There was to be no dinner on the second or subsequent nights. This fact was unknown to us on the Sunday evening, the day of our arrival, when we entered the dining room as the clock from the nearby church struck eight. Just as the Signora Bertolini had promised rooms with a view, so the Hotel Blaha Lujza had enticed us with half board.
|Hotel Blaha Lujza, Balatonfured [click to enlarge this and all images]|
But it was not to be. The information being given out, somewhat ingenuously we thought, as the soup plates were cleared and the fish placed before us. However, breakfast would, we were assured, as though not to be denied a prize altogether, be served each day at the advertised times.
|the hospital glimpsed through the trees across the square at Balatonfured|
The Hotel Blaha Lujza, originally home to the eponymous nineteenth century singer, fondly referred to as the Nation's Nightingale, stands close to the shores of Lake Balaton at the heart of the picturesque Balatonfured. Once reserved for the Party faithful, and elite, this lakeside resort has, in recent years, transformed itself into the most fashionable and delightful of watering places.
|swans cluster at the water's edge alongside the tree shaded promenade|
A broad promenade, shaded by plane trees, their peeling bark revealing deep pools of clotted cream, runs alongside the languid water where sailing craft slip silently among the gliding swans. Across the lake the sun glints on the Abbey of Tihany from where, in earlier times, as an Empire collapsed, the last King of Hungary sought refuge and then stole away from crown and country.
|the Abbey of Tihany set high on the hill and seen through a sea of masts|
Across from the main square lies the hospital. Each morning, we observe a motley selection of patients, slipper clad, dressing gowns dangerously slipping, tired nakedness exposed, others in assorted day wear, gravel crunching underfoot, all shuffling towards the central fountain where the healing waters, properties unknown, continuously gush their energising goodness. Some, greedy for more, fill plastic bottles. Liquid hope.
|the front facade of the hospital, facing the square, in Balatonfured|
|from this central spring restorative waters may be taken|
And it is there that we spot our companions from the breakfast table. They too are guests at the Blaha Lujza, but we suspect occupy a ground floor room for age and infirmity surely prevent access to the upper floors. A mother and daughter. Two flightless birds. Both are of an age but the daughter, clothed in rookish black, maintains a gaunt, determined presence. Unsmiling, her glance conveys a dislike of foreigners. Beside her, the sparrow must be fed. Although the day is already hot, fans whir overhead, the mother draws comfort from cardigan and shawl. A woollen skirt sweeps the floor, hiding for the moment tightly buttoned black boots. Later they will progress, at mourners' pace, towards the square.
|on warm, sunny mornings breakfast may be taken before the hotel portico|
But for now breakfast is, as promised, served. We watch, intrigued, as morsels of bread [how else to describe?] are slowly transferred from plate, to finger, to mouth. Each successful bite is rewarded as the daughter, half rising from her seat, leans across the table and pecks her mother on the cheek. The process is repeated. The silence is maintained.
So, just as swallows take flight, the last days of summer fragment into memory and autumn mists creep with stealth along the now deserted shore. Above the town the Budapest train approaches Platform V.
|our compartment on the train bound for Budapest at summer's end|