I was beside myself with glee to find myself beside the sea except it wasn’t really the sea, it was a lake. However, being in Balatonfüred was more like being in a seaside town than a lakeside town.
It was a bit touristy there but all of the tourists seemed to be Hungarian so that was quite acceptable. In fact holiday makers in search of a bit of sun and a paddle describes them better. It was pleasing to know that I, as a holiday maker myself, was rubbing shoulders with the locals as holiday makers and that they had somewhere better to go for their seaside holidays in Hungary than Weston Super Mare, even though they didn’t have any sea . . . which, you could argue, neither has Weston Super Mare.
It takes many things to make a proper seaside town and this place had them all, except sea. It had shops selling fridge magnets, flip-flops and inflatable crocodiles. It had yachts, a marina and boat trips departing every hour on the hour. There were numerous outlets where you could buy ice cream, popcorn or fish and chips, though the fish tended to be catfish or pike. There was a busy promenade with buskers and promenading families. There were lovely gardens with great spectacles of multi-coloured flower beds, magnificent trees and shrubs laden with blooms and park benches placed in memory of long gone Balaton holiday makers, the names of which I could not pronounce but were probably the Hungarian equivalent of Bert and Elsie who sat there for two weeks every year since they were courting. There were grand hotels from a bygone era, ornate drinking fountains, statues of blokes who were mayors or aldermen decades or even centuries ago and quiet back streets lined with beautiful but forgotten old buildings.
The 19th Century drinking water fountain in Balatonfüred’s Gyógy Tér.
I couldn’t resist. I had a swim in the warm clear green waters of Lake Balaton. This was an experience that felt so refreshing and rewarding, and something to tick off a list of things to do before I die even though it had only been added to the list the day before.
As I drove away I realised that in just an afternoon Balatonfüred had permanently entrenched itself in a warm corner of my heart. I would have gone as far as to say that it was my favourite seaside town in the world, if only it had been beside the sea.