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What happens to an empty beach in winter?

The recently opened ice rink and saunas in Szigliget’s beach are already becoming popular among the locals who were quick to try them. The residents of Szigliget have been organizing a Christmas-tree celebration and a New Year’s Splash in Lake Balaton for years, and they weren’t holding back now either. After all of this, who dares to say that there’s nothing to do at Lake Balaton in winter?

There’s such a huge crowd here in summer that it's almost impossible to put our towels down, but now we can see the real beauty of Szigliget’s beach. It doesn’t look like something awaiting the apocalypse, there aren’t any rusty metals, or peeling paint. The grass is still green, birds fly around, and there’s warm light coming from a tent. The beach buffet called Három Platán is still open, and a small crowd gathered in front of it – they are in good spirits due to the mulled wine.

The renter of Három Platán was the one who reached out to the town council of Szigliget this summer with an idea to expand the winter attractions with an ice rink. The council of Szigliget has been making sure that there’s life on the beach in fall and winter as well: Süllőfesztivál (Walleye Festival) and the New Year’s Splash are among these programs. The decision was made: if Három Platán agrees to stay open through the winter, the council will rent a 30x17 meters large ice rink. The rink opened on November 15 and will be available every day until February 15.

It's almost dark by the time they switch on the lights next to the ice rink. The ice is still fresh and untouched one day after the opening, it’s not scratched yet, there’re only a few lines that indicate the route of the first skater. He’s alone, which is a pretty exclusive experience, but once school’s over, children and some young adults arrive. We can skate for 2.5 hours for 800 forints, and the skates are provided here.

Even if Lake Balaton won’t freeze, the water is near, so we can see the lake while gliding on the smooth surface of the rink. A local lady passing by the rink says to the local guy who joined us that it’s really good that the rink is here, they could have it in summer as well. “Only if you will blow on it to stop it from melting,” he answers, than quietly adds: “I’ll tell them at Platán that they shouldn't be so generous with the mulled wine.”

Balaton is just a jump away

The newly built sauna is on the other end of the beach. There’ll be a sunbathing terrace on the upper floor once it’s warm again, while the almost 150 square-meters large lower level has bathrooms for men, women, and children, a nursery for mothers with babies, and family dressing rooms as well. They say that there’ll also be a gym here at some point.

There are two Finnish saunas and an infrared sauna upstairs with showers. Everything smells new: the air is filled with the scent of wood and the steam escaping from the saunas. Elderly local gentlemen “glow” in red inside. The shelves are lined with scented Finnish sauna oils and towels – we can see that the managers took this seriously, yet the price is budget-friendly (1,000 HUF/2 hours, and they’ll be open in summer as well, in case the heat waves won’t cause enough sweating).

We can enjoy the sight of Lake Balaton and the water birds from the warmth of deck chairs in front of the saunas. Those who are more adventurous can follow the example of the brave men who, on the first day, jumped into the ice-cold Lake Balaton after their time in the sauna.

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