FURED AND THE BALATON.
Excursion to Füred.—Inn at Márton Vásár.—Houses underground. — Style of Travelling. — Stuhlweissenburg. — Veszprim.— Minaret.— Bishop.— Treading out the corn.— Fured — our Reception — Theatre.—The Balaton. — Dinner Party. — Soirée.— Hungarian Beauty. — Ball.— Waltzing. — H___'s Adventures at Tihany. — Supper at the Restaurant's— its Consequences.—Serenade.—Gipsy Band.—Four-in-hand Driving. — Tihany. - Monastery. — Fossils. — Tradition of the Peasants.- Second Ball.— The Polonaise.— The Hungarian Dance.—Return.
ABOUT eighty miles south of Pest, on the shores of the Balaton, there is a pretty little bathing-place called hired ; which is worth the stranger's visiting, as well for the beauty of the neighbouring scenery, as for the pleasant and sociable society which commonly assembles there.
As the weather was fine, and nothing was going on .of particular interest at Pest, we determined to avail ourselves of it ; and, making our arrangements accordingly for a few days' excursion, started for Fured.
The road as far as Stuhlweissenburg, which
I was wrong in saying that there was nothing of interest save Count Brunswick's house ; for, a little further on, we observed several villages built under
Stuhlweissenburg, though formerly a Roman town, and a name of frequent occurrence in Hungarian history, contains nothing remarkable. The palace of the bishop, and some of the buildings connected with it, are handsome ; but the streets are badly paved, and the whole town disagreeably placed in the centre of a huge bog.
The next morning we passed through Palota, and while we were waiting for fresh horses walked round the ruins of the old castle, which a Count Zichy—one of the fifty-two Counts Zichy of Hungary—has had the good taste to repair and render habitable.
At Veszprim, the seat of another bishop, we stayed long enough to visit the handsome episcopal palace, which crowns a steep hill that formerly bore one of the most important fortresses of Hungary. This was for a long time in the possession of the Turks ; and contains a memorial of their residence, the more interesting from its rarity. One slender minaret, erected by the Turks above an old Gothic tower, still retains its elegant proportions. It now serves as a watch-tower against fire : where the Muezzim daily called the faithful Moslem to his spiritual duties, a watchman now warns his Christian brethren of danger to their worldly goods.
The town of Veszprim is chiefly supported by
trade, but not of a very high class. It contains few
good houses, but has less appearance of absolute
poverty about it than almost any town I know. A.
party of the better sort of country people, whom we
fell in with in this neighbourhood, gave us but a
bad character of the bishop and chapter of Veszprim as landlords. They complained sadly of their
oppression, and said that the peasants of the church
were worse off even than the peasants of the nobles,
for the masters of the former had no permanent
interest in their welfare, but tried to grasp as much
as they could during the short period of their enjoyment. A young girl of about eighteen years of age,
one of the party, observed rather caustically, " Ack
Gott ! Hungarian priests are not worse than any
other priests ; they are all tyrants when they have
As we pursued our journey, early as it was in the year, we had several opportunities of remarking the old custom of treading out the corn by oxen or horses, so often and so beautifully alluded to in sacred history. It is commonly performed in the open field where the corn is cut. A flat piece of ground is prepared, by paring and beating till it is quite hard, for the " threshing-floor ;" the corn is then strewn over it; and a boy with a long whip stands in the centre, and drives the animals round the ring till the whole is sufficiently cleaned. It is still considered in Hungary the part of a miser " to muzzle the ox that treaded' out the corn." I cannot explain the pleasurable feeling produced by an actual illustration of this kind, simple as it is, of images which have been familiar to the mind from our earliest infancy, but of which we have never felt half the force or beauty till actually before our eyes.
It was near evening as we came in view of the
Balaton ; and, if not grand, its shores have sufficient
hill and wood, as seen from this point, to give them
all the character of pretty lake scenery. Mired is a
bathing-place which has come into vogue only within the last few years ; and, except for the huge Húrnithischeu Hams, and a few other less pretending
We drove up directly to this hotel, and inquired if we could be admitted; but a very positive " No !"
While we were waiting till our quarters were
prepared for us, we were subjected to the " question" as unmercifully as any poor victims of the
inquisition ever were. A thousand odd queries as to
As our visitors disappeared, to scatter far and wide the news they had been so industriously collecting, we were left alone to discuss a late dinner, and laugh over the adventures of our arrival, which offered so pleasant a prospect for the rest of our visit. We were not doomed to rest long in quiet, however; for, almost before we could change our dusty dresses, it was time for the theatre, where we were promised a still nearer view of all those bright eyes which had so sparkled from behind the jalousies. Nor were we disappointed: a perfect galaxy of beauty seemed to have descended on that little theatre, and amply compensated for the horrors of what was called an opera. It was an Hungarian piece, taken from some scene of Hungarian history, to which was badly adapted the music of an indifferent German opera; the whole murdered in a most melancholy manner. A. severe headach soon drove me back to my own room ; but S remained, and was introduced to a number of the notables, with whom he came back in perfect ecstasies. Mr. Horváth invited us to meet a party at his house to dinner the next day.
On looking round us in the morning, we found
The Balaton, or Platten See, extends for fifty miles, nearly north-east and south-west ; its breadth is nowhere more than eight or nine miles, and in some places scarcely one ; its medium depth is about six fathoms. Nearly opposite Fared it opens into the river Sic', which communicates with the Danube, but is not navigable. It is difficult for an Englishman to imagine a fine inland lake of this kind, totally useless for the purposes of commerce or pleasure. I believe there is not a single trading barge, and certainly not one sailing-boat on the whole lake ! There never was a people who had less natural disposition to navigation than the Hungarians. Their rivers and lakes seem to be of more use to them when frozen than when fluid ; for, on observing to a gentleman of this neighbourhood how extraordinary it was that they did not use the lake as a means of communication, " Oh ! " he exclaimed, " we do in winter; we drive from one end to the other of it, as if it were a road."
The supply of fish from the Balaton seems almost without a limit, and is very various in kind. A great part of it is sent to the markets of Pest and Vienna. The Fogas (Peres lucioperca) is said to be found only in the Balaton, and its peculiar structure has rendered it well-known to the learned.42 The delicacy of its flavour, and the firmness of its texture, constitute it perhaps the best freshwater fish in Europe. The craw-fish of the Balaton, which in size is more like a small lobster than the poor little things which our brooks produce, is equally sought after as a delicacy by the gourmand.
Our dinner was as good and gay as the wellknown hospitality and good-humour of the host could make it. As usual in Hungary, it was at two o'clock ; and as usual, also, profuse in quantity, and excellent in quality. The ceremony of bowing, and among relations of kissing, on retiring to the drawing-room, was a novelty to us, of which we could not well understand the rationale. I imagine it must be the substitute for the Turkish "May your food be healthy to you ! " I believe it is common in many parts of Germany ; for I remember seeing a whole party of gentlemen kiss each other after a dinner party in Berlin, to my no small horror. By the by, kissing among men is almost as rare in Hungary as with us.
We separated at an early hour, and were invited
42Csaplovics says it is found also in the Nile, and in some parts of Siberia.
We did not think that the gentlemen, or at least the generality of them, appeared to equal advantage in the drawing-room with the ladies ; or perhaps we were not equally willing to do them credit.. Many of them looked shy and awkward, huddled together in groups in corners and door-ways, and seemed little inclined to mix in conversation with the ladies.
We could not help smiling at the stiffness of
some young officers, who entered the room very
much as if they were still at drill. Their uniform,
a white coat, as short as possible in the tail, as
much padded as possible in the breast, and unrelieved by epaulette or embroidery, and trowsers so
tight that they seemed in constant danger of suffocating the unhappy wearers, did not form the
most becoming costume in the world. When three
or four figures so attired marched into the centre
of the drawing-room, drew themselves up to "atten-
These rooms were those commonly occupied by the restaurateur of the place, and it was for his benefit the ball was given. The society was more mixed, and bore an air of far less elegance than that of Mr. Horváth's drawing-room; in fact, there were two or three coteries here, and we were lucky enough to have been taken up by the best. The waltz and galopade were when we arrived in full activity, in spite of the heat of a July evening. I never saw a people more decidedly fond of dancing. No introduction to the ladies is required, the first partner who offers is accepted ; they whirl two or three times round the room, and then the gentlemen set their ladies down, and away with others: scarce a word seems to be exchanged ; dancing is the object, and they never lose sight of it.
Except the dancers, the gentlemen stand in the
middle of the room, while the ladies sit in a row all
round. The sexes, except for the purpose of dan-
The style of waltzing practised by some of the ladies rather astonished our unaccustomed eyes. Strauss, and his waltzes, have introduced a quickness into the dance quite foreign to its origin, and not only destructive of all elegance, but very often of all decency too, for it requires an approximation of the persons far from reserved, at least in appearance. To make the matter still worse, some of the ladies laid their heads very unceremoniously on their cavaliers' shoulders, and sank with such an abandon into their arms, as they yielded to the giddy fascination of the dance, that, I must confess, my prudery was considerably shocked ! It is but fair to add, that many of the dowagers declared against the propriety of such tricks, and that not one of the young ladies we had met previously was guilty of them. The society of a bathing-place is rarely too select; and there was as much variety here as could be desired by the most liberal in such matters.
We made the acquaintance of some Italian offi-
When we got home from the ball, H___ had
not returned from Tihany, and we concluded that
he had availed himself of the hospitality of the
monastery ; but his hungry look, and call for breakfast, as he awoke us the following morning, were
pretty good proofs that he had not tasted of the
church's fare. It appears the holy brothers have
been so much tormented by curious visitors from
Füred, that, for the last year or two, they have
closed their doors against all corners. Luckily, a
poor carpenter took pity on H___'s melancholy
situation, and shared with him his meagre dinner.
As evening drew on, however, H___ had discovered some very picturesque peasants, whom he persuaded to sit to him ; and quite forgetting, in his
delight, that the sun will set, and daylight pass
away, he found himself without shelter in a dark
night, and at some miles from Füred, without having once thought where he was to lay his head.
The friendly carpenter came to his aid a second
time, and offered him the best shelter his cottage
could afford. It was a very poor one, but there was
no choice, and H gladly accepted the offer.
When they reached the door, the wife and children
were already asleep. A bed, however, was soon got
A stroll on the promenade between the hours of
ten and eleven o'clock, which capricious fashion has
fixed upon as the only proper time for that exercise
at Füred, and a swim in the lake, served to pass the
morning. The baths are wooden sheds extending
into the lake, and open towards the water ; we were
forbidden, however, to transgress beyond the rail,
because, by so doing, we might have seen into all
the other sheds, and the Baroness -- was still
in one of them. We were determined on a swim,
however ; so, waiting very quietly till this lady—a
Some visits, a stroll in the pleasant woods, the theatre and a public supper at the restaurateur's, finished the evening; the supper, however, must not pass without a word or two. In order to support the restaurant, it was determined that all the ladies, instead of supping in their own apartments, should adjourn to this place at least once a week ; and this happened to be the night. A number of persons were already there, but to our no small astonishment, in two distinct parties,—the ladies at one end of the room, and the gentlemen at the other. Supposing that this was some national custom, I believe the fear of offending would have banished us in like manner, much as it was against our inclinations, had not a little hint from Madame set us at liberty, by informing us that it was only because the gentlemen found their own society more agreeable than that of the ladies, that they congregated together.
Before the ladies had finished supper the gentlemen had already begun their pipes, and the whole
room was soon in a cloud of smoke. As soon as
the music struck up, a scene of such riot commenced,-some were dancing, some singing, others
smoking and applauding,—that I was heartily glad
Many of these ladies, though Hungarians, were
inhabitants of Vienna, and it so happened that I
had a short time previously expressed my astonishment that they did not prefer their own capital to
that of a country which they affected to look down
upon. This was too good an opportunity of running
down Hungarian society, and excusing their desertion of their own capital, to be lost : " Such," said
the Countess, "are the scenes Hungarian ladies
must submit to if they will frequent Hungarian
society ; and yet you are astonished that we should
seek a more civilized circle, even though it be in
the capital of Austria!" I urged, though I must
confess the scenes of the past hour had rendered
my pleading but very feeble, " That their own absence was probably the cause of much of this rudeness ; that it was always the privilege of woman to
civilize our coarser sex ; and that it only depended
on themselves to banish smoking and such abominations from their drawing-rooms whenever they
pleased." Don't believe anything of the kind,"
she answered; " such men easily find consolation for
the want of our society, and they prefer their pipes
to our drawing-rooms at any time; and, besides, the
woman who should attempt such a thing would be
exposed to neglect and insult of every kind."
" But surely in the capital—" The capital is
I could answer nothing, for I had seen but little of the country, and was talking with those who ought to have known it well; and we returned to our rooms with no favourable opinion of Hungarian society. The reader will be able to judge for himself, I trust, ere we part, how far such opinions were just : but I may as well warn him that many of the persons by whom this scene was acted were country squires, neither the highest nor most polished of their order; and that the persons from whom these remarks proceeded were absentees, totally ignorant of Pest, and anxious to find excuses for neglecting what is now beginning to be considered a duty,—a residence in the country from whence they derive their immense revenues. I have felt myself bound to relate this incident, because it did occur; but I should be unjust did I not say that it contrasted strongly with the manners we observed in every other society we entered, and that it required nothing less than the most rooted prejudice to draw from it the conclusions just related.
We were talking over these matters, and refilling
our meerschaums for the last pipe,—mind, I am far
from objecting to a pipe in its proper place,—when
a wild burst of music came from the shores of the
It would be ungrateful, while lauding the music, were we to keep silence as to those who made it. The Mired band was really a very good one, and it surprised us not a little to hear that it was composed entirely of gipsies ; yes, that same thieving, lying, music-loving race, of whom we so often see a stray member in our own villages scraping a jig on a three-stringed fiddle, is found here, too, and busy in the same idleness. But instead of strumming at village wakes with country bumpkins for their auditors, we found them here in stately festivals, ministering to the pleasures of the nobles of the land ; and, instead of a crazy fiddle, a well-conditioned orchestra might have been formed out of the gipsy band.
The leader was not the least remarkable of the
party, for, though not more than fourteen years of
age, he was a most accomplished violinist. He had
studied for some months under Strauss in Vienna,
and had received high commendations from his
master; but what Strauss certainly had not intended
to teach, though it was no slight clement of his
pupil's success, was a most perfect imitation of those
A great bustle was heard next morning in the quiet streets of Mired ; horns were sounding, horses neighing, and wheels rattling to and fro at an unaccustomed rate. It appeared that all this was in preparation for a driving party. There were not less than twenty fours-in-hand here, and the greater part of them were on this day to turn out. But, oh ! what erroneous ideas are conveyed by words. Twenty fours-in-hand ! Glorious reminiscences of the palmy clays of the old club torment one's fancy at the very sound ; alas ! the sight of them was quite enough to banish any such visions. The common Hungarian four-in-hand is a low britchska, or caléche, ill painted, ill cleaned, and drawn by four long-tailed horses about fourteen hands and a half high, with thin legs, bare bones, and devoid of any one point of beauty.
The harness, though of the worst quality and in
the worst state, is often ornamented with ribbons,
and has generally long thongs of leather hanging
loosely from the head, shoulders, and croup, as low
as the knees. The reins are all mixed together in
When a first-rate Hungarian coachman starts for a drive, before he takes up his master he blows a horn, flogs his horses well into spirits, gallops them half a dozen times round the court, throws them on their haunches, and, when he has worked them into a foam, dashes up to the door at full speed, to the applause and admiration of surrounding Jehus. The dress of the coachman—of course I speak of the servants — was singular enough to our eyes : he generally wears a dirty hussar uniform,—the jacket off, however, in summer, and hanging over one shoulder,—hessian boots, and spurs, with a broad-brimmed low-crowned hat ornamented with a bunch of flowers or feathers.
Except for this driving party, I do not remember to have seen the gentlemen at Fured engaged in any one amusement, save that of lounging about in groups and smoking their meerschaums. The pipe is rarely out of their mouths, and appears to supply the place of those athletic exercises in which we so much delight.
An excursion to Tihany was planned for this evening. After a drive of two or three miles along the
We were shown over it, though with a sulky and distrustful air ; but there was nothing to excite a remark in its long cold passages and simple church. The views from the windows over the lake are fine ; the kitchen was large, and seemed well supplied ; and among the cooks were the prettiest peasant girls we had seen in the whole country round.
A number of children came out from the cottages, and brought us handfuls of a fossil which is found in great quantities at the foot of the limestone rock on which the monastery stands. Beudant says they are broken shells of an oyster common in the Jura lime ; I dare not dispute the matter on my own responsibility,43 but I cannot help doubting it.
43Mr. Sowerby, to whom a specimen has been shown, says that, as far as he can judge from such a fragment, he thinks it a part of a mytilus, to a fresh-water species of which it certainly bears a strong resemblance.
The peasants have a way of their own to account for them ; they call them " goats' hoofs," to which they have a most extraordinary resemblance, and attribute their origin to the reign of King Bela.
Round the greater part of Tihany the limestone
rocks present a craggy cliff to the lake, while in
the interior the surface is formed like the crater
of a volcano, the centre of which is occupied by a
small lake. I thought too I perceived traces of
volcanic action in some of the rocks, and I should
Another ball, given by two gentlemen, concluded our visit to Füred. It differed little from the former, except that the company was more select, and the supper much better. It was opened by a polonaise, a solemn kind of promenade, in which every one is expected to take part. Each gentleman, touching the ends of a lady's fingers, marches with her to slow music for two or three minutes, and then, yielding her to the gentleman before him, takes the partner of the one behind ; and so on in turn with the whole party, so that in time every gentleman has danced with every lady. To men short of conversation it is a most convenient arrangement. I tried the effect of making the same observation — of course a very brilliant one — to every passing lady, and amused myself with watching the different answers it produced.
We had an opportunity this evening of seeing
the Hungarian national dance very well performed.
A lady and gentleman stand up, and dance opposite
each other : the gentleman commences a variety
of contortions, gradually increasing from calm to
wild, jumping about in all manner of forms, and
making innumerable steps; while the lady seems
to keep up a sort of running accompaniment, very
modest in its gestures, and always retiring as her
We remained at the ball till day-light was peeping through the shutters, when the horses were announced as in waiting. We then bade adieu to the kind and hospitable friends we had met, drank bumpers of Champagne to the toasts some of the wilder spirits insisted on proposing, and started at last amidst a flourish of music, which they had brought out to do honour to our departure. Our journey back to Pest produced nothing worth recording.
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