Lake Balaton is vast. It is not only the largest lake in Hungary, but that in all of Eastern Europe, often referred to as "Europe's Inland Sea." During the 16th century, it formed part of the frontline between the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, demanding a naval presence on the lake from each: the Hapsburg fleet was anchored at Balatonfüred on the lake's northern shore, while the Ottoman fleet was docked at Siófok on the southern shore. Today, however, Lake Balaton is one of the great tourist centers of Europe, where families, retirees, and also the young crowd come to relax and frolic.
Lake Balaton comprises roughly 232 square miles of water (the average depth is 9 to 12 feet!), with 118 miles (197 km) of shoreline, generously populated with beaches, harbors, waterfront playlands, and vacation homes. Here, then, is a mini Mediterranean experience, with sun-drenched beaches and all the trappings of a sprawling seaside resort. Recreational possibilities at the lake are endless, particularly watersports, with sailing among the most popular, and windsurfing and swimming not far behind. During winter, the lake frequently freezes, offering some promising ice skating possibilities.
Lake Balaton's principal ports are the resort towns of Keszthely, Badacsony, Tihany, Balatonfüred and Balatonalmádi on the northern shore, and Siófok and Balatonföldvár on the southern shore.
Lake Balaton lies to the southwest of Budapest, reached by way of a two- to three-hour drive. There is also a train service from Budapest to Balaton, which takes about four hours to the north shore of the lake.
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