Of course there’s a lot to see and do on the shores of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake. This time, though, after attending a beautiful wedding at a perfect little hilltop church overlooking the lake, we decided to go beyond….
To a place called Kis-Balaton, i.e. Little Balaton. This was once part of Lake Balaton, until it dried up into swampland, only to be re-filled into a separate lake in the 1970s. It’s now part of a national park, and as such, there’s only one spot you can visit: Kányavári Sziget, a tiny island you can stroll around in about an hour.
But what a rich hour that is – witness the dragonfly that landed on my son’s shoulder and stayed for a long ride, ducks, gulls, cranes flying overhead, a family of wild geese touring the edges of the reeds, and frogs making quite a racket in the shallows.
Back over the bridge to the mainland, you can buy homemade pickles and jams from ladies who look like they’ve always been there.
Then, just a short drive down the road, is the Buffalo Reserve! That’s right, hundreds of buffalo, grazing in fields and wallowing in mud. Plus goats wandering free among the visitors, herds of majestic Hungarian grey cattle with the sculpted horns grazing in the distance, donkeys, horses and even a few puppies. The black buffalo are native to Hungary and very tame – there are a few young ones in the visitors’ area for you to pet, along with the goats that jump on and off the playground equipment. Then there’s a trail to follow, with signs in English and Hungarian about the wildlife and natural phenomena of the area, including instructions on how to build a bat house for your backyard.
All very worthwhile – the kids had a great time and so did we. And something different from all that Big Balaton has to offer, although we managed to grab some lángos before we went to Little Balaton.
How to get there:
Slightly tricky, since we got lost, thinking that the Zalavári Emlékpark had something to do with Kis-Balaton, but the Emlékpark is an EU-financed pair of buildings showing pictures of what you can and should go out and actually see for real. Kis-Balaton, i.e. Kányavári Sziget, is between the towns of Zalavár and Zalakomár. Don’t go into Zalavár. Kányavári Sziget doesn’t seem to be marked on Googlemaps, so it probably won’t be in your GPS, so get ready for an adventure. The Buffalo Reserve, Bivalyreservátum in Hungarian, is well-marked on the road south toward Zalakomár. And it’s on Googlemaps: http://goo.gl/maps/KwFF