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Euro campervan trip 2023 - stage 8: Hungary to Lake Balaton

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

We left the middle of nowhere fly ridden camp and set of for Lake Balaton.

We are now travelling completely unplanned. As a result of our recent stressful days we both now thought a hotel or AirBnB was a good plan for a couple of days. However there is limited availability of sufficiently luxurious places. There is plenty available but bathrooms etc look not really any better than the campsites we have found.

At least we know the sheets are clean in Nessa. It was getting very hot but with a pleasant breeze as we arrived at Lake Balaton.

Enthused by reading this is the finest wine growing area in Hungary, we head straight for lunch in Badacsony. ( Hungarian pronunciation is tricky, a Y hardly ever pronounced as such. In this case the ..ny is apparently more of a G sound. )

The vineyard we aim for is clearly a major tourist attraction with jeep tours screaming up and down the hillsides, incredibly narrow roads and plenty of scope for my bus driving shortcomings to be exposed. One such lane, heading uphill with the engine screaming in 1st gear presents an oncoming car with outsized wing mirrors blocking most of my side of the road. At least that's what I would have told the insurers. Luckily no harm done as we clipped wing mirrors only, but the ferocious look on the drivers face burned itself into my soul.


Where next possible on this horrendous hill climb, I swung Nessa around and followed them back down the hill. I parked where we should have originally, in the massive car park at the bottom of the hill. I drew in to the space realising the car next to me was the one we had clipped. (Who had clipped us of course for insurance purposes).


The driver was no longer in the vehicle. We headed up for some lunch and a glass of excellent Local Rizling - which was well balanced, with crisp minerality and lots of pear and apple. And, 80p a glass.


On our return to the van, Louise was accosted by the aggrieved driver who was taking photos of our van and of her. She looked very close to punching him so I rushed across in best diplomatic mode.

I explained in mixed Germanglish that I was dreadfully sorry but had deliberately followed them down to apologise (not true) and was sorry they had already left their vehicle. I was however now genuinely delighted to be able to apologise in person. There seemed to be no harm done to our vehicles so I hoped we could have a cuddle and forget the whole sad episode. He seemed less keen. But his wife was obliging, and metaphorically Anglo Hungarian relations were restored. I apologised for Mrs W and explained that it was a sign of great respect in the UK to adopt a boxing stance and throw a couple of jabs. I think he understood.

We were hot and again stressed. The first campsite was full. The next was not the greatest, but had a space. The inappropriately named ElDorado camping. It seemed essential to get out of the sun, inflate the kyake and paddle away the cares of the day on Lake Balaton. Just the job. The area of the lake we chose was quite muddy. I stepped in up to my knees in thick grey mud slipping gracefully out of my surf shoes. Frantic searching did turn up a shoe, I have yet to see if it's mine it's so muddy.

Later, in the spirit of openness with the reader, after a particularly strenuous poo, I develop a black blob in the top of my visual field in my left eye. I assumed it was a small bleed. Of course, being a fixed dark area it could be a detachment? There are no flashing lights, my initial panic is only temporary. It's really interesting when you are 1500 miles from home how difficult it is to know how to react to a medical issue. In the UK I would have felt happy to wait overnight in the confident knowledge that I would pop to eye casualty if things didn't clear. But here I just catastrophised, and buried my head.

What do you do? Find the hospital in Balaton and rely on their opinion? Almost certainly that's what I would have told a patient.

Along with every middle aged Englishman I decided to ignore it.

The saga of my eye is ongoing , but I have sent detailed notes of my symptoms to an old friend who is really very eminent in the world of eyes. And he reckons I am a probably a drama queen, but suggests getting it seen as soon as possible after the weekend. So that's good enough for me. I intend to return to Austria on Monday and find an ophthalmologist. I shall keep you updated. My guess is I burst a blood vessel straining! Too much detail?

In meanwhile we have decamped from El Dorado. We visited the beautiful town of Tihany on its little peninsula. A demonstration of how vanlife can make simple things extremely difficult. Parking a 3.5ton bus in small towns that have parking restrictions is no fun. Even parking close enough to walk in is a challenge. When it's 30*c it's worse. With a dog comes another set of challenges. We parked illegally. With due Britishness I paid at the meter anyway! We did a fast tour of the town , grabbed a bowl of #Hungarian goulash at a tourist restaurant and headed back to the van.

Our search of the local campsites then took us to Mandel Camping which was hospitable and very different from other sites. The owner was lead singer in the Deaf Catz who turned out to be gigging that night and made the Hungarian Thrash metal entries into the Eurovision Song Contest seem very acceptable. The pool was welcome and the bar and their own wines were brilliant. We dined on a chickpea curry that I rustled up in the van.

We had booked an AirBnB house on a volcanic hillside set back from the lake for Saturday and Sunday. The place turned out to be heaven. We decided if it wasn't for Google Maps we would have set off for home weeks ago. The place was found up unmade up roads and we got there effortlessly thanks to google, although some of the trees on the way did make us duck in 3m tall Nessa.

This place was heaven and a much needed break from #vanlife. We are able to chill out, walk the hillsides, visit the inactive volcano, watch the storm clouds gather, enjoy the storm and then spend a wonderful night in a house, with a bed and unshared private shower. Luxury.

Reassessing #vanlife, it's quite clear that there are downsides. Once in a campsite and unpacked, we are pretty stuck. Often quite a distance from decent villages or restaurants. Our views can be instagrammed to appear idyllic, but often involve direct views of other campervans. Not, we now realise, our favorite thing. Also day trips are hampered as I have already explained by access and parking issues.


We both agree five weeks is perhaps too long.


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1 Comment


David Price
David Price
Jul 30, 2023

I honestly believe that if your level of diplomacy had been available in central Europe during the early to mid 20th century, things might have worked out very differently.


On the other hand, if your level of hypochondria had been on show during two world wars, your placatory German would now have been much better. Thank God for SK.

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