I’m chronologically way behind on this blog, as I’ve already passed through two other countries. But I want to wrap up my Hungary posts with two more stops: the Lake Balaton region and the Villany-Siklos region.
Both of these are renowned wine centers in Hungary, which is what I was there to check out, but both have enough going for them that I would sure like to return and linger longer.
Balaton is a huge lake in the middle of Hungary and was a popular vacation spot for other Eastern Bloc countries in the communist days. This explains the clunky and boxy hotels that mar the otherwise attractive settings of rolling hills, pretty houses, and sailboats. The profusion of hotels is a good thing if you’re looking for a room though, especially outside the busy summer season. In nearly town there are rooms for rent – in everything from private houses to monster hotels – with some interesting pensions in between. There are stunning vistas from some spots, including quite a few restaurants perched over the lake.
I sampled plenty of great wine from here and though they put out a few reds, this area is really known for its mineral-rich, complex white wines that are really world class. If I had more time, I would have spent some time on the back of a bike: you can ride all the way around the lake. This body of water is 50 miles long though, so it would be done over a few days.
The Villany area, with its network of villages, is set up well for wine tourism, with its excellent Wine Route Association able to take care of specific questions or the arranging of an entire tour itinerary. The small towns filled with ancient wine cellars are inviting and it would be easy to get holed up in Villany for a night and end up staying for three or four before you could get motivated to perk up and move on. The winemakers would love to get you hooked on their high-end Cabernet Franc (the local climate is similar to several regions in France), but with hundreds of producers in the region experimenting with different grapes, you can go as upscale or downscale as you want – as in a couple of bucks for a liter pitcher in the latter category.
For more action, the town of Pecs would be a good base in this area. I was lucky enough to be there at the end of the European Wine Song Festival. The streets were filled with wine carts, merry drinkers, costumed dancers, and choirs singing about wine. You don’t see that every day…