I have run into wonderful photos on the Internet countless times about a floating fishing village, which is surprisingly located in Hungary, not far from Budapest. One Friday afternoon, I finished work earlier and thought I should check out this photographer’s paradise myself. I wondered if the place is as beautiful as what I saw in the – apparently thoroughly retouched and filtered – images. With less than an hour’s drive from Budapest I reached Lake Bokod, Approaching the lake, the sight of the barriers was surprising, which, if that weren’t enough on its own, even inscriptions and proclaims called the attention it is a private area and no strangers are allowed to enter. This feeling strengthened by the sight of closed iron gates built on the piers. It seemed the village wants to isolate itself from the outside world by all available tools.
I just sat down on one of the gateless piers to enjoy the warm rays of September sun. I took out the cheesecake I had brought with me and decided to sink into the silence and moment. Suddenly swans appeared on the water, demanding my snack with loud hissing and head circles. When I gave them the last piece of it, a lady appeared on the terrace of the house at the end of the pier with a dry bread in her hand. We started to talk about general things and I asked her whether there are always so few people here. The place was almost completely extinct on weekdays, unlike on the weekends when tourists overwhelmed the lake. When it turned out that I write travel stories (thanks Esther for the professional PR), the lady invited us into their house to look around from terrace as well and see the whole lake from other perspective, which is actually the cooling water of the nearby power plant.
The water was needed to cool down the turbines of the Oroszlány Thermal Power Company (now Vértes Power Plant), built in 1961, so the factory was built here by the lake. There was a constant flow of hot water from the power plant to the lake, so it did not freeze in wintertime either. Recognizing the special features of the lake, people started to build tilt houses specifically for fishing in the ’60s. There are currently nearly 400 piers at Lake Bokod with housed at the end. The lady’s husband János, who was just fishing also joined the discussion and proudly shared with us that they are the oldest locals who live here since 1981.
Interrupting the story telling he runs out the prier as an empty wine bottle fastened around the twine indicated there is a bite. A small crucian, which John pulls out of the water with a professional movement and places in a bag. Maybe it will be for dinner with others if he has a good luck today. may not be making dinner out of it, he says, seeing how many fish are on the hook that day and whether he will feel like peeling the smaller ones. A retro but authentic poster hangs on the kitchen wall, the famous Hungarian movie called Afterlife that was filmed at Lake Bokod in 2013 in Bokod and features this house exactly. János shares the behind-the-scenes secrets with us: there is more house on the poster than in the reality. Just a graphic designer thought it would be better to replace the empty space with an extra house.
Not only the film Afterlife and the many photos of the tilt houses made the lake popular but also János personally contributed to the promotion of the fishing village. In 2012, a broadband internet advertisement was shot here by the New Zealand-based service company, called Flip, starring this elderly gentleman, namely János. As in life, he plays a fisherman in the film. How the company got here from New Zealand, or how János got to New Zealand is a good question. Even the famous Hungarian reporter Vujity Tvrtko made a TV coverage about it. Soon we say goodbye to János and thank him for the kind hospitality, we do not want to waste his time. Before we leave, we promise to send them the photos made of of them and Csöpi dog by post.
I’m wondering how things depend on quite small coincidences. On that particular Friday afternoon, I just wanted to admire the autumn sunshine and the view of the floating village. And I just got into a personal story that made me Lake Bokod more than a floating fishing village.