It’s a few minutes after noon on the beach at Hungary’s holiday destination Lake Balaton and some families are already packing their stuff to return to their small rented houses. Although there are many food stalls and restaurants, they opt for a home-cooked lunch to save money.
The beach – lined with towels and colourful inflatable unicorns in the grass – becomes deserted for a few hours. The noise of children playing, adults gossiping under the willow trees and waves hitting the rocks disappears. When families return in the afternoon, many walk with cooler bags in hand, bringing sandwiches and cans of beer.
“We are a family of four. Even with a family discount, the daily entrance fee to the official beach is eight euros. One lángos (deep-fried dough with cheese and sour cream) costs five euros. I would probably have to spend 50 euros there every day,” explains a beachgoing dad who is staying at the free beach of Siófok, a bit further away from town.
In a country where the average salary is 972 euro per month and inflation in June was still above 20 per cent, that is a lot of money.
“For the same price, I can go and swim in the sea,” explains 39-year-old Anna on why she chose Croatia this summer. Such costs leave the future uncertain for Lake Balaton.