Xpat Opinion: Why Is Hungary's Lake Balaton Still Popular?

  • 12 Jul 2012 12:55 PM
Xpat Opinion: Why Is Hungary's Lake Balaton Still Popular?
In Hungary summer isn't complete without a trip to Lake Balaton. The beaches come alive as soon as the weather gets warm and people from all over the country flock here to enjoy the ‘Hungarian Sea’. Lake Balaton is the largest and one of the shallowest lakes in Europe. It’s a favorite holiday destination with many resort areas to choose from, although it seems like most people have one beloved resort town where they keep coming back year after year.

Hungarians tend to be very affectionate about their Balaton and it evokes wistful memories in many. And, even tough it can get very crowded and there are plenty of faceless establishments, you’ve got to love the Balaton.

Here's why:

1. The beaches

For landlocked Hungarians, a substitute of a seacoast, whether it’s swimming, bathing, kayaking, paddle boating or surfing, Balaton’s beaches have it all. Along the north shore the water is cooler and deeper, while the water on the south is shallow and warm, ideal for families with kids.

There are plenty of beaches to choose from, in fact the southern shore seems like a continuous chain of beach areas from Siófok to Fonyód. Most beaches have playgrounds, showers, sun beds and lockers for rent. When looking for the perfect spot to spend your day lounging by the lake it’s good to know that the best beaches are marked with the ‘Blue Wawe’ (Kék Hullám) flag, a benchmark of water quality, facilities and safety.

2. The food

While there are some excellent fine dining options by the lake, eating fried fish with fries and pickles at one of the beachside shacks is one of the must have foodie experiences in Hungary. ‘Sült hal’ is beach food sublime at Lake Balaton. And so are ‘lángos’, ‘palacsinta’ and corn-on-the-cob, sold by beach vendors. In addition, every town has its small, family-run establishment serving Hungarian, home-style food, including fresh water fish typical for the region. Some even come with beautiful panoramic views, like the Ferenc Pince Csárda in Tihany or the Koloska Csárda in Balatonfüred.

3. The wine

4 of Hungary’s 22 wine regions are located by or nearby Lake Balaton: Badacsony, Balatonboglár, Balatonfüred-Csopak and Balaton-felvidék. White grapes dominate in all regions and grape varieties like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris make excellent wines. In fact Ottó Légli, the ‘2010 Winemaker of the year’ comes from the Balatonboglár wine region, located on the south shore. If you are after indigenous varieties, try ‘Kéknyelű’ grown on the north shore for a different flavor.

Balaton's wines refresh with their bright acidity and they make a perfect spritzer on hot summer days. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a trip to Badacsony, the iconic symbol of Balaton and the home of the Pinot Gris-based white wine ‘Szürkebarát’, where the beauty of the scenery accompanies the quality wines.

Enjoy your summer, by the lake!

Words by Roberta Gyori for XpatLoop.com

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