Hungarian Retro: Balatonaliga

The first time I heard of Balatonaliga (or simply Aliga) was in the fifties. The father of a classmate of mine at the University of Budapest was the minister of education between December 14, 1952, and July 30, 1956. He and his family were entitled to spend their summer vacations at a closely guarded party-government compound in the happy company of Mátyás Rákosi, Ernő Gerő, and Mihály Farkas, to mention only the most notorious party leaders of the period. Balatonaliga is actually a part of Balatonvilágos, situated at the easternmost corner of Lake Balaton and thus the closest lakeside village to Budapest. Only 90 kilometers from the capital, it was one of the first vacation spots to be developed.Balaton  Its success was bolstered by the construction of the Southern Railroad (Déli Vasút) in the late 1860s that took passengers all the way to Fiume (Rijeka), Croatia.

In the summer of 1948, Rákosi, Gerő, László Rajk, Zoltán Vas, and Imre Nagy spent a few weeks in Aliga. Rákosi fell in love with the place and decided to act. The government took over the entire settlement–villas, restaurants, hotels, even a Hungarian Reformed church. It nationalized forty-eight hectars of private real estate. Of course, there was no compensation. It was just done by legislative fiat. All of Aliga was closed off with barbed wire, soldiers with automatic weapons, and attack dogs who guarded the compound. Inside Rákosi's house was further separated with a high fence. The expropriated land was divided into two parts: Aliga I. and Aliga II. Aliga II. was reserved for the highest leadership. It was in Aliga II. that members of the Central Committee had their villas. There was a building called the Presidential Villa reserved for visiting dignitaries, and finally Kádár's villa, well hidden behind trees. This caution deprived Kádár and his wife of actually seeing the lake. Never mind, they built him an island! Well, it is only a tiny little island where he used to sit and fish. Apparently not with great success. The Protestant church was used first as a stable, later as a sawmill, and eventually as a club for KISZ leaders. Since 1993 it has again been functioning as a church. Over the course of almost 15 years the Hungarian state has tried off and on to sell the property. Eventually, it seems, they succeeded. An Israeli concern, Pro-Mot Hungária Kft., purchased the larger part of it that is open to the public as Club Aliga. The rest of the property willl have to be completely razed, including Kádár's villa, according to Zvi Frank, head of Pro-Mot Hungária.

The villa, built in the Bauhaus style, was perhaps architecturally interesting in Kádár's day, but right now it is in a sorry state. Inside as well as outside.Kadar-villa According to an article I found in Blikk, the roof has been leaking for years. The watersoaked parquet floors are practically gone, the furniture is covered with mold. The whole place stinks. Anyone curious about the inside of the villa can see it by clicking on the picture that appeared in Blikk. Another interesting site is a video that appeared on TV2. The approximately fifteen-minute-long documentary serves up bits and pieces of oral history about the place, about János Kádár, and other party leaders. The people who worked at either Aliga or in some of the hunting lodges Kádár frequented all still call him Comrade Kádár. From one of the chief hunters we hear that Kádár was a patient (and therefore good) hunter but as a marksman he was mediocre.

If all goes well, 75 billion forints will be poured into Aliga. Up to now they have already spent six billion for the purchase of the property and for the plans. The area that has been closed for years will be open, the fences will be torn down, and new roads will be built. There is about a two-kilometer-long beachfront that will be open to the public either for swimming or as promenades. Farther away from the beach taller buildings are planned but, according to Frank, they will not be higher than the current wall along the lake. They are hoping to build four new hotels. All this development would mean about 1,700 new jobs and a 20 million euro yearly income for the local economy. As soon as the company gets all the requisite permits, work can begin and within two years Aliga could accept visitors.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Zvi Frank. Just wait, there will be all sorts of obstacles that will delay construction. The chief architect of the Balaton region already told MTI that, although he had discussions with the Israeli company, there might be serious problems. The planned construction site is too big for the given area. Also the project is too big given the size of the local population. I just hope that this project doesn't follow the normal course. Years go by and eventually the poor investor gives up. Another failure for him and for the country.

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Eben
Guest

Seems a shame its in such a state, would be a very handsome building if the exterior was refreshed. Good to hear that the area will be opened up for the public after all these years though.

Thomas Gabor
Guest

Considering today’s political climate in Hungary I wonder whether this investment, coming from an Israeli, will become an other topic for “Jobbik” to perk up about.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Thomas Gabor: “Considering today’s political climate in Hungary I wonder whether this investment, coming from an Israeli, will become an other topic for “Jobbik” to perk up about.”
Surprise! It has already become a topic.

Bill
Guest

Mmmm… Do you suggest there could be some trouble with Jobbik, because Pro-Mot is owned by Jewish Israelis?
A small Google search (if they know it) will easily help them find that Pro-Mot is owned by a Nazareth-based Christian Arab family named Shjrawi; not really in Israel, but in the Occupied Territories; not really Jewish, but Christians.
But if this still a problem, Jobbik will certainly let the project go further, and let Israeli or Hungarian Jews to come and stay at the site, should the barbed wire fence to be restored and some observation towers to be erected…

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