Determined to make the most of the short time I have in the village this month, I did my research. I checked out all the local Christmas/Advent markets, cross-referenced with the dates I’d be here, and picked Sunday, 8th December to capitalise on what was on. Straight after mass, we headed for Balatonlelle. I’d read with some excitement that
December 7-8-án a balatonlellei BL YachtClub ad otthont a régió egyik legnagyobb adventi rendezvényének, az Adventi Fesztiválnak.
I was sure this translated as:
On December 7-8, the BL YachtClub in Balatonlelle hosts one of the largest Advent events in the region, the Advent Festival.
Something somewhere got lost in translation. When we arrived around 10 a.m. there were three stalls open, space for about five more, an ice-rink, and a marquee advertising a gourmet picnic. It was about 2 degrees. The boat offering trips on the lake had just left the dock, cleaving its way through the fog. We asked inside to be told that things didn’t kick off until noon, but even then, with just five empty stalls, I wasn’t holding my breath.
We decided to mosey on up Route 7 and head to Balatonszárszó where I’d read:
Érdemes elsétálni szombatonként és vasárnaponként a balatonszárszói Kistehén Burger Étterembe, ahol első alkalommal megrendezett adventi vásáron finom forralt bort kortyolgatva a kezünkben végignézhetjük a kézművesek portékáit.
I believed that it would be worth a walk on Saturdays and Sundays at the Kistehén Burger Restaurant in Balatonszárszo, where you can sip a fine mulled wine at the Advent Fair for the first time and look through the craftsmen’s work. I was all set but I’d missed the part that it started at 2 pm. We were early and the place was deserted.
We did have a few celebratory cakes in Léda Cukrászda és Fagyizó as I’d received an SMS wishing me a Boldog Nevnaport (Happy Name Day) and I’d skipped breakfast. I loved the sign outside, which I think says that man doesn’t crave coffee or coffee houses, he craves friendship – and coffee is just an excuse. But obviously I was having difficulty translating, if not the words, the the intent.
Having struck out twice, we decided to head back to Keszthely where himself had seen a Ferris wheel lying flat on the ground last weekend. It simply had to be up and running a week later. He’s also seen market stalls being put up and my trusty guide assured me that
Az egy hónapig tartó keszthelyi adventi vásáron az idei évben számos meglepetéssel találkozunk. 47 ezer izzó, 53 hullócsillag és a 13 méteres városi karácsonyfa meghitt hangulatot varázsol a családi programokhoz.
So I was expecting a month-long advent fair (it had to have started) with 47,000 lights, 53 falling stars, and a 13-foot city Christmas tree. And a Ferris wheel. But again, we were too early. What is it about advent? On a normal Sunday the county would be buzzing by 9 a.m.
But we did run into Péter, the chap who did our renovation a couple of years back. He looked fit and tanned and I was surprised he recognised me underneath my stocking cap and hood. There wasn’t much of me to see. Did I mention it was cold? And we finally got the see the Csiga Parlament – a spectacular piece of work by Ilona Miskei who spent 14 years putting together 4.5 million Pannonian sea snails to make a model of the Hungarian Parlament building. Wow. Simply wow. Wow. Wow. And Wow. The model is 7 metres long and 2.5 meters tall. And it’s amazing. Really amazing. The shells are sorted by size – all 4.5 million them. Each one was handpicked by Ilona néni. It was worth every forint of the 550 ft (€1.66 / $1.87 / £1.40) entry fee just to finally see what was behind those billboards for Csiga Parlament.
If this was the silver lining in my Advent-less cloud, I’m grateful for it.