cheap accommodations and finally found a rundown apartment building that was something between a halfway house and a mental asylum. The entire time we scoured the city, not a soul was to be found, except for the occasional elderly gentleman on a park bench or lonely tires of a stray car. This place was a ghost town. It quickly occurred to us what had happened. We arrived in the beginning of September, not more than a week after school started session for the entire country. This place is famous for its summer beach parties, raucous nightlife and youthful population, but once the semester starts again everyone flocks back home and the towns shut down for the season. Smiling to ourselves and shrugging our shoulders ambivalently, we took the opportunity to have the lake all to ourselves for the next couple days. It was some welcome downtime after our hectic and hedonistic lifestyle in Budapest. We strolled the boardwalk by the pier, fed swans and picnicked on the grassy shores of the lake, explored nearby hillside towns with sweeping views of the blue-green panorama and hiked into the woods only to
rest comfortably under the afternoon shade of willow trees. It was a peaceful time for reflection and recuperation, and both were experienced in full. Thoughts of life, love, home and heart filled my mind. Words rolled out effortlessly on paper and inspiration from the past few days seized me and wouldn’t let go. Sitting alone in the woods with only the sound of nature and the rustle of air through the trees, I closed my eyes and let it wash over me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way. A long time since I’ve even been able to allow myself to feel this way. Long lingering months spent in pursuit of self reflection and experiencing the world with open eyes has changed me. I didn’t even notice it until it was there, staring me in the face with dark brown eyes and soft olive skin. Awakening me to fires that lay dormant, lighting my soul with a passion like never before. It’s redeeming and inspiring to know that’s still out there, somewhere amidst the millions of faceless strangers and unexplored places, waiting for a like minded soul
to come sweeping through the door and show all of the beauties of living and the merits of the world. I was lucky enough to have found it here, a thousand miles from home, even in the briefest moment of time and the unknown future that fate brings. All these thoughts swirled around in my head as the russet tones of fall and scent of change in the air echoed the shifting seasons in my heart. We climbed down from our hillside haven, strolled the cobblestone streets back to where we came from and followed the setting sun west across the still waters. One more night in solitude and silence. One more night to close my eyes and see without sight. One more night here by the shores of Lake Balaton, where a piece of myself was set free to wander and never came home amidst the grass and trees.
After parting company with Kitti and her family, we decided to stay rural and explore the rest of the Hungarian countryside. Heartfelt goodbyes and longing looks were exchanged even though we knew we'd see each other again soon. Splitting ways in Budapest, we said farewell and boarded another train South to Lake Balaton. One of the largest lakes in central Europe and home to a thriving vacation and local tourist destination, the shallow blue waters stretch for miles, circled on all sides by quaint hill side towns, extravagant party cities and vast forested areas. Our first stop was Balatonfured, which competes with Siofok as the unofficial capital of the region. Stepping off the train, we immediately noticed the solitude of the place. Complete quiet, empty streets, vacant shops and not a breath of traffic. We walked around searching for