This is the post where I get to reveal the fundamental reason we traveled to central Europe. The underlying cause of our visits to Prague and Vienna. The basic fact of our trip to Hungary.
Dan’s roots are here.
Both his grandfather and his grandmother on his mother’s side were born in Hungary, though they met only later, in the United States. And because of complicated circumstances, Dan was largely raised by his Hungarian grandfather.
Incredibly, his grandparents grew up in similarly small villages maybe fifteen miles apart by road (probably less than ten as the crow flies). But they never met. I believe they never even visited one another’s village. There would have been no reason to.
Dan’s grandfather grew up in Takacsi (“Takach”), a village of about 1,000 inhabitants in the county of Veszprem, only seven or eight miles north of the regional center of Papa (that’s a town; population about 33,000). Takacsi is bisected by Route 83, which runs almost from the Slovakian border down to Lake Balaton, a two-lane road that does carry some traffic. If your grandfather didn’t come from there, you’d probably never notice it as you drove through. Most of the houses are quite modest.
A few suggest slightly wealthier inhabitants, perhaps like Dan’s great-grandfather, who could afford to travel to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
There is even, surprisingly, a guest house.
Even more surprisingly, for a village this small, there were no fewer than three churches–Calvinist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic. I don’t know which was which, but Dan and I liked to imagine that the first one we came across, built in 1808 and currently undergoing extensive renovation, might have been the one his grandfather had attended as a boy.
Then again, it wasn’t the only church that old. Here’s one that was built and rebuilt three times–in 1794, 1867, and 1963.
And just for the record, here are other churches of Takacsi.
Dan’s grandmother grew up in Csot (“Chote”), a village about ten miles east of Papa with about 1,200 inhabitants. It seemed somehow more attractive to me, but perhaps this is partly because it is more remote, without a major road running through it. There are at least two churches–Roman Catholic and Evangelical.
And there’s some sort of official building as well–a town hall, maybe? Or a government office?
The town has a certain charm.
Most movingly, we found a monument to the inhabitants of Csot who died in the two World Wars.
Knowing that Dan’s grandmother (nee Marie Nemeth) had a brother who died in World War I, we found not one, but three Nemeths who had been struck down–Ignac, Istvan, and Sandor–perhaps her brother and two cousins? Were there, we wondered, any Nemeths left now in Csot?
We had one more stop to make.
I met Dan’s grandfather at his house overlooking Lake Bomoseen, which at 3.7 square miles, is the largest lake located entirely in Vermont. Grandpa John would spend long hours looking out over his lovely view, and sometimes he would talk about Lake Balaton in Hungary. Lake Bomoseen, he said, reminded him of Lake Balaton, a place of striking beauty. It seemed that if there were one place on the planet that Grandpa John might want to see again, this was it.
We had to go.
Lake Balaton, at 230 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake in central Europe. Coming as we were from the north, we visited the town of Balatonfured on the northern shore of the lake, which is hillier and more historic than the southern. It is also one of the major wine-producing regions of Hungary.
It’s also beautiful. There’s a harbor for pleasure boats and for a number of ferries that ply the lake’s green waters.
Along the shore extends a lovely park.
We found the pleasant Vitorlas Etterem on the lake shore.
Here we enjoyed a pleasant meal overlooking the lake before driving back to Budapest. (I cannot explain it, but yes, that is a boat inside the restaurant.)