Lake Balaton has been in the centre of Hungarians’ attention for a long time. Some people love it while others hate it enough to want it gone, but one thing is for sure: it has inspired people to make grand plans throughout history and into the present day as well.
The plans to drain and dry out lake Balaton were prepared in 1776 by engineer-cartographer Sámuel Krieger. According to his vision, only a narrow channel would have remained for ships to use it. Amazingly, empress Mária Terézia approved the plans. The reason behind was the lack of land, a common issue at the time. Luckily, local land-owners rejected the plan, but the idea of draining the lake resurfaced again and again up until the 20th century.
In 1929, interesting plans surfaced, evidenced by the following quote from a contemporary newspaper:
“We want to turn Budapest into a city of baths, and the Hungarian sea to be on par with Europe’s best…”
Móric Pogány’s plans entitled “Atlantic City on the shore of Lake Balaton” outlined how the Hungarian lake could be turned into a beach metropolis. He envisioned modern medical buildings, theatres, stadiums, air docks, orangeries, and multi-storey beach cabins that could be accessed through tunnels. Apart from all this, he also wanted skyscrapers and sunny avenues to be built next to Lake Balaton as well as in the capital. In his time, his plans were rather shocking and had a sense of novelty about them, but in the end, they did not get realised.
In the same year, in 1929, Kuno von Keleblsberg, the Minister of Culture, had plans to establish a sports city on the shore of the lake, in Tihany. The large-scale plans included a huge sports centre, a swimming pool, and an athletics field. Special attention was dedicated to ensuring that university students could visit the sports city and have sufficient accommodation.
To christen it all, they planned to have a “Hungarian Olympics” in Tihany in 1931. Although the plans remained to be dreams, von Klebelsberg’s other plan of establishing a biology lab in Tihany did end up coming to life, successfully doing research connected to the lake to this day.
In 1943, the Olgyay brothers, Aladár and Viktor, who had been to the USA, made plans to create a Hungarian Monte Carlo on the shores of Lake Balaton.
They envisioned a water complex accompanied by numerous hotels, apartment buildings, and an open-air theatre, huge restaurants and cafés, a yacht house, a café on the water, as well as a medical hotel.
The plans also included a golf course, an outdoor cinema, and a new and improved water supply system. Despite being in the midst of the Second World War, the plans were received with great respect, and the building works started soon. However, after a hotel and a community centre, the plans were abandoned, and a very different chapter began for the area.
News about a bridge between Tihany and Szántód surfaced as early as in August 1912. The reason behind it was quite simple and understandable: at the time, there was no regular transportation between the two sides of the lake. The planned budget would have required six million crowns. The plans were soon scrapped for numerous reasons: the cost would have been far too much, and the bridge would have harmed both nature and the view to the lake. Instead, regular ferry services were introduced. Interestingly, plans of a bridge crossing over Lake Balaton resurfaced again in the 1960s.
Then, in 1972, the idea of an underground tunnel was suggested which would not spoil the view of the lake. The plans were inspired by the construction of the underground that was going on at the time in the capital.
Luckily, these plans were abandoned, too, and they stuck with improving the ferry services between the two sides.
These plans are now history, and they can be quite amusing when thinking about them nowadays. However, they also warn us that the most important thing to consider is the unity of the landscape and nature, and protecting the peace of those who live there as well as those who only visit periodically.