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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 85: Holiday at Lake Balaton

nagyberekWe took our summer holiday this year in Balatonfenyves on the southern coast of Lake Balaton, taking advantage of the free use of a house kindly lent by family members. We first went straight to Fonyod to pick up our granddaughter at her other grandparents' place where we were treated to cold beer on tap and outdoor roasted chicken and veggies. I have never spent much time on the southern coast, except for the Balaton Swim across. I had forgotten how incredibly shallow the water is there. During the 5.2km Balaton Swim between Révfülöp and Balatonboglár one even has to walk the last few hundred meters.

We used the free Csalogany u. Beach just a couple hundred meters away. The beach was never too crowded and offered plenty of shade for people like me that just wanted to read by the water. In this case, I was and still am engrossed in Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. A new trend seems to be people packing everything in little wagons to hand tow to the beach. I was impressed that the beach had a handicapped entry into the lake. The food was forgettable, expensive, and in the case of the lángos, just bad. Kata insists that this is the norm at Balaton, but I disagree. I have had some excellent beach food at Balaton, in particular lángos at Láliba's in Balatonálmádi (sadly now retired). In fact, I heard a report on Kossuth Radio not long ago highlighting the great "street food," vegetarian food and gourmet food now available alongside the traditional deep fried offerings. Moreover, the food in normally fairly priced supermarkets like Lidl was severely overpriced as well, just because it was summer at Balaton. In Spar, wines were on average 500 HUF more expensive than in Miskolc.cheese truck

Lili went to a birthday party at a neighbour's for three kids, and she arranged to surprise us with a hotdog messenger service so we would not feel left out. Every 15-20 minutes a boy on a bike would appear at the door with a hotdog saying that "Lili sent it." In return, we made American blueberry pancakes for 6 of the kids a couple days later.

The massive Fonyod Market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and incorporates both a flea market and food market. Again, food here was incredibly expensive with the exception of the sweet corn and Dutch cheese. Having tasted some of the cheeses on our first day at dinner, we tracked down the cheese wagon and were soon in cheese heaven (after tasting a few) and in hell (having to decide which to buy).  Klaaasaskia Kft proprieter Klaas van Dasselaar deals in Dutch, German, French and cheese truckSwiss cheeses. I would say the average price is about 3500 HUF/kg for various cheeses, the most expensive being 8000 HUF, and the least being the daily discount green gouda for just 1500 HUF/kg. One can spend about as much for shit, tasteless Trappista, Pannonia or Ovari cheeses at any shop. We finally settled on a chunk of Dutch maasdammer, deliciously stinky German tilsiter, and some French brie. Klaas also speaks fluent Hungarian.

At the antique/flea market Kata successfully haggled for a tomato press and de-seeder such as her mother had down from 3000 HUF to 2300 HUF. Hopefully this will work much better than the strainer and wooden spoon method. I also spotted a very practical grill that can hang from a bogrács tripod which I need to get my hands on sometime.tomato mill

Lili's other grandparents invited us to go to the Valley of the Arts Festival on Tuesday because there were a couple concerts they wanted to catch. The Művészetek Völgye used to involve 5 small villages, but now is down to just 3: Kápolcs, Táliándörög and Vigandpetend. Both Kata and I at a different point in our lives went for 5 years straight but never met each other. We bought the 3500 HUF daily tickets in order to get entry to the concerts, but much can be seen for free. There is also a Csigabusz that runs hourly between the 3 villages and their stages, free with a daily ticket. The festival had gotten a lot of rain in recent days, and the Mao Stage was in a mud mire even with layers of straw put on the approach road. Well-known Hungarian musicians Kornél Fekete-Kovács (trumpet, flugelhorn), András Dés (percussion) and Márton Fenyvesi (guitar) made up the 3fekted trio but we could not bear the experimental cacophony for long and went in search of something else. One of the best things about this festival is the friendliness and openness of the craftspeople and small producers at their stalls. We met a great number of interesting and welcoming people. The young man at the Etnosound tent demonstrated a number of instruments that Lili and anyone else wandering in could also try, including a mbira, didgeridoo, Tibetan singing bowls, gong and rain tubes. Painter Balázs Boda and jewelry maker Kati Olah welcomed us for a long chat as they painted oil landscapes and made beautiful items from nemez gyertyatartoporcelain scraps. Valéria Csáky of Cukkschmukk introduced us to her pretty and practical snap fastener necklaces and bracelets - buy a necklace or bracelet and then you can snap on various interchangeable glass designs. We admired illustrator Monika Horvath's drawings, dolls and t-shirts. We spent a lot of time chatting with women from the Mango Babaháza and Fila Műhely appreciating their felt candle holders, painted snail shells and hanging mobiles for children. Lili got an adorable tiny mouse necklace with removable mouse for her name day. It was a real treat to run into Károly Dobossy from Royesfarm (Tel: 06 30 989 2496, and his cow cheeses. He is located in Szentantalfalva and is related to the Dobosi wine family in the same village whose organic wine we enjoy so much. I bought a half kg of mature emmental cheese, delectably aromatic and reasonably priced at only about 3600 HUF/kg - a notable exception to prices at almost all other vendors at the festival, or at any Hungarian festival for that matter. I had a potato pancake sandwich from ????, potato pancake sandwichwhich should have been amazing with an inventive combination of ingredients including chicken and cantaloupe, but the potato was very underdone and was short on salt and garlic. A good product, but needs more attention. I also invested in eye training glasses. I would not have believed it, but looking through these perforated non-prescription lenses I saw just as well as with my normal glasses! VISION FIX trains the muscles of the eye by forcing the eye to jump from hole to hole to see a complete picture. As a result of this ocular muscles are working and thus becoming stronger. I bought the eye trainer for 5500 HUF and hope to see some permanent improvements.

I thought we would have better luck with the Veronika Hárcsa Quartet, but it was more jazz masturbation like the previous band, and unfortunately accomplished vocalist Veronika Hárcsa was not singing that night.  Some musical relief was finally found at the Folk Stage, where the Tázló Band was playing Moldvái music. Members included the familiar face of percussionist Félix Benke from Tatros and Zurgó, and talented vocalist Ágnes Enyedi. By this time lightning flashes were coming fast and furious and Lili was almost asleep on her feet, so we headed back to the Mao Stage to meet up with the others who were enjoying the Deep Purple eye trainerand Jimi Hendrix rock covers being played by the Póka Egon Experience. Luckily the rain only began to fall as we left. I saw great concerts by among others KFT, Tamás Cseh and Miczura over the years - you just have to pick the right day. Maybe next year we will take Lili back here and camp for a few days. It is a quite different experience being a grandfather rather than a young backpacker, but the festival offers great experiences for all.

Later in the week we attempted to see a János Vitez puppet show in Balatonfenyves. We decided to walk, but it was much, much further to the centre than we thought. Besides being very late, we never found the stage at the outdoor movie theatre. It was a tiring walk in the heat, but the architecture was interesting along the way. We stopped at a playground by a yacht club for awhile, and then walked back along the lake.nagyberek

Lili's parents arrived at the weekend. Kata made raspberry-blackberry fruit soup, tzatziki and stuffed peppers. The next day Balázs took Kata and I out on his small sailboat for what was Kata's first time on a sailboat. When we got back, we grilled some turkey burgers, and well-seasoned turkey sausages from Budapest-based Wilkinson's Sausage.

On Sunday, we got up early and Balázs took us on a short tour of the Balaton Nagyberek wetlands, an area of 40000 hectares that I never knew about - double the size of Aggtelek National Park. The Braun family of razor fame have a large farm here. Strolling along the canal side, an army of frogs (army being a proper collective noun for frogs) jumped out of our way. We arrived a bit late to see a lot of birds, but still spotted some swans, a large white-tailed eagle, a cormorant, and a couple Eurasian coots with their curious metal on metal calls. In another part of the reserve we looked at the reed-roofed wine cellars. István Fekete used the area as a model when he wrote his popular Tüskevár series. A narrow-gage railway still runs between Balatonfenyves and Somogyszentpál through the area. On the way home we ketkakas piacstopped into the Majorka Tourist and Event Centre, the brainchild of a former boxer. The small complex with a family feel hosts various events, and includes an art gallery, tree house platform, stage, the 401 "ruin pub," and organises bike tours and safaris as well as the Két Kákás Local Market every Sunday from 8:00-15:00 (from June). We did not speak to many people here, but we loved the ambiance. We spent a lot of time chatting with jam and cordial producer Lóránt Lukács of Zselic Kincse (, Tel: 30-566-1547). We normally do not buy such products, preferring to make our own. However, we are always open to a taste. Lóránt's cherry-balsamic vinegar-chilli jam was very good, as was his zucchini relish. Other products included bear garlic flower capers which I read about recently but have never seen for sale, apple-horseradish jam, orange-pumpkin jam...He began producing these delicacies when he became fed up seeing all the fruit just being dumped into barrels to make schnapps. Lóránt is from the lukacs lekvarMagyarlukafa/Visnyeszeplak area where I visited in the early 1990's for a crafts camp with BME Zöld Kör.