a track into the hills. At the back of the little village of Balatonhenye we found  

 and stayed next to the throbbing waters. I climbed the steep hill above us for a view of the village.  

 And returned to base on a artfully formed sheep/ goat track.  


This area has some fine thatched houses, and we past some in the morning as we left.  


We were going to walk up the butte of Szt Gyorgy-Hegy, one of the basalt mounds that rise up above the broad flat farmland of the basin in a steep escarpment and provide good views of the lake. 

Our way there was festooned with fruit and nuts of all kinds. Added to the riches we’d had in the Bakony were grape and plum and peach and pear and hazel and chestnut and walnut. And what you couldn’t eat was a feast for the eyes and nose with heavenly scented flowers displayed promiscuously everywhere. Talk about fecund. 

Making our way past the vineyards and veg gardens of the homesteads and thinking what a fantastic country to be a food forager, we climbed up to the basalt columns.  

     And up to the summit for views across to other buttes rising from the plain and the pale blue of lake Balaton.  

   Circulating the hill on the downward journey we past a few deserted properties  

   Which has been a bit of a feature of these parts. Because of the troubled recent history many places are unclaimed and we’ve heard of folk who have successfully squatted abandoned farmsteads. On the other hand we’ve also seen quite a few old places being done up, some obviously by new settlers. I seem to remember a bit of a vogue a few years ago for buying into ultra cheap eastern/central Europe. We past a place advertising some healing/ massage just after Sally slipped and fell but she toughed it out and we got back safely. 

We swung around the lakeshore again and I availed of a senior after4 pm ticket (60p) to have a quick swim before heading to our next park up on the route up our next volcanic objective, Badacsony. After some messing around up dead ends we arrived at a little village green to call home for the night and a nice man called in to wish us well.  I think.