During our family holiday at Lake Balaton in Hungary, we took a day trip to Keszthely, an elegant resort on the shores of the Lake Balaton where the main tourist attraction is a pretty 18th century palace. The palace was built by the noble Festetics family and extended over a hundred years from 1745, on the site of a ruined castle. The palace is built in the baroque style and reminded me of a French chateau, complete with the ornate parterres behind the palace.
We arrived at Keszthely in the morning and not being quite sure where to go to find the palace, parked in front of a supermarket and small shops. After walking up a couple of streets, it wasn’t too difficult to find the palace, situated at the end of a long street lined with tourist shops, leading to the wrought iron palace gates at the end. It’s free to enter the palace grounds although you have to pay to get into the palace itself. As the queue was rather long and the children weren’t that bothered, we gave the palace tour a miss but continued past the ticket office and through the arch to the gardens at the back of the palace.
Here we found formal parterres filled with plants and flowers and there was plenty of space to wander around or sit on the grass. After a drink in the small outdoor cafe near a picturesque bridge over the stream, we felt we’d seen enough and walked out of the gates back into the town.
My eye was caught by the sign for the Marzipan museum and as I am a self-confessed Marzipan addict, I led the troops down the side streets following the signs like a bloodhound on the scent.When we arrived I had to admire the entrepreneurial efforts of the owners of this cake shop, that we would never have sought out had it not been for the proud museum title. Through the cake shop, the ‘museum’ was a room that was packed full of cabinets with ornately iced cakes and marzipan models, including one of the palace we’d just seen. This place would have been a cake decorator’s paradise and my daughter spotted a pink concoction covered with white butterflies that she instantly earmarked for her sweet 16 birthday party.
We read some fascinating factoids about the history of marzipan, namely that the German city of Lubeck under siege in the 13th century was saved from starvation when the resourceful bakers gathered together the honey and almonds available, combining them to make a sweet almond bread. Or did you know that a marzipan cake of almonds and honey was distributed in Venice on 25 April, the feast of St Mark, to help ward off evil and illness following an outbreak of plague?
After the cake decorator’s tour was over we stood in front of the cake counter to choose our marzipan cakes then sat in the small courtyard to eat them with a coffee. If you’d like to have a slice of nice cake then it’s worth seeking out the cake shop, although I think ‘museum’ is a rather grand title. A visit to Keszthely is easily combined with a swim at the nearby thermal lake at Heviz where you can float in the warm water surrounded by water lilies and elderly Hungarians with rubber rings – an experience that was both incongruous and typically Hungarian.
More Tales from Lake Balaton
Official Hévíz tourism website
Official Keszthely tourism website
We visited Hévíz while staying at Hullam Hostel at Révfülöp on the shores of Lake Balaton
Book Hullam Hostel in Revfulop with Hostel Bookers
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