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Dining with Pigeons in Southwestern Hungary

Unlike in Irish, the names of Hungarian villages and towns and cities don’t always translate into English. On the odd occasion that they do, they interest me more than usual. A little irrational, I know.

Galambok is a village in southwestern Hungary about 197 km (122 miles) from Budapest. It’s much closer to the Kis-Balaton than to the Balaton itself but that said, it has its own lake and is in little need of either of them. With a population of about 1200 or so, it holds its own among the villages in the area. What caught my attention initially is that the word galambok in Hungarian translates into pigeons in English and if you didn’t know this, the signs entering the village will tell you. Google recognises the English translation with unfortunate results: the village website, when you translate it using Google Translate, talks of the number of pigeons (68) who lost their lives during WWII.

Hungarians like their pigeons. Our village has an annual bird display. It was just about the only time in my life I didn’t buy a raffle ticket and felt sorry for the dad whose kid won first prize. I was seriously impressed with the different types of pigeons on show. They’re not all of the statue-decorating family. Some are quite elegant if you can imagine using that word to describe what others not-so-lovingly call sky rats.

But back to Galambok. The village made the news recently because, during a major storm, the dam between the upper and lower lakes collapsed and about 300 residents had to be evacuated. Other than that, its claim to fame is that it’s a village you pass through if you’re going from Zalakomar to Zalakaros. But if you’re touring the area in search of respite from the crowded Balaton beaches and don’t fancy staying in one of the spa hotels in nearby Zalakaros, then Galambock is worth checking out.

Legend has it that it got its name by accident. Travellers approaching the village, one that sits higher than most in the area, thought the tiny whitewashed houses looked a lot like pigeons perched on a hill. Someone must have said it aloud for it to catch on. A meme of yore.

This pre-Bronze-Age fortified hilltop village was at various stages home to Romans,  Goths, Longobards,* and Celts. I was happy to see the latter as it goes some way to explaining the strange affinity I have with the place. According to the village website, they unearthed a Celtic bowl there in 1992.

Why I like it so much though is because of the Galamboki Halászcsárda, a panzió (guesthouse) with a restaurant open to the public. It underwent a complete renovation earlier this year and still looks as if it’s been there for years. At least the restaurant does. They have excellent freshwater fish on the menu along with the Hungarian meat staples of chicken, duck, and pork. Eating on the terrace is like being in someone’s living room. Menus are in German and Hungarian but thankfully, the lovely BC has been drilling me on my Hungarian menu vocabulary so we managed, except for a blip when I thought ropogós was a type of fish 🙁

Galamboki Halászcsárda

The restaurant terrace looks out over the lake, with its fishing docks and fishermen. They rent rods and such and you can hire a dock, too. Am sure they do fishing licences as well. They also have bicycles so it’s a perfect base for an active weekend. I was surprised at the variety of guests: apart from the expected Hungarian-reg cars, there were visitors from Slovenia, Germany, and Croatia, too. It’s a popular spot. Open year-round, it’s bookable online for a two-night minimum stay. I’ll be watching to see if there’s a party planned for Szilveszter (Hungarian New Year). In the meantime though, I plan on becoming a semi-regular. It was the best fish I’ve had yet in Hungary (classic case of plate envy – I ordered pork but the bite I had of himself’s fish was delicious).

Fishing on Galambok lake

Galambok lake

 

*The Longobards, aka the Lombards or “longbeards”, were a polyethnic confederation of barbarians that created a kingdom in the area of modern Austria and western Hungary in the sixth century. Interesting article The Longobards: Genetic Study Sheds Light on Mysterious Barbarians Who Ruled Italy after Fall of Rome

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