The Tisza Lake and nearby
Take a walk on the wilder side
Albeit different, Lake Tisza still has much on offer, especially with nature trails and boating, and there is plenty to see and do regardless of season, though summer is the height of tourism. Some of the general facilities are more basic compared to elsewhere, but they are sufficient and this is not a matter of concern.
Therefore, to see yourself through, my advice is to abandon being a business-class traveller and be hosted by a local family at a traditional old-world house. Sleep in a wooden bed from bygone times and wake up to the sounds of birds. Breakfast on the terrace at sunrise and stock up on locally produced goods at a nearby market before making your eventual way to the lake or elsewhere within the great Hungarian “Puszta” Plain.
All such attributes as these are the real thing and make for a far less superficial holiday. Plus, by having time off this way it not only brings one closer to the local scene but also supports the community with much-needed funds.
Remarkably, this wonder is not a natural lake. There are several lakes, canals, backwaters and islands that surprisingly came together artificially. This tranquil area is also known as the Kisköre Reservoir, and as part of the ongoing Tisza River flood-control project there is a dam that was built in 1990, resulting in this immediate body of water. It is 27 kilometres long, has an average depth of 1.3 metres, a maximum depth of 17 metres and 43 square kilometres of islands.
The total area is roughly 127 square kilometres and directly connects with the River Tisza itself. Like the River Duna, the Tisza also passes through from one end of the country to the other. As for wildlife, one does not have to search too far, as this will find you. There are plenty of herons, storks, swallows and fish among the reeds and elsewhere within this reserve, as well as an abundances of wild flowers, butterflies and so forth. The flora and fauna within these surroundings are exceptional.
I have been to the Tisza Lake several times, but on my recent visit the birds were singing all day, as they overcame what minimal noise and congestion there was during this early spring. I and a few other passers-by took to cycling the Number 11 bicycle lane around the perimeter of the lake with much high scenery and minimal traffic or other interferences.
Tiszafüred township is the main centre that will set you up with everything relating to where-to-go information (see the website WOW Hungary) about hotels, camp-sites and other accommodation, and restaurants. There is a thermal spa, local pottery exhibits, a strand and much more. For those who have an interest in folk art, visit the Kiss Pál Museum and Gáspár Nyúzó Potter’s Regional House. Further around the lake is the more developed Abádszalók, which is dedicated to being a fine resort for the more leisurely holidaymakers. But for a brief introduction on where to begin with more active tourism, I recommend visiting the excelling Lake Tisza Ecocentre in Poroszló.
This is the first shoreline town one will come across when approaching from the eastbound M3 from Budapest and taking to the main Number 33 road until obvious arrival. Check out Tisza-tavi Ökocentrum (tiszataviokocentrum.hu), a large freshwater aquarium and eco-centre, when re-opening allows.
Where Lake Tisza, with its various islands, really wins over Balaton and Velence is with its abundance of very natural, unspoilt wide open water spaces and vegetation, similar in atmosphere to the Kis-Balaton nature reserve and even the more tremendous Duna Delta, which hosts a vast expanse of wildlife and water that is the “last juncture” before the Black Sea. To achieve the best Tisza Lake experience, take an authorised boat ride, with binoculars, around the lake, through the reeds, along the canals and so forth. Certainly the sunshine-filled lake, surrounded by mainly poplar trees, gives an idea of how Balaton and Valence must have been in many years gone by.
Lovely though the Tisza is, this flatlands region with minimal relief and breezes is the hottest part of the country, and the height of summer can be seriously overwhelming compared to surrounding areas. So if you take my earlier tip of seeking local accommodation, remember to take a fan and to rest during the afternoons. Or if you can’t stand the heat, stick to spring or autumn.
When it’s evening it’s another matter altogether as Lake Tisza turns to an illuminating Balkan-esque setting. Take a quiet stroll along the shoreline and observe the storks as they fly overhead from their nests, frequently situated on top of lamp-posts, into the sunset.
There is only one distinct matter to watch out for, and this concerns the very alluring water lilies and their profuse flowers. Although very attractive, as well as prolific, they produce seedlings that are “protected” by sharp spikes. Reaching out to them while swimming or accidently stepping on them results in a painful injury. So when in obvious line of sight, maintain distance at all times.
Nearby, when heading out towards the Puszta farmlands and sweeping fields, there is the renowned and better-known Hortobágyi National Park, 35 kilometres eastwards on the dusty Number 33 road, in the direction of Debrecen. The Hortobágyi National Park is an 800-square-kilometre area rich in folklore and cultural history.
This has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, and the grassy plain has copious quantities of cattle, horses and water buffaloes tendered by equally characteristic herdsmen, who are frequently dressed in traditional attire. This is Hungary’s largest protected area and is an important stopover site for migrating birds such as cranes and storks, and is very much worth a visit. See the website tourinform.hortobagy.eu
Thirty kilometres directly southwards from Tiszafüred, this time taking the Number 34 road in the direction of Berekfürdő, there is the remarkable “Secrets of the Soviet airbase” museum that hosts a splendid collection of artefacts, exhibits and photographs at what was a former Soviet airfield in Kunmadaras, 4 kilometres from Berekfürdő. It is a must-see for all those interested in Cold War history and military attire.
The main highlights are the Mi-24 combat helicopter and a MiG-21bis fighter jet that are on permanent display. The fighter has been restored to its original light-grey finish. The very informative staff will tell you much more, and this venture also comes highly recommended. See http://www.soviet-airforce.com/
Then to round off, take to birdwatching from the various look-outs. Enjoy sumptuous local cuisine that during the holiday season will consist of plenty of fish and paprika-related dishes alongside local wines, melons and ice-creams. Beyond this point do all else your way.
Although more budget-friendly but not as comfortable as Balaton, there is a new upmarket hotel near Tiszafüred. There may be others too on their way. But if you are willing to take a chance and forgo luxury tourism, as well as take to life in the slower lane, make your way to Lake Tisza. It will do very well as a rewarding holiday with a real difference.
Despite all the recent-time uncertainties relating to pandemic issues, certainly I shall return. This region will open up again for sure and hopefully attract vacationers who have become over-familiar and perhaps played out with those better-known lakes elsewhere.