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Road trip: Keszthely, the museum empire

Sights & Culture - Articles

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 — We Love Balaton

Have you ever seen roast hake and wheat fields in a museum? Have you ever been to a baroque palace or a wax museum of renaissance sexuality? Did you know that someone made a model of the Hungarian Parliament from snail houses? You will find all of these in Keszthely. This is a guide to museum fans and museum haters as well.

To quote a well-known Hungarian comedian András Hajós: "All memorial houses are smelly, because only the memories have been living there for a while now." What is more, thanks to the boring museum visits during school trips, many of us grew up believing that museums are dull places. If this was true, Keszthely would be in serious trouble. This city is not known for its sandy beaches, but it has more museums, than every town near Balaton.

Consider taking a cool museum tour, should a rainy day crash your beach time. Keszthely's main sight is one of Hungary's biggest palaces: the Festetics-kastély (Festetics Palace). Basically every Hungarian kid was dragged here either by his parents or his teachers. The first things pop into everyone’s minds about this place are the antique furniture and the lame felt slippers you had to wear inside (in order to protect the interior). We would recommend another visit though. Besides the regular exhibition about paintings, furniture and artifacts in Helikon Kastélymúzem (Helikon Palace Museum) there is a palm house, a carriage museum, a huge automatic model train layout and a hunting exhibition in the garden. The cellar is home to the Balatoni Borok Háza (The House of Balaton Wine); here you can taste and buy wines also bysmaller and less known wineries of the Balaton region. The new managament of the palace wishes to open up the Palace: nowadays you can go to the tower to see the stunning panorama and the garden is also open if you want to walk around, or just have a nap. If you're lucky enough, you'll see the director riding his electric scooter from one venue to the othe rin the gigantic park.

Photo: Helikon Kastélymúzeum

Balaton Museum

8360 Keszthely, Múzeum utca 2.
+36 83 312 351

The Balaton Múzeum's biggest deal is an exhibition about the history of the lake since (you would never guess, but) this is the official museum of Lake Balaton. It is a great journey into the last few millenia of the Lake, apart from rare birds and roast hake, you'll also find historical weapons here. Thanks to a recent modernization, there are interactive gadgets to make the whole experience much more interesting. Balaton Múzeum is perfect for parents who wish to take a break from parenting during their summer vacation. While Balaton Múzeum entertains your kid better then Sponge Bob could ever do it, you can enjoy a great coffee in the hall of the museum. Don't worry about your kids! In the meantime, they will cycle around the virtual Balaton, or play games with skilled museum educator. He'll forget about the ice-cream, the beach and everything else in a minute.

Photo: Balaton Múzeum

When agriculture meets with exhibitions the word we are looking for is unfortunate. Let's be honest: even looking at rare golden coins is better than spending an hour between different kinds of ploughs. Keszthely is the cradle of the agricultural education in Hungary though. No surprises, that Georgikon (an agricultural university in Keszthely found by Count György Festetics in the early 19th century) offers an agricultural exhibition which tries to keep up the pace with the new trends. The museum went through revival in 2013: the managers have been trying to bring agriculture closer to the audience since. So if you're up to petting zoo, functioning steam machines and other exclusive experiences, Georgikon Farm Museum is your spot. There is another petting zoo in the outskirts of Keszthely and Gyenesdiás called Festetics Imre Állatpark. You will find mostly cows, sheeps and other farm animals over here. You will also find a bunch of small museums in Keszthely. There is the Doll Museum, an erotic wax museum, the Vintage and Kitsch Museum, the Museum of Torture, the Historical Wax Museum, the Toy Museum and the Snail Parliament (the Hungarian Parliament made of snail shells).

Photo: Georgikon Farm Museum

Don't think that dowtown Keszthely is the new Museumsquartier, though. These mini-exhibitions, which are all in the same hand, are all found in the same place, within easy reach of the pedestrian street of Keszthely. There are two other private exhibitions nearby: the Radio and Television Museum and the Cadillac Museum. In the latter, you can take a look at Gyula Garamvölgyi's vintage car collection. He gathers these vehicles like a maniac, but he even lets you to rent his precious ones for a short time. The Marcipán Múzeum is quite close to the palace, and it is not only a museum, but also confectionery, which is definitely worth a try. If you are still yearning for more culture, visit Balaton Színház on the corner of the main square. It is not only a theatre, but also a venue for art and photo exhibitions. The memorial house of Júlia Szendrey can be found at the Szendrey Manor, on an outskirt of Keszthely. Júlia Szendrey was the muse (and wife) of one of the most significant Hungarian poets, Sándor Petőfi. If you prefer to wander between ancient ruins, check out Fenékpuszta. In this part of Keszthely, you will find the remains of a Roman fort and a bird ringing station.

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