Spring has finally arrived, and now it’s time to expand our bucket lists with a few Balaton-related things that are best enjoyed during this season. You can have nice chats with restaurant owners, go to markets without bumping into an unbelievably huge crowd, and even find totally private beaches during this time of the year. Let’s not waste any more time!
Ride along the north shore of Lake Balaton, but don’t be in a hurry! Take your time and stop at Neked Főztem in Zánka, at the wine shop of Jásdi Wine Cellar in Csopak, at Kistücsök in Szemes, at Villa Gréta in Siófok, or at the new Morzsa Bistro in Balatonfüred. The owners have time to talk now, before the buzz of summer arrives, and you’ll have the chance to learn more about the history of the places, and meet some exciting new people.
There’re plenty of cool things to do at the History of Sailing Visitor Center in Balatonföldvár. Yes, you can see almost the entire Balaton from a height of 65 meters, but they also have a sailing simulator, a wind machine, a panoramic wall with movable screens, a movie theater, and even a nautical-themed playground.
The high bank of Balatonakarattya is a natural lookout point: a breathtaking view greets us and we can see the entire eastern basin from here. Lie down in the warm spring sunshine, have a picnic, then walk down to the bay to admire the windsurfers. The Hungarian Surf Academy trains here every weekend starting from the end of April – if you’re brave enough, you can stand on the board and try this sport, too.
There’s more to Balaton than what you see within the two kilometers from the lake. It definitely pays off to go a bit further and explore the city of Veszprém, for example, where there are plenty to see and do. Start the day with a new-wave coffee at Tizen1, then spend some time at the zoo, or with the cultural sights of the castle district, then work off Chianti’s mangalica pork chop on the Fenyves study trail or at the skate park of Kálvin Square.
Looking for goat cheese, langalló (a dish similar to Italian focaccia, but with completely different toppings), antique clocks, or the fountain of youth? Liliomkert Market of Káptalantóti is open on Sundays, and besides the local producers, there’re also many interesting people around here - you can learn more about the region from these locals who know everything there is to know. Let’s visit it, taste everything, and then stock up on homemade food of excellent quality. Once you taste these, you’ll never even think of getting the vacuum sealed stuff they sell at the hypermarkets.
While the rest of the world is in awe of the cherry blossoms in early spring, this region enchants with the similarly beautiful sight of blossoming almond trees in Alsóörs, Csopak, Tihany, the Káli Básin, Balatonakali, and Vonyarcvashegy. Be up to date, as, depending on the weather, the almond trees start to bloom relatively early.
Awakening greenery, cicadas, exquisite wineries, and gastro-spots await here. Two wheels are a great way to travel through one of the numerous trails of Káli Basin – you can't go wrong with any of them.
It’s not a nice thing to yell, but it can be useful sometimes. For example, screaming out our anger, frustration, and stress is a great way to let go, but yelling can also be fun when we don’t feel these emotions. Especially when, after climbing up on of the buttes, we can scream a bit around with our friends. You can gain a surprising amount of energy from breaking the social etiquette.
Szent György Hill is a perfect spot for a day trip: stock up on freshly baked bread at Búzalelke Pékesség in Kisapáti, get a bottle of wine at Gilvesy, Szászi, Nyári, or Bencze wineries, then, after reaching the peak of the hill, have a little picnic at the benches, surrounded by the spectacular view. Since there’s a lot less traffic here than at Badacsony, there’s a chance you’ll have the entire summit to yourselves.
Here’s what you won’t experience at the beaches in spring: the sight of the entire ground covered in towels, colorful balls hitting the ground just an inch away from your head, the smell of lángos filling the air, and the sound of children playing nearby. If you want to experience the extinct and free Balaton shores, let’s go to the beach! Officially they only open in May, so we can enjoy the undisturbed peace, the empty piers, and the endless silence until then.
There’re still some things you can do in Tapolca after visiting the cave lake and the flea market. Taste the creations of the exquisite Mediterranean kitchen of Pura Vida Dine, or eat a grilled almond trout by the shore of Malom Lake, then grab a few scoops of ice cream and walk around, admiring the turning wheel of the mill and the giant goldfish. Then you can watch a movie in the town’s cinema when the night falls.
Nature awakens in spring, and Kis-Balaton comes back to life as well. Let’s explore the amazing birds and unique plants of the area – although we can only do this within the frameworks of organized tours due to the marshy grounds, still, this is the best time to dive into the wonders of nature. The Balaton Uplands National Park celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and they await visitors with numerous great programs, so even if you aren't near Kis-Balaton, you’ll surely find the nature-related program you’re looking for.
You can learn the basics at a springtime course then you can get into the J24 cadet training, then you can maybe even sail in the European Championship in September. The J24 ship is one of the most popular classes in the world that contains identical ships. They have exciting races all through the season, and as a member of the crew you can quickly learn the ins and outs of competing. The crew training starts in spring, then you can get into a crew base, from where they can invite you to the ships to compete.
The Peace Stupa is Central-Europe’s first Buddhist sanctuary. From outside, it’s a simple, snow-white building, but inside it’s an exotic, colorful temple. It’s best to get on the road early in the morning, so that then we can watch the awakening of the Sun from next to the stupa – then we can join the monks for a meditation.
Let’s tour Köveskál, Szentbékkálla, Mindszentkálla, Kékkút and peek into their wineries, where we can leisurely taste Welschrieslings and rosés while chatting with the winemakers.
There’s a truly special place at the south shore, near Somogyvámos, and it’s called Krishna Valley. The religious community has about 150 members; they operate a self-sufficient eco-farm and restaurant, and they grow beautiful flowers on their 300 acres of land. They’ll have a festival on April 15 to celebrate the first grazing of the cows this year, with music, pastures covered in fresh grass, and cows, of course.
The first stop of MOL Nagyon Balaton program series, the 11th Ultrabalaton starts on May 19. Although the entry deadline has passed, it’s still nice to keep an eye on the superhuman challenge during which participants run around the lake either individually or as members of a team. Yes, they run around the entire lake, a total of 220 kilometers. The contestants have only 32 hours to accomplish this – a little cheering definitely helps.
The arboretum and the ruins aren’t the only attractions to visit during springtime adventures in Zirc – its beautiful library has a collection of 65 thousand books including such unbelievable rarities as the 500 years old incunabula. Since we are in the area, let’s also visit Bakonybél, where the most famous outlaws of Hungary used to hide, and let’s also visit Hubertlaki Lake, which is often called the Bakonyi Gyilkos Lake – where we can admire the lake's crystal clear water. Then you can pop over to the Observatory and have a galactic adventure there.
Those who wish to enjoy some live music will definitely find Expresszó a tempting spot, as they have live concerts every weekend during spring. Let’s not hesitate to crown our Lake Balaton adventures with a great concert or cultural program at Expresszó, the symbolic club of Veszprém.
Kishegy, the Badacsony of the south shore is only a few minutes away from Balatonlelle by car – endless peace, silence, delicious wines and meals await here. You can enjoy gazing at the wonderful landscape all day long, but you can further enhance the experience if you visit Garamvári Vineyard, Konyári Cellar, or Szent Donát Chapel, and then, if your stomach growls, visit Majthényi Press House to feed it.
The springtime series of Nyitott Balaton (which means "Open Balaton") starts on April 28 and lasts until May 14. Check out their website to learn more about their exciting programs that demonstrate that Lake Balaton is fun all year round.
Translated by Emma Póli