Discover the wild side of Lake Balaton, Hungary’s hedonistic summer escape

Since communist times, Lake Balaton has transformed with the arrival of party goers, unicorn lilos, and luxury amenities.

18 July 2019

In the 1960s and 70s, Lake Balaton was the favourite summer holiday destination for Hungary’s workers and families. Today, the “Hungarian Sea”, as it is otherwise known, welcomes 500,000 people each summer, including a new clientele of young party-goers. Gianluca Abblasio’s photos from Lake Balaton show a parade of tanned, heavily tattooed bodies swimming, raving, and sleeping off their hangovers in the sun.

“Huge music festivals and events have become more frequent, attracting a flock of young people from Hungary, and neighbouring Slovenia and Romania,” reports the Italian photographer. Among the younger visitors he met, many had travelled to the lake to seek out summer jobs.

Since the 1990s, Balaton’s resorts have also changed beyond recognition. An influx of luxury hotels, cottages, and resorts has locals concerned about the loss of public beaches and further privatisation in the years to come. Some of the socialist-era architecture remains abandoned, as seen in the image by Abblasio of a hotel in Siófok, a resort town on the southern bank of the lake.

Those looking for trip back to communist times can cruise around in a tank — one of the more bizarre activities on offer at Balaton. “A man was offering a tank for rent next to the lake,” Abblasio explains with astonishment. “His business is having a lot of success.”

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