Although I have been to Balatonfüred many times – usually to do some sailing – I was never really interested in the town itself. We had a walk on the avenue at the bank of the lake, had dinner, did some shopping in a supermarket, had a place to sleep, and that was basically it. This time, I tried a bit of a different approach and visited this town with a Lomographer's eye.
I biked up at the higher parts of the town (Balatonfüred is mainly built on hills lying close to the lake) and took photos of the buildings; we went on a guided tour in the old town organized by the local museum.
What defined Balatonfüred as a remote summer holiday resort back in the 19th century was the water of the springs – these have some beneficial properties – you can drink it and it is also used in medical baths. It also lies at a very beautiful part of Lake Balaton – so more and more wealthy people built their summer villas here. Their presence – some of them, like our famous writer, Mór Jókai or the famous actress, Lujza Blaha were among the celebrities of the time – also made it a lucrative place to stay. Back then, it took a full day to travel here from the capital – so those who came here to visit their acquaintances or to heal, usually stayed long. This gave the necessary incentive for the town to built it’s infrastructure like the post office or the port. The back of the town, called as “the village” basically not important – only the locals lived there, working in the local agriculture, in the hospital or provided their services to the visitors.
In the 20th century (especially in the second half), Balaton quickly became one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hungary – thousands of visitors came each year from Western Europe too. In that era, speed had top priority in infrastructure development – large concrete hotels were built for guests and large, easy to build yet not so pretty houses were erected to improve the living conditions of the locals. After 1989, many private houses were built for holiday homes – each building has its own style, not always in line with good taste. Some buildings and areas in a state of disrepair – a few night clubs for example, are completely abandoned.
It’s not surprising that the texture of the town is extremely versatile. Old-style villas are standing at the foot of several-story buildings; sometimes there are small vineyards between them. The new city center and the new apartment houses are built in a brand new fashion. I definitely had the feeling that the town is still searching for it’s own identity.