Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of its foremost tourist destinations. As Hungary is landlocked (its coastline was severed after World War I), Lake Balaton is often affectionately called the "Hungarian Sea". The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalized SiĂł is the only outflow.The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. BalatonfĂźred and HĂŠvĂz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it wasn't until the late 19th century when landowners, with their vines destroyed by lice, began building summer homes to rent out to the burgeoning middle classes.In Hungarian, the lake is known as Balaton. This name derives from the Slavic blato meaning 'mud' or 'swamp' (from earlier Pan-Slavic boltŃno), and has no meaning in Hungarian. Slavic prince Pribina began to build in January 846 a large fortress as his seat of power and several churches in the region of Lake Balaton, in a territory of modern ZalavĂĄr surrounded by forests and swamps along the river Zala. His extremely well fortified castle and capital of Balaton Principality that became known as Blatnohrad or Moosburg ("Swamp Fortress") served as a bulwark both against the Bulgarians and the Moravians.The Romans called the lake Lacus Pelso ("Lake Pelso"). Pelso derives from a local name for the lake, perhaps from the Illyrian language, as the Illyrians once populated the region. Paleolinguists[who?] surmise that "Pelso" meant "shallow" in Illyrian; this deduction is based on a surmised Proto-Indo-European root *pels-.The German name for the lake is Plattensee. It is unlikely that the Germans named the lake so for being shallow since the adjective platt is a Greek loanword that was borrowed via French and entered the general German vocabulary in the 17th century. It is also noteworthy that the average depth of Balaton (3.2m) is not extraordinary for the area (cf. the average depth of the neighbouring Neusiedler See, which is roughly 1m).Lake Balaton affects the local area precipitation per annum. The area receives approximately two to three inches (5â7 cm) more precipitation than most of Hungary, resulting in more cloudy days and less extreme temperatures. The lake's surface freezes during colder winters. The microclimate around Lake Balaton has also made the region ideal for viniculture. The lake, acting as a mirror, greatly increases the amount of sunlight that the grapevines of the region receive. The Mediterranean climate, combined with the soil (containing volcanic rock), has made the region notable for its production of wines since the Roman period two thousand years ago.
While a few settlements on Lake Balaton, including BalatonfĂźred and HĂŠvĂz, have long been resort centres for the Hungarian aristocracy, it was only in the late 19th century that the Hungarian middle class began to visit the lake. The construction of railways in 1861 and 1909 increased tourism substantially, but the post-war boom of the 1950s was exponentially larger.
Operation FrĂźhlingserwachen was conducted in the region of Lake Balaton in March 1945, being referred to as "the Lake Balaton Offensive" in many British histories of the Second World War. The battle was a German attack by Sepp Dietrich's 6th Panzer Army between 6 March and 16 March 1945, and in the end, resulted in a Red Army victory. Several Ilyushin Il-2 wrecks have been pulled out of the lake after having been shot down during the latter months of the war.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Balaton became a major tourist destination for ordinary working Hungarians and especially for subsidised holiday excursions for union members. It also attracted many East Germans and other residents of the Eastern Bloc. West Germans could also visit, making Balaton a common meeting place for families and friends separated by the Berlin Wall until 1989. The collapse of Communism after 1991 and the dismantling of the unions saw the gradual but steady reduction in numbers of lower-paid Hungarians.
 Tourist information
The major resorts around the lake are SiĂłfok, Keszthely, and BalatonfĂźred. SiĂłfok is known often as the "Party Capital of Hungary", which attracts many young partygoers in summer due to its numerous large clubs. ZamĂĄrdi, a resort town on the southern shore, is the site of Balaton Sound, a major electronic music festival since 2007. Keszthely is the site of the famous Festetics Palace and BalatonfĂźred is a historical bathing town home to the annual Anna Ball.
The high tourist season extends from June until the end of August. The average water temperature during the summer is 25Â°C, which makes bathing and swimming pleasant. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake. Many resorts have artificial sandy beaches and all beaches have step access to the water. Other tourist attractions include sailing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as visiting the countryside and hills, wineries on the north coast, and nightlife on the south shore. The Tihany Peninsula is a historical district. Badacsony is a famous volcanic mountain and wine-growing region as well as a lakeside resort. The lake is almost completely surrounded by separated bike lanes to facilitate bicycle tourism.
Visitors of Balatonkenese can enjoy the gastronomic, traditional events.
Although the peak season at the lake is the summer, Balaton is also frequented during the winter, when visitors go ice-fishing or even skate, sledge, or ice-sail on the lake if it freezes over.
Balaton was served by SĂĄrmellĂŠk International Airport (Fly Balaton) until 2009.
Chief resorts include: Badacsony - BalatonalmĂĄdi - BalatonboglĂĄr - BalatonfĂźred - Balatonlelle - FonyĂłd - Keszthely - SiĂłfok - Tihany - Vonyarcvashegy
February 25th, 2012
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