Comradely greetings from Lake Balaton

We have already rested in cosy restaurant gardens sipping beer, watered wine or “Bambi” and walked under the shady trees of Margaret Island, visited the famous baths of the Monarchy, so now it’s time to go on holiday. How about Lake Balaton? Many of us first remember – besides the breathtaking coast – the “Zimmer Frei” apartments, the rammish smell of the corn on the cob – “maisbitte” – and the typical buildings of company resorts. Relaxing can be pleasant not only on the beach. Mountain lovers and rural thermal-bath-goers can also spend some nostalgic moments with the postcards and photos of our selection.

One of the preconditions of good quality and quantity work is the contented employee. For that, employers should ensure time for recreation, naturally. During the Kádár era, the main pillars of tourism were trade unions, public institutions and company resorts operated by production cooperatives. But providing weary workers with holiday resorts was not the idea of the Kádár policy first. The holiday-resort-construction fever started between the world wars, for example on the Balaton coast.

The heyday of Balaton

Balatonaliga - 	Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDIt was the favourite holiday place of the aristocracy as of the 19th century, with Anna balls, steam-boats and hydroplanes. Constructions on the coast accelerated when a highway was built in the 1930s, thus Balatonfüred, Siófok and even Keszthely became accessible from Budapest. The so-called ‘penny-trains’ also started running. They left early and came back late so that bathers could spend almost the whole day at the lake.

The Kádár-period of Balaton

Csepel Üdülő, Siófok -  Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDThe opportunities provided by the lake were re-discovered during the Kádár era. Small bungalows and SZOT (National Council of Trade Unions) holiday resorts were built one after the other. The famous resort in Balatonaliga was the Hungarian communist elite’s big favourite, because it was accessible by a one-hour drive from Budapest. Communist leaders Mátyás Rákosi, György Aczél and János Kádár also had villas there. You had to be “somebody” to be allowed to spend your holiday there, as armed wards guarded the comrades’ repose. The high season was over in August in Aliga I, but the highest-ranking comrades could travel to Aliga II at any time. Political party resorts were also built in Arács, Balatonföldvár, Tihany and in the infamous Balatonőszöd.
Balatonszéplak. Ezüstpart SZOT üdülő Marton László (1925) Női torzójával -Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDThe trade union’s resort Csepel in Siófok was a popular place for workers, as well as the Ezüstpart in Balatonszéplak and the Sanatorium in Balatonfüred. Most of the resorts were modern and well-equipped; families got full board for a minimal amount of money.
Employees arrived every year in two-week turns. If somebody had a low-season holiday, they paid attention to giving them high-season period the following year. Though there was a counter example too, when workers of Martfű Shoe Factory did not receive their “referrals” to the resort, so they encamped on the lakeshore.
Many programs were available: parties in the evening, organised trips next day, thus nobody was hurt when they had to borrow the table-tennis rackets every time.
Another phenomenon is closely related to that: the reduced-rate holiday opportunity for children. Most vacations for children were organised by the pioneer movement, like the pioneer camp in Csillebérc.
Exhausted comrades could relax not only on beaches, but also in the mountains: at the Grand Hotel in Galyatető in the Mátra, in the still popular city of Hajdúszoboszló in the countryside, in Mátrafüred or in the legendary Mecsek SZOT resort. Although most of the hotels exist only in our memories today, the comrades’ greetings from these places are still alive on thousands of postcards.

Translated by Zita Aknai


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