Siófok, Hungary

Photo: Pierre Bona (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Pierre Bona (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Some lakes are known as party destinations. Lake Havasu, Lake Tahoe, and Lake Ohrid. The boats, the bikinis, and the booze appear as soon as the temperature rises each summer. Then September arrives, the days become shorter, and the water isn’t quite as warm. The crowds disperse faster than they showed up. And you can finally enjoy the lake.

Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. It’s in the Transdanubian region of western Hungary. The lake is shallow and warm. Ducks and swans like to spend the summer here. Long beaches extend along the shoreline. Lightning storms move quickly over the nearby Bakony Mountains. Boating, kitesurfing, and wakeboarding are popular activities. While Siófok, whose population more than quadruples during the warm months, is considered the summer capital of Hungary.

Siófok has a 17-kilometer beach, a boat-filled marina, numerous parks, and villas belonging to famous Hungarians. Climb the Water Tower for views across the lake. See sculptures and outdoor concerts in Millennium Park, the Birth of Venus sculpture outside of Town Hall, and Imre Kálmán’s artwork in the Museum of Siófok. The odd, orange-roofed building near Oulu Park is the new Lutheran church. Jókai Park has peaceful Japanese and English gardens. The Rose Garden, near the pier, is a romantic spot along the waterfront. While Café Móló, a beachfront bar, is the perfect place to watch the sun set.

Photo: malagarden.hu
Photo: malagarden.hu

After exploring town, you’re ready to find your hotel. Mala Garden, a Balinese-inspired hotel, sits right on the waterfront. Buddhas and bamboo decorate the interior. The lounge and the restaurant extend out to the lawn. A relaxation area has a jacuzzi and saunas. While sun loungers and white umbrellas sit on a wooden deck on top of the water.

You room has a balcony and a view of the calm lake. You’ll find it easy to relax with a daybed, a stone shower, and a glass-walled tub, while pops of red and turquoise brighten the wooden interior. You go back downstairs and sip a cocktail at the Mandara Café & Lounge. You’re not quite sure what the drink is, but it’s fruity and refreshing.

Then you move to the Mala Garden Restaurant, where you can choose between Hungarian and Asian dishes. Cold strawberry cream soup and a pike fillet with coriander and mustard seed or Thai noodles and tiki marsala? A crisp, white Balaton wine goes well with either. Or you could order another one of those pretty cocktails. You certainly don’t need a crowd to enjoy yourself on Lake Balaton.

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