The ice on a frozen lake is not uniformly thick, even in our climate. If you think you can cross Lake Balaton in winter – on foot, without getting wet – you are accepting a duel with Fate. Especially with our climatic conditions.
Only one feat would be more amazing: crossing in summer.
On foot. Without getting wet.

What is Balaton’s surface looking at? God fixed its gaze on the Sun. A water surface observatory. An ice surface. A radar whose surface sometimes roughens and sometimes hardens; she’s been watching the neighbors upstairs for hundreds of thousands of years, and she knows everything about them.

Beauty and mortal fright.

The boys had wandered all over this tiny Greenland, with tiny sledges and with metal pipes in their hands, to check the fragility of the ice. Darkness was shining over the snow so much that it was as if there was a Soot-sun shining black.

Where to pitch the tent? There is no protection against the cruel wind. They installed their metal pipes in the ice and poured their drinking water on the pipes to freeze them to the ground. They froze over. Then they could tether the green tent and place the red sleeping bag inside: the only warm spot in the frost and in their dreams. Like a waving, red sail on the ice. As if it was waving at high speed, as if the ice was slipping away to nothingness: night slips away to past, day slips away to present.

They lay inside the red bag, pulled up the tent zip and readied their jack-knife near at hand; if there was a sudden blast of wind, there would not be time to look for and pull the zip: they would have to cut themselves out. The knife is also ice-cold.

Six hundred square kilometres of ice is moaning, wailing, screaming-snarling, singing below – soprano-flute and crater-bass. Musing rumbles, cracking groans. The boys lie tense; memories of the day’s sunrise and fear of the night are mingling in their veins. They had no idea if anyone had yet been crazy enough to lie in a tent in the middle of the ice at night – someone who was curious enough, someone to witness the exotic journey, someone to tell the others. Later on, when they reached the shore, they faced the fact that the ice moves even in the hardest frost. There are strange waters bubbling in the lake:  invisible rivers and streams inside criss-crossing each other, as if the water were living out a dramatic, emotional life, or – rather less poetically – as if its great guts were rumbling. There are currents, memories, fish bubbling and bouncing against each other deep inside.

If the ice cracks under the wanderer, it is almost impossible for him to climb out. He may grab the edge of the huge, white chasm, but it will break off in his hand. Companions may try to help, but the chances of escape are slim; they need long poles and considerable experience, and the helper must be quick as well as careful, because the human body will soon freeze to death. Even if the ice does not give way – they say that in a long, hard winter the ice can freeze to a depth of one metre – drifting islands of ice may be born. If the wanderer finds himself on an ice floe like this, his journey is over: the ice floe floats the length of the lake on the north-south currents, and that is nearly eighty kilometres. Such a journey can only result in death.

At such times, the lake does not look like a paradise of flesh-flaunting tourism.

The boys were lying in the tense darkness, with cramped muscles, when the vast ice field howled with the scream of a hurricane; the air crackled with the sound of bombs, as if a volcano were erupting beneath them. An ice volcano with lava of frost.

They left the knife, just tore the zip open, jumped out from the invisible red flames, and then – believe it or not, they could hardly hear anything outside: as if everything was snuffling peacefully, with only the ice moaning from time to time and its crystals crackling. The boys were the loudspeakers of the terrible crevasse as the sensitive sensors of their nerves swept over the grim lake and the rending of the ice that swept deep beneath them rose to 5,000 decibels.

There’s a tiny North Pole in the middle of Hungary. It melts every year, plays at summer by the Mediterranean with its sweet heat, as if it had forgotten its wintery dream with the creaking snowfield. You half-naked girls giggling up towards the blue sky, just cast a thought towards the two insane kids who climbed the flat-rolled glacier with a tiny sledge.

There’s nothing to say about the photos: they fill the space, like a concert of Bach. Badacsony’s basalt-fugues are rumbling out a deep solo, and the myriad varieties of white that run endlessly through the pictures – the crocheted ice, the ice-sparks, and the yawning bubbles – are fading away. We’ve fitted the biggest lake in Middle-Europe into the palm-shaped, saucer-shaped photographs. See, it’s a matter of depth: the whole of Balaton can be poured into the scene’s wineglass. It makes us drunk and then sobers us up.

Pál Bodor (Diurnus)