Balaton / Photo: Flickr - Georg
Balaton – the Sea of Hungary
Since Hungary is a landlocked country, its Lake Balaton is a national treasure and an alternative to the sea. It is the largest lake in Hungary and one of the biggest in Europe. Balaton is located only 1.5h by train from Budapest. There are at least 100 points on the lake which are suitable for swimming, and among them the most famous beaches are Balatonboglar, Zamardi, and Fonyod. The water at these beaches is very suitable for swimming in terms of temperature, and it attracts many local and foreign tourists. People most frequently go to Siofok and Tihany, two small coastal towns on the lake. They are the main tourist spots on the lake, and both offer entertainment and accommodation facilities. Siofok and Tihany offer great promenades, clean sand beaches, bars along the shore, and many hotels. Besides swimming you can rent a sailboat and have a more active adventure on the lake. If you want more privacy you can get out of the towns and search for empty beaches that are hidden away and far from the crowds and swim there as well.
Moreover, while spending time at Lake Balaton you can find other activities. Siofok, for example, it is perfect for visiting nice pubs and bars, drinking Hungarian beer, and clubbing at night. So if you are looking for active nightlife like what you might find on the sea, Siofok is a great alternative for you. Tihany is a beautiful old town on the Balaton shore. Most of its architecture dates from the 18th century and is in baroque style. There are old churches in town and a castle on top of the hill above the town. Climb up the hill enjoy the view over the town and the lake. In Tihany there are wine cellars where you can look for and buy the best Hungarian wine. Remember that you are in the land of food lovers, so you this chance to eat amazing fresh water fish or goulash at one of many restaurants on the shore.
During the summer there are many events for young people such as music festivals by the water. Also there are competitions in swimming and sailing. So get engaged in any of Balaton’s summer offerings. Spending a summer holiday at Balaton will be as rewarding as one on the seashore.
Titisee / Photo: Shutterstock
Titisee, a German oasis in the Schwarzwald
In heart of Germany’s Black Forest, at an altitude of 840m, lies the beautiful mountain lake known as Titisee. Frozen during the winter and not too warm during the summer, Titisee is an attractive spot for lovers of lakes and mountains. Titisee-Neustadt is the major town on the lake, and is easily accessible from any major German city. There is a promenade along the shore in the town and also a few beaches. If you wish, you can swim at the beaches in town or you can visit beaches which are beyond the city limits and which are in forested settings. Imagine a narrow beach where you swim and sit in the shadow of pines instead of palms. Titisee-Neustadt offers other water activities such as rowing. You can rent a boat and take a self-piloted cruise over the lake. You must definitely visit Titisee-Neustadt’s old town with its typical German architecture and medieval buildings. In addition to spending time on the lake or in town, you can rent a bike and ride along picturesque paths through the forest. Moreover, you can hike through the Black Forest and experience the full beauty of the area. Maybe the nightlife in Titisee-Neustadt isn’t the best, but there are definitely a few great beerhouses.
Neusiedl am See / Photo: Flickr - Neo_II
Neusiedl, the jewel of the Austrian lakes
Austria is another landlocked European country with amazing lakes which offer alternatives to the sea coast. One of the biggest lakes is Neusiedl, which lies on the Austro-Hungarian border and is only 45 minutes from Vienna or Bratislava. The primary tourist part of the shore has been beautifully developed and equipped for the summer season. There is a long sand beach from which you can enter the lake. While resting up from swimming or rowing, you can sit at a large bar and drink iced coffee or iced tea. Large parts of the lake are not dedicated to swimming, but you can visit them by walking or boating and experience amazing flora and fauna. Most of fauna here are storks, cranes, ducks, and pelicans. So take a good position on shore or in a boat and take pictures of these interesting creatures. While spending your holiday on Neusiedl, a must is to visit the old town of Eisenstadt, located less than 30min from the lake. It is a beautiful, typical old Austrian town. The most important sight in the town is the palace of the Esterhazy, the former Hungarian aristocratic family. You will have a chance to see the palace and its beautiful park. If you want to explore further, take a bus to Vienna and Bratislava. A holiday at Neusiedl also gives you a chance to visit the two closest capitals in Europe, which both offer a wealth of history, culture, and entertainment.
Ohrid / Photo: Flickr - By Inge
Ohrid, an alternative to the sea - Macedonian style
People from Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania know Ohrid as nature’s gift to Macedonia, to compensate it for not having a sea coast. It certainly looks like that – not just because of the size of the lake, but also because of the extensive tourist facilities, which remind visitors of the seaside. From Skopje it takes only 3.5 hours by bus to reach Ohrid, where the most important tourist center is Ohrid town. Spending a vacation in Ohrid doesn’t just give you a chance to be physically active and swim, but also to explore a town that is rich in its cultural heritage. Next to the town are major beaches, the most famous one being Ljubanishta beach, which is the largest one as well. Ljubanishta is always full of people at any time during the day. You can rent a paddle boat or a kayak and explore the lake more extensively than you can by swimming. If you want a less crowded beach with a less developed tourist infrastructure, you have to go a bit further from town to Labino beach, which is almost always empty and is one of most beautiful beaches at Ohrid. I advise you to wait for the magnificent sunrise there. If you like fishing, there are also possibilities around town where you can rent fishing equipment and try your luck. In addition to enjoying the shore and the lake, you must visit Ohrid town, which was one of major religious and cultural centers of medieval Bulgaria and Serbia. The Ottomans left their mark, too. There are many medieval churches built in Byzantine style in and around town. Beyond the town you must visit an 11th century fortress built by the Bulgarian emperor Samuil. While walking through the town you will pass through narrow streets among Ottoman-style buildings. There are many souvenir shops where you can buy handmade crafts and pottery. Also souvenir shops which offer stunning paintings, homemade honey, and brandy. In Ohrid there are many restaurants which offer amazing Macedonian traditional food, about which I have written previously. When night falls, Ohrid doesn’t sleep during the summer season. Like Balaton, this is another lake with a rich and varied nightlife. There are many open door bars and clubs next to the lake which are designed in Mediterranean style, and you have a feeling that you are on the seaside. Drink a Mojito or a Blue Lagoon, and Ohrid will remind you of the sea even more.
Whichever destination you choose, believe me, you can’t go wrong.