Sometimes it's just nice to get out of town. My friend Bonnie, who came to visit me here, observed that Budapest is like Paris, only better because it doesnt have "le attitude". On several levels I think shes on to something.
It's no accident that Budapest has been historically known as The Paris Of The East and for sheer visual and architectural beauty I think it has Paris beat by a mile, but sometimes this city girl likes to get back to her primal energy sources and really longs for the sea.
Well too bad for me because Hungary is a land locked country about as far from an ocean as Kansas. However Dorothy, when the Great Oz designed this beautiful country he put in something just as good. Well almost just as good.
In the centre of Hungary, laying east to west about 50 miles in length and a width of no more than 8 miles at it's widest point is a slice of heaven known familiarly as Balaton.
This is the summer playground for Hungarians and there is something for everyone.
To balance this in the west are thousands of acres of vineyards, whose fruits kissed by the warm sun and clear air are the basis for some of the most delicious wines on the market. Theyre not usually so high profile at home but worth the quest.
There are small farm markets that pop up with local produce and lavender that could be a poster for Aix-En-Provence and the smell of fruit that actually perfumes the air with its distinctive aroma as you walk past the tables stacked high with peaches, nectarines, apricots and tghe homemade preserves made from this bounty.
I think though the thing I like best about Balaton is its intimacy. I dont know if this is a leftove from the 40 years of communism, or if its due to the fact that this is an unpretentious country. Although there are the occaissional American type hotel, like Ramada, mostly folks here rent something small or pitch a tent (caravan) and enjoy the sea and the sun for their yearly holiday.
There restaurants are right open onto the street and there is no buffer. You just come in andsit down if there are seats or go to the next place if there are not. No Maitre'D, no buzzers with flashing lights to tell you they cant be bothered to come and find you as if you mattered.
The sea is visible from the playgrounds and miniature golf courses that surround the lake and are FREE for the people who are there. ( I marvel that no one steals the golf clubs for miniature golf but what would they do the next time if they didnt have them and wanted to play??)
As you can tell I really like this place. It isnt the ocean but it is beautiful, peaceful and healthy. There are literally hundreds of towns around the lake. Ive been to theree of them.
I hope to have a lot more in my future.