Monday, June 14, 2004

RoofsWe prepare to leave Ptuj, but first we make time to visit the fine castle looking down on the roofs of the old city.

Matthew's plans to drag me round the old Dominican monastery are foiled by it being closed.



We take the 09:44 train to Zalaegerszeg on our way to Lake Balaton. Goodbye Slovenia, hello Hungary.

Here we meet East Europe in the form of a dumpy woman in the information office. No English is spoken. (Proudly so!) She lists the times and connections for the train to Balatonfüred on Lake Balaton. This she does by consulting printed timetables and giving us a handwritten slip. No computers were used in that exercise, not one line of SQL was executed. I'm impressed.

We have an hour to walk around the town. There's a hospital nearby. Formidable nurses in starched white uniforms walk the grounds, some pushing wheelchairs.

We return to the station. Folk are very casual about walking on the tracks, the platforms are low so it does make sense to be able to walk straight to the platform you want. (I'll have to start doing this in the UK!)

Train to Ukk... A railway junction in the middle of nowhere. The station has beautifully tended gardens, and swifts nesting in the eaves. We wait there for an hour.

Wheel-tappers. Who remembers them? They're alive and well in Hungary. Men with poles strike the carriage wheels at each station we stop at.

There's another train change at Tapolca.  The train pulls away... doors still open!

The lavatories are straightforward: beneath the seat is a 4 inch diameter pipe, with the rushing track visible beneath. I imagine the breeze would be most pleasant.

The train passes many bungalows, campsites and resorts as we get near to the lake.

The Hungarian stations have a cheerful 7 note jingle that accompany the announcements. (Sometimes they're a bit random. Is it artistic license, or buggy firmware?)


Round ChurchMermaidsBalatonfüred is a small resort on the north of Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe.

We arrive at 17:27, walk down towards the lake, and settle for the second hotel we see, near the Round Church.

The Hotel Blaha Lujza, which turns out to be recommended by Lonely Planet too, has a pleasant little balcony where Matthew can smoke and look at the stars.

The round church is modelled after the Pantheon in Rome (or possibly the Church modelled on the Pantheon in Esztergom (which we later pass on the hydrofoil)).

StatueBronze handWe sign ourselves in at the Hotel, dump our bags in the room, and set off exploring.

The lake side park is very genteel. Not busy at all.

It's geared up for German tourists - spoken English is not so common.

Balaton was a great holiday destination in the Soviet era, when the Mediterranean was out of bounds. Folks from all over East Europe go there, not just Germans. (I suspect the majority of the visitors are Hungarian though.)


LakeWe choose a restaurant over looking the lake, selecting a "Bella platter" - a selection of meats and fish.

And beers!

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