A Hungarian lady asked me if I spoke English. She must have been the only Hungarian who didn’t speak German. I must have looked like I wasn’t Hungarian therefore, to her, I must have been either English or German. She must have been lost. She must have been so desperately lost that she had forgotten that she was in her own country and the fact that there was just a slight possibility that someone might have been able to tell her in her own language how to get back to the car park where she had alighted from her coach. But she chose me to ask.
Without hesitation I flicked open my trusty guide book at the page with the map of Tihany Village and told her exactly where to go . . . politely, of course.
Nobody else asked me if I spoke English. Nobody else in Tihany knew how to ask me if I spoke English because none of them did themsleves. I probably met more German people there than I did when I was in Berlin. I was glad that I wasn’t there in the high season because there would have been a lot more tourists there and there were already too many there and they were all German . . . not that nationality matters, of course.
Now I have no racist tendency towards any group of people from any part of the world but if there are lots and lots of people from a place that I don’t come from I feel a little overwhelmed in their presence. I can cope with one German, and I can even cope with half a dozen or so but when they start to swarm it unsettles me a little. It’s the same with French, Welsh, American, Pakistani, Bolivian, Lancastrian, Vegetarian or Caesarean people and, although slightly reluctantly, I can even include people who work in Argos in this group . . . I’m sure there must be a word for them. I would go on to say that I adopt the same cautious approach with wasps, cattle, spiders, snakes, pigeons, police cars, solicitors, people who own Agas, nuns and worms. Well actually I lied about the snakes as just one tends to be far too many for my liking, but I think that you probably get my drift.
Any Utca (road), the main problem in any tourist spot tends to be the presence of too many tourists, no matter what their ethnicity, and Tihany, though sufficiently beautiful for it to become etched in my memory forever, was awash with them to the extent that they impaired the enjoyment of my visit.
Tihany Peninsula is a huge lump of basalt poking out of the ground and a perfect spot for building a castle. Apparently, there was one but it was destroyed by the Turks centuries ago. Bloody tourists! What remains is the Abbey Church, small streets of quaint little thatched houses offering for sale a vast range of lavender and lace and fridge magnets, all locally produced along with lovely gardens and twee little cafés and restaurants. The view to the east of Lake Balaton from the high point near the church entrance was stunning but inland to the west could also be seen the two small volcanic crater lakes that attract visitors.
Lake Balaton from the lofty summit of Tihany.
All in all a beautiful and friendly place but the car parks were very expensive, restaurant menus were all printed in German, prices were all marked in Euro and I felt a bit of a lonely old saddo by being practically the only person there without a tour guide with a coloured flag held aloft to follow.
I loved Tihany but I wished that I’d gone there years earlier, long before the bus companies had discovered it but not so long ago that I’d have got involved with the Turks destroying the castle.
But, busy as it was, today had been a good day to go because in July and August it would be ten times busier and today was the day my Hungarian lady friend was there. After our initial meeting and orientation discussion we bumped into each other a couple more times as we wandered, just like you do when you meet someone you know in Sainsbury’s.
Driving away from Tihany a thought crossed my mind that the flocks of German speakers I had been walking amongst might have been Austrian. Austria wasn’t very far away from that part of Hungary, you know.