Ridikul.hu reports that Kis-Balaton has been made quite popular by István Fekete, since two of his famous novels are set there, Tüskevár (English title: Thorn Castle) and Téli berek (which has not been translated yet, but its title could be “Winter Grove”). However, the mouth of the river Zala is much more than literature coming true.
Fiction and reality
István Fekete wrote both of his novels set in the grove having good local knowledge, but if someone is looking directly for the thorn castle, they will get disappointed. Although there is a locality called Thorn Castle, it is far away from the real setting of the novel. The castle mentioned in the novel cannot be found in the Kis-Balaton region, but in the marsh near Főnyed, where one can find a small island with the remains of a castle. Apart from this, the reeds, the region of the mouth of the river Zala, the rich flora and fauna of international importance are all aspects of reality, just like the millions of mosquitoes. The Kis-Balaton Landscape Protection Area, as being part of the Balaton Uplands National Park is specially protected. The yearly schedule according to which different parts of the region can be visited (with an official companion) are regulated by the National Park. So if you would like to sit around on the Diás Island, in the reed hut of Matula, or in the István Fekete Memorial Room – which were built due to the novel – first you should find out if they are actually visitable. According to the plans, a new visitor center, a playground and an interactive botanical path will be waiting for the visitors, as from 2019 onwards three times more visitors are expected.
Nearly 300 bird species can be found on the 7000 hectare territory, though many of them do not live here permanently, they just have a rest or change their feathers in the region full of fish. There is no danger of running out of fish: catfish can grow to weigh fifty or even a hundred kilograms in these waters, but many pikes, carps and crucian carps can be found here as well. If we want to see the bustling life of Thorn Castle, we can find it here: it is worth watching the flocks of greylag gooses and grey herons with binoculars, looking for the footprints of otters, deer, foxes or even golden jackals, and in the meantime recalling the statements of the novel about the cruel but just and devoted world of nature.
When Kis-Balaton (meaning “little Balaton”) was once big Balaton
Until the end of the 1800s Kis-Balaton and Balaton have not been separated, since the ponds being formed in the region of the mouth of river Zala became united into the big lake. However, it has changed when the construction of the railway and the Canal Sió started, and the water level of the lake was decreased by meters. The water level of Kis-Balaton also decreased and it caused the loss of the water-filtering function of the mouth of river Zala. Only in the late 1970s was the Kis-Balaton filled up again artificially and the damaged flora and fauna of the groves were finally restored. What we thus see today is the river Zala flowing in a constructed bed, and a restored world which became occupied by nature once again. Fortunately, most of the animals came back to their habitats, and the Kis-Balaton is thriving again. This is thanks partly to István Fekete, who introduced it to the whole country, and partly to environmentalist Jakab Vönöczky Schenk, who fought for and worked out the observation, protection and ringing of the local birds.
Photo: Wiki Commons