I hit the road early wanting to arrive at Balatonboglar on time for a swim in the lake before I meet up with Peter from Budapest and his group. It should only be about 85km to Badacsony from where I believe there will be a ferry that can take me across Lake Balaton to Balatonboglar. Here’s a hint … I ended up cycling 140km and the word “ferry” will be very important later.
I am in high spirits as I ride along. There are loads of crucifixes and hay bales in the fields again today. I also see people working in a field. Their backs are all bent at almost the same angle as each other. It it definitely not a life I would want for myself or my children. I get that farming is honest work but this looks more back breaking than honest.
I follow relatively quiet back roads until I reach Sumeg, some 50km from Celldomolk. It’s still early in the day, just 9:30am so I have plenty of time to explore this amazing castle.
It’s a steep walk to the top of the rock pile on which the castle sits. I am pooped by the time I push the bike up. Even though it’s lighter than it was in Japan, pushing up the cobble stones is still an epic task. But it’s worth if for the view back over the flat plains along which I rode this morning. I can’t believe how flat the landscape is here. I know it is cliche’d but the areas I have ridden so far are like a pancake.
I park the bike and head into the castle. It’s fantastic. Like most Hungarian castles, this building was little more than a ruin before it was restored. But the restoration work is top quality. You would almost not notice except in a few places where construction might still be underway. The castle is totally different to the ones I’ve seen in the UK when I was there nine years ago. This castle is smaller and has a more delicate structure (if a castle can be delicate). The curators have done a great job installing manikins that show how people used to live in the castle. I like this type of museum set up. Mostly because I can visualise without having to read lots of text (I hate reading text in museums … I am far too lazy and it’s always in a small font – if it was in a huge font I would probably read them … haha).
I leave the castle behind and ride down to Tapolca There are apparently many interesting things here, like caves and stuff. But I haven’t looked the town up and have a date to meet up with Peter and his group. However, I thought I’d share the statues commemorating the first World War (the gallant soldier) and the second World War (the Holocaust memorial). These are common here in Hungarian villages.
Back out on the road the landscape changes. Where before everything was flat for as far as my eyes could see, now there are volcanic plugs around me. It’s an interesting landscape to take in.
I need water and haven’t been able to find a tap anywhere all week. But there was water everywhere all along. I was just looking for the wrong place from which to obtain it. So, if you are in Hungary this is what you are looking for. Just push the handle firmly and out comes fresh clean drinking water.
I know I am getting closer to the lake when the wheat fields are replaced by vineyards. Peter has told me this area is known for good wines. Now, I haven’t drunk wine in many years. I went through a phase where I tried various varieties at home but I just couldn’t get into them. So I believe that I am just going to enjoy the sight of the vineyards as I cycle through.
After a few short climbs and descents (the first since I arrived in Hungary), I roll down to Lake Balaton in all it’s glory. It’s an absolutely stunning day and I can see why the Hungarian backpackers in Japan were so excited to tell me about this place. It is everything a lake should be. Clear, fresh and popular.
But here’s the part where I remind you that I was only supposed to ride about 85km today and that the word “ferry” will become important. I have two choices when I reach Badacsony: turn left on a road that is signed towards Keszthely or right towards Balatonfured. I believe I am already in Badascony so I turn left away from the village centre (without realising it) and start riding. After about 3km I stop at a bufe and ask for directions to “the ferry”. I am told the only ferry is at Tihany, some 40km away. I’ve already cycled 90km by now and don’t question the answer. After all, these are the locals. The problem is in translation. In English a ferry includes a passenger ferry. In Hungarian, it only includes a car ferry so the locals thought that I wanted a car ferry. There is only one of those. But there was a passenger ferry just 3km from where I asked for directions. My 85km day will turn into a 140km epic.
A few hours later I arrive in Tihany, take the car ferry across to Szantod, which is still about 25km from my destination. Had I taken the passenger ferry I would have been dropped off in Balatonboglar instead of having to also ride this 25km.
The good thing is that I get to take in the lake.
I arrive in Balatonboglar and message Peter. I am so hungry and keen for company that I even open my butt cheeks far enough to pay the 50c for the text message. Peter tells me my timing is perfect because his group is just about to go to a local vineyard for dinner and wine tasting. They have a van and will pick me up if I can tell them where I am. Logistics sorted, a fresh shirt taken out of my kit so that I don’t have to stink while I eat and the day improve significantly.
I don’t usually drink alcohol. I have a few sweet ciders in the fridge at home that I haven’t been able to drink because I don’t feel like drinking. I think the last time I drank anything properly was in Busan back in October last year. And I definitely don’t drink wine. But Peter tells me that I have probably never tasted good wine. Well, it turns out that he is correct. The local Hungarian wines at Lake Balaton are tasty. They are all random mixes of grapes that I’ve never heard of so I won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about. All I can say is that I liked the second (a white) and fourth (a red) best. I didn’t drink the fifth though because I’d had enough on the first four tasters (small servings not full glasses).
I had a ball meeting Peter’s friends. For reasons of privacy I will call them the Hungarian, the Scientist, the Englishman and the Scott. The first three are all friends of Peter and live in Budapest. The Scott is the Englishman’s father. The road goose on red cabbage and a crushed potato and carrot mix was also by far the best meal I’ve eaten in Hungary. And the view … well the photo speaks for itself.
I ended the night crashed out on the floor of the Hungarian’s room at a local pension. Peter’s trip is called
Epic Adventures in Hungary. I think seeing a castle, riding an extra 65 unnecessary kilometers, my first wine tasting and my first roast goose definitely meets that criteria.