Destination of the Week
Welcome to our third Lakeside DOTW. This week takes us to Central Europe. When one speaks about Hungary, two touristic destinations come to mind: the capital Budapest, and its beautiful old city, and Lake Balaton. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, measuring 77 x 14 km at its widest points and with a surface area of 592 km². It has an average depth of only 3.2 m. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalized Sió is the only outflow. In Hungarian, the lake is known simply as a Balaton, or "the Balaton". This name derives from the Slavic blato meaning 'mud' or 'swamp'. In 846, Slavic prince Pribina began to build a large fortress as his seat of power and several churches in the region of Lake Balaton.
The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. Balatonfüred and Hévíz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it was not until the late 19th century when landowners, with their vines destroyed by lice, began building summer homes to rent out to the burgeoning middle classes.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Balaton became a major tourist destination for ordinary working Hungarians and especially for subsidised holiday excursions for union members. It also attracted many East Germans and other residents of the Eastern Bloc. West Germans could also visit, making Balaton a common meeting place for families and friends separated by the Berlin Wall until 1989. The collapse of Communism after 1991 and the dismantling of the unions saw the gradual but steady reduction in numbers of lower-paid Hungarians.
The major resorts around the lake are Siófok, Keszthely and Balatonfüred. Zamárdi, another resort town on the southern shore, has been the site of Balaton Sound, a notable electronic music festival, since 2007. Balatonkenese has hosted numerous traditional gastronomic events. Siófok is known for attracting young people to it because of its large clubs. Keszthely is the site of the Festetics Palace and Balatonfüred is a historical bathing town which hosts the annual Anna Ball.
The peak tourist season extends from June until the end of August. The average water temperature during the summer is 25°C, which makes bathing and swimming popular on the lake. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake. Many resorts have artificial sandy beaches and all beaches have step access to the water. Other tourist attractions include sailing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as visiting the countryside and hills, wineries on the north coast, and nightlife on the south shore. The Tihany Peninsula is a historical district. Badacsony is a volcanic mountain and wine-growing region as well as a lakeside resort. The lake is almost completely surrounded by separated bike lanes to facilitate bicycle tourism. Although the peak season at the lake is the summer, Balaton is also frequented during the winter, when visitors go ice-fishing or even skate, sledge, or ice-sail on the lake if it freezes over.
The obvious way to fly to Lake Balaton is via Hévíz-Balaton Airport (LHSM), previously also known as Sármellék International Airport. It is located west of Lake Balaton, 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) south-southwest of the village of Sármellék, Zala County and Keszthely. A military airport was already located here in the 1940s. It was paved in the 1950s and functioned as a Hungarian military airport until 1960, and as a Soviet military airport between 1960 and the Autumn of 1990. The current runways were constructed in 1982.
Sármellék International Airport had operated as a public airport since 1991 and became the second international airport of the country on 15 May 2002 after Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. The airport is owned by the local governments of Sármellék and Zalavár since August 2002, operated by an Irish-Hungarian investment group, Cape Clear Aviation Ltd., since 2004.
Due to financial problems, the airport closed over the winter period 2008–09, but closed indefinitely on 10 October 2009. A new buyer was then sought for the facility. It reopened, however, in April 2010. In the next two winters it was closed, but in the spring and summer months of 2011 and 2012 it reopened again. The flights started again on 14 April 2012.
In 2012 the airport has also got a new name, since April it is known as Hévíz-Balaton Airport.
LHSM has a single runway:
16/34, 2,500 m, 8,202 ft
Live flight tracking can be performed here.
The following files are worthwhile:
Videos for LHSM are not easy to find. We retrieved the following video with a training session for WizzAir as shot from the ground.
An IL-76 is always an impressive sight.
And that is the end of our third Lakeside DOTW. Next week, visiting an airport on a lake that survived massive flooding a few years ago.