I have been quiet for a while, I know, so please forgive the blank space and posts gathering dust. The reason for my silence is quite simple: summer holidays.
I have had two weeks of fun and frolics with the family by the largest lake in Central Europe, Balaton. Where? I hear some of you ask (all Hungarians excepted as it is a pilgrimage most of them make at least once a year). Balaton is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Central Europe as far as I am concerned and here’s why.
Balaton is large body of fresh water, bounded by vine covered hills to the north and fertile plains to the south. No jet skis, no crass, polluting speedboats, lots of sails, sun and grassy lake shore. Picturesque towns and villages like the one in the picture above, Tihany, with its majestic church on the clifftop surveying the water. Lots of cycling tracks and activities for all the family to enjoy. Nature trails, caves in the hillsides, woods, camping, water parks, and generally an outdoorsy holiday destination.
It was a refreshing break from the monotony of Budapest and teaching – an understatement if ever there was one. I sat and looked at the sky a lot and even saw some writing in the clouds (I would love to hear what you think it says); thought about my book, which I wrote 300 pages of and then scrapped it and restarted from scratch (more on that in later posts); I thought about life and what happiness means, about books that I have read this year and those that are left to consume, about work and my students and how I can be a better teacher; about the smile on my son’s face when he went down a water slide and about the small things in life that make us content.
I love the pace of life there, almost Mediterranean, climate definitely Mediterranean as all the grape connoisseurs will confirm, and water cleaner than the Mediterranean (for all non-Europeans reading this, we tend to judge seas by the Med probably because it reminds us of childhood holidays). The balmy evenings were spent enjoying a drink and a meal sitting out in the open air, walks on the lakeshore with swans gracefully begging for bread (they make it look almost regal), cygnets now bigger and stronger and losing their grey earnestly following suit and learning how to please the eye while taking something from you (think Royal families Europe-wide).
The sound of cicadas in the evening and operatic birdsong in the morning. Orchards laden with plums and peaches, vines getting heavy with the grape to be harvested from the end of July right up to the late September and October harvests. Apples, so many that even pavements were littered with them. Cool shade under towering pines, their scent offering wafts of refreshment in the heat of the day. The smell of freshly mown grass from the neighbour’s lawn. Little marinas with small sail boats, their masts gently swaying in the breeze. I tried to find fault in many things but couldn’t and arrived home content… A word that describes a state of being that we often ignore in our misguided yearning for his elder brother, happ(y)iness.
As I said, a perfect holiday destination with an unexpected result: actually returning home feeling the weight of the world not lifted, but almost a pleasure to bear. I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am!