Yesterday I coasted down to Lake Balaton, the closest thing to a sea in Hungary. The passage along the lake is on a lovely paved bike path with glimpses of the lake. These glimpses are usually through a fence or a wall that seals off the beaches from the rest of us. There are lots of people on my side of the divide, but virtually no one on the lake shore. It’s still low season, and I have been told that the Russians are not here in droves because flights from Russia have been suspended.  I didn’t realize until recently that Hungary shares a border with Ukraine, but the military training facility I cycled by in the mountains reminded me just how close this war actually is. 

There is a lot money around here, but l can’t imagine that a holiday at the lake is accessible for many Hungarians. Our lovely host Aunt Eva, from Öskü, for example, likely doesn’t come down here regularly to take the waters. Her Hungary is one I feel more comfortable with. At her house we were greeted with a huge bowl of goulash and all the homemade pancakes we could eat. The only fences were the ones keeping the large and exuberant neighbouring dogs in their yards. 

While I was down at the lake, Gord and Denys were in this other Hungary, weaving through small villages on lonely country roads above the lake.

Fences, walls and borders have divided us in more ways than they should. Their physical existence clearly announces who can and cannot pass. Spending time with our friends who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, and the harrowing stories of our current refugee crisis, I am reminded of the privilege of my Canadian passport . 

May 4, 2023: Öskü to Balatonalmadi – 27kms – Bowery Guest Houses

May 5, 2023: Balatonalmádi to Balatonakali – 28kms – Akali Hostel

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