We are at the Southern side of Lake Balaton, which is virtually a whole series of towns linked together along its 100km coastline. The lake is beautiful, particularly at sunset, and there is every amenity tourists and travellers might need. There are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of hotels, camping grounds, guest houses, restaurants, bars, ice cream cafes, boat rental facilities, tennis courts, kids playgrounds etcetera. The only problem is that they are all closed and there is hardly a person to be found anywhere.
We cycled 40km today from Siofok to Balatonelle and the place was completely and utterly deserted. The temperature was 34 degrees from 10am to around 3pm and you couldn’t buy an ice cream or a bottle of water. We had to knock on doors, ring buzzers and bells and even walk around unlocked properties shouting “hello?” before we were able to find ourselves somewhere to stay. I have never experienced anything like it. The scale of the emptiness is immense. It’s like residents, employees, business owners and tourists all received a memo to lock up and evacuate immediately. There are no cars, no lights on in the houses, no anything. Just endless lines of hotels and other tourism related business locked up. It is very surreal and if I’m honest, quite unsettling. In most tourist locations, life goes on after the main tourist season is over, but here life has gone – including the people. We were able to quite happily walk in the middle of the road or tramp over roundabouts as there isn’t a car anywhere. The trains that rumble by, don’t stop, there isn’t even a sound of a dog barking.
One thing that does seem to be happening, however, is construction. There are new guest houses and hotels going up all over the place, so clearly there is money in the tourist season to make it worthwhile. I can only imagine this place must be madness during summer, but for now it’s just empty and eerie.
Yes all this means that you are free to enjoy the views and walk along the shore without hoards of people around. You are able to sit on a rock and contemplate with some kids running around screaming at the tops of their lungs, but this is too quiet. We all need to know that we aren’t the last people left on Earth!
We will be heading off tomorrow to the very west of the lake and hopefully back to some sense of normalness…