British Hospitality in Hungary

British Hungarian European friendship
Arthur’s terrace with EU flag and Union Jack: Forever European. Photo by author

A Home From Home

In the course of our cross-European trip, we have encountered British hospitality in surprising places. We very lucky not always to have had to stay in hotels. We were invited to stay in friends’ and families’ homes and  felt less like tourists. On my trip to meet Mike in Budapest, I stayed with several friends in Germany, amongst others, as reported, with our own Chris Hammond.

Even before reaching Hungary, Mike had started posting information about our trip on social media. He told people of our itinerary and was contacted by several Britons living in mainland Europe. They wished to meet us and many offered us accommodation. 

One of the people who wanted to meet us lives at Lake Balaton. After leaving Budapest, I planned to show Mike Lake Balaton, one of the most popular holiday destinations in Hungary. It is often called the Hungarian sea as it is so big that at one point one cannot see the shore on the other side of the lake. 

Mike already mentioned in his latest article that Arthur invited us to stay in his house in Gyenesdiás, on the Southern part of the lake. This is only a few kilometres from Keszthely where I had stayed with friends before and a few minutes’ drive from Hévíz, the warm lake I had hoped to show Mike.

Arthur’s house is on a steep hill with great views of the Balaton. He was an amazing host, filling up the fridge for us with all kinds of goodies  and greeting us with ‘My house is your house’. He even put a delicious piece of chocolate on our pillows as a welcome gesture.

We liked his house and the British hospitality so much that we stayed there for three nights. Sadly, the weather was not as warm as we had hoped but we managed to catch a few sunny hours.

Looking through the menuPhoto taken by waiter on author’s phone

We travelled to the Northern shore of the Balaton to enjoy the view from the Tihany peninsula which juts out 5km into the lake. Unfortunately, rain made us cut our visit short as the expected views from the well known Benedictine Abbey were covered by low clouds. 

We had a meal on a terrace looking onto the lake and waited till the downpour ended.

Photo of the Southern shore of the Balaton taken by the author from the Northern shore

The following day, we went to Héviz, the warm spa lake for a swim and a browse through the little town. The waters of the lake are supposed to do wonders for arthritis and rheumatism. In addition, who would not enjoy swimming in what feels like a huge bathtub? I was in Hévíz in November, when there was frost in the air.

I loved swimming in the warm water with steam giving my face a fresh glow. Mike already told you in his article that we saw a consultant as well. Hévíz is full of specialist clinics for rehabilitation treatments, physiotherapy and osteopathy. It is popular with Austrian, German, and lately also Russian and Ukrainian tourists looking for relaxation and therapy.

After Hévíz, it was time to say goodbye to Hungary, the Balaton and Arthur. But before we left, I was interested to find out why he chose to move to Hungary and how he found life at the Balaton.

The country has been frequently in the news in the last five to ten years due to some of the Orbán government’s policies which clash with EU law. Also, there have been concerning  instances of blatant racist behaviour by Hungary, like abusive behaviour by fans at football matches. 

I asked Arthur about his experience of life in Hungary as a ‘migrant’. Of course, being clearly not of African or Middle Eastern ethnicity would not make him a target of racism. (The recently maligned expression ‘white privilege’ springs to mind.)

Arthur says he loves living at the Balaton, has many local friends and has nothing but praise for the treatment he receives. He speaks Hungarian, enjoys the food and the culture. In fact, one of the reasons he decided to move to Hungary was how a Hungarian supported him when he had a nasty accident with his campervan in the 80s.

He had hit a large stag and was stranded by the side of the road. He was lucky to have escaped serious injury. The help he received by one particular young doctor won Arthur’s heart for Hungary forever. 

He is now in his late 70s, very fit for his age and full of plans for the future. To show how keen he was on European togetherness, he gave Mike and I a blue armband with yellow stars. As a final goodbye from Arthur, the three of us posed outside his house in front of a Union Jack and an EU (and Council of Europe) flag with the message ‘Forever European’. 

If anybody is interested in Arthur’s story and why he loves living in Hungary, here is the sound file of the interview I made with him. 

Arthur’s is a good example of an open-minded Briton showing other Europeans that not everybody born in Brexit Britain thinks we’re better off outside of Europe. It took us no time to become very good friends and hopefully, with freedom of movement around Europe, we will have the opportunity to meet him again very soon.