This was the place where I laid my hat and my weary but contented traveller’s bones for three nights. At Vendégház Prima Porta I was made to feel so very welcome. In fact, as their only guest, I felt more like a lodger than a holiday maker. Even months before I made the trip, as I booked this place on a website, I smiled as I thought that Prima Porta could be the Italian words for ‘First pint of Guinness’ so the fact that I was smiling throughout my stay was the shamrock on the head of the jar of stout.
There was nothing all that spectacular to see in this sleepy little lakeside town but it was perfect for me. It was handy for everywhere that I wanted to visit in the Balaton region and, with a few slightly touristy shops, bars and cafés, it was a nice place to return to each evening. It also had a branch of the Penny Market supermarket chain which, if I had expected it to adopt the same trading policy as the Poundland shops in Britain, I would have been very disappointed. But nevertheless, it was still possible to buy a bottle of very nice Hungarian wine for around a quid Sterling.
In England, a town like Balatonalmádi would be regarded as a cultural backwater awash with tackiness and chavs. It would be blighted by litter and graffiti and its centre would be deserted at night. But here people of all generations sat around the fountain in the 1990s built precinct and ate ice cream as they chatted late into the evening. An old fashioned community spirit in a modern environment.
As well as the architecture of post-Communist prosperity there was the architecture of the Communist era (comprising mainly of low cost concrete holiday accommodation and the tunnel under the main road), and pre Communist architecture such as the fabulous little old railway station from the 1920s or 1930s and which was still in use. What a marvellous ticket hall it had and what a fascinating tale it would have been able to tell if it had been able to talk.
I could be the ticket man at Balatonalmádi Railway Station.