Balatonboglar to Keszthely

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There’s something fun about boys’ days. I didn’t experience any of them growing up, on account of me being a transgender man who grew up as a girl. I didn’t start living as a man until I was 18 year old and then it took me more than a decade to feel at ease in all male situations (probably partly because I was hiding the fact that I’m gay). But the “new Andrew” is comfortable enough in my own skin to hang out with men and enjoy the things that men do together (as in drinking and telling bad jokes). I think Seoul was the first time I experienced proper boys’ time and now I find myself in another all male situation where a group of men are doing what men do. And what’s that in this context? Well, we’re riding slowly around Lake Balaton talking, stopping often to drink (some drink beer, I drink Cola), play on playground equipment, swim and pick berries from trees.

The wind is blowing strongly so there are small waves on the lake but the water is still warm and it’s fantastic for swimming. I find myself hesitating to enter the water out of fear of sharks. The fact that this is a fresh water lake shows just how irrational my fear is and we laugh about it (comments about sharks will continue throughout the next two days). I cannot believe I am here swimming in Lake Balaton. Only two months ago I had never heard of it but now I am swimming in it’s fresh warm waters.

We end our ride in Keszthely. From here it is just five kilometres to Lake Heviz but no one really complains too much when the Englishman and Scott suggest driving the support vehicle there. After all, the ride back would be uphill and that would waste a good relaxing swim in the thermal lake.

Lake Heviz is really interesting. There is a huge building sitting in the middle of the lake with pontoons allowing you to enter the water. The mineral-dense thermal water is thick and it feels like I am swimming through molasses. We swim out to the water lilies and hang out on one of the metal bars that has been placed in the lake to allow restful enjoyment. See, the lake has a particular chemical structure that makes it difficult to float. Most people have floaties, inflated rings and pool noodles folded into all strange shapes to allow them to relax in the deep water. We don’t have any of this so content ourselves with the metal bar.

Back at the pension a potato and sausage stew is waiting for us in a cauldron that has been cooked over an open fire. It’s a delicious meal that fills me up. Though I do still need to make a chocolate run to the supermarket afterwards because I burned way more calories on yesterday’s ride than I could replace.Β The night ends with palinka and more wine.. Palinka is a Hungarian spirit that can be brewed from pretty much anything. Our hosts have a selection of locally brewed spirits in all sorts of flavours including ivy, honey, plumb and apple. I have never had spirits of this strength before so only taste the smallest amount of three of the palinkas. It’s enough to feel the burn down my throat and feel some of my inhibitions evaporate but not enough to be drunk. I leave that to others who are more experienced at drinking than me. By the time I retire it’s 2:30am and the Hungarian, Englishman and I have solved world hunger and world peace. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to tell you because what is said on palinka night stays on palinka night πŸ™‚

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