Saturday was the field trip day for the conference and we started out early. The first stop was Hegyestû, which is in the Balaton Highland. It is what is left of an ancient volcano (active eight million years ago). We walked up to the very top and saw the most amazing view of the land and the lake.
It was actually quite a hike up to the top, but it didn’t take quite as long because it was steep so we ascended quickly. Györgyi (who organized the conference), actually had an ambulance on standby, which of course was excellent emergency-preparedness, but none-the-less a little disconcerting. Still, the view was gorgeous and the sun was everywhere.
The second stop during the day was to Festetics Castle, north of the small town, Keszthely. It was built in 1745 by the Viennese architect Viktor Rumpelmayer in 1883, and is a spacious, 101 room complex in the Neo-Baroque style. During WWII, the castle served as an army hospital and barracks and has since been used as a dormitory, city library, music school, and as it is today, a museum.
The grounds of the castle were beautiful and the style, as I understand it now, is very “western” in the way that, for example, a lot of architecture in eastern Hungary is not. The Viennese influence is certainly felt here.
We took a walking tour of the castle, led by a very charming gentleman in period costume. I thought the most entertaining thing was that they gave us these little slippers to wear over our shoes to reduce the wear and tear of the castle floors. One of our guides remarked that actually it’s a way for the castle to save money on floor polishers!
One of the most interesting details I learned was that, if you looked at the door frames, there were quite large gaps as if there were spaces between the walls large enough to fit a person. Which of course, was exactly what happened. So that the servants would not walk among the others, they built the walls thick enough so that the servants could walk through the home undetected.
The most interesting room for me was the incredible library. I don’t remember how many books were in this collection, but it was two stories and just absolutely blew me away.
After the tour, we ate a lunch in one of the palace rooms. Cold sandwiches and drinks, which perfectly hit the spot after our long morning. People were coming up thanking and congratulating Györgyi for how well everything was organized. And many said, “this is so amazing. I’ve never eaten in a castle before.”
The last stop of the day was at the Museum of the Hungarian Petroleum Industry (MOIM), which is located in Zalaegerszeg. It’s a professional trade museum that collects and presents the history of the Hungarian hydrocarbon and water mining industries through exhibitions and publications.
Basically this was a huge nerd alert stop for all of the scientists on the trip. It was pretty interesting to see how the old machines had started to become part of the wooded landscape, but I don’t think that was the point.
The first thing that they told us during our safety briefing (other than if there is an “incident” there is a hazmat area for our decontamination—seriously, these exhibits would not ever be allowed in the US–) was that we are, under no circumstances, allowed to touch the machines.
But, boys will be boys. And at the first opportunity, Gabor and Zsolt were opening some kind of valve to investigate it. It really cracked me up.
We ended the night back where we began in Balatonfüred at a little restaurant with outdoor seating under an awning. (No pictures. I was too tired to point and shoot by then). The group was divided into little picnic tables and the waiters brought out family-style Hungarian dishes. They also passed around pálinkas, wines, all while a gorgeous full moon was rising above the lake and a group of gypsy musicians serenaded us with violins.