Pros : there
was just so much to look at
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
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.The 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
So, once again I arrived in the capital city, exhausted and soaking
wet. I cycled 135km, by far the longest day yet.