DISCLAIMER: I like to go into details and I will do it in this blogpost.
It is quite nice to have two team buildings per year! Considering that each person from our team works remotely, I would even say that three or four gatherings would be better.
Leaving aside the non exactly introduction but clarification, the trip itself was awesome! If the purpose of a team building is to build stronger relationships with your colleagues, we’ve gone to the next level by building stronger friendships with friends.
Sunday, 14 June - Preparations before the travel
This year’s summer team building was held in Hungary and in particular: Budapest for a couple of days and lake Balaton for the most part of it. This meant that Balázs and Dávid were the people organising it (being our Hungarian side of the team) and were already waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive in Budapest.
Zlatan set of early in the morning for a 5h trip from Burgas (his hometown, located on the Bulgarian Black Sea shore), passing by Stara Zagora to pick up Mirko and join Avi, Sve and me in Sofia.
Monday, 15 June - Sofia to Budapest
The plan was to depart early on Monday for our 9h trip to Budapest.
Trip plans rarely get to be executed in the exact planned way, so by 10:30am we were still in a rush hour traffic trying to escape the city.
Once we hit the road everything was clear. We had about 9h ahead, duration which we needed something to fill in the time with. I was in the car with Avi, Zlatan was driving the 2nd car with Mirko and Sve. Avi brought walkie-talkies along, so the communication between both cars was constant and made a great improvement to this prolonged trip.
Later in the afternoon we reached Budapest, where Mirko and me dropped at Balázs’s place. The rest of the guys went to leave their luggage at Dávid’s place and drove the cars to a secure parking lot, where we left them for the rest of the stay in Hungary. Hurray! :)
We rejoined everyone around 9pm at a local food place, where we had something that Dávid didn’t expect. There was a surprise for his birthday, which was the following day or in other words, in a few hours from that point.
By the way, Budapest is full of small restaurants and generally food and drinks places located between buildings. Spots in the city which at first glance are not usable for anything that vital to the city scape, but people there obviously have a creative way of transforming their urban spots. I really liked all of those places!
We left at about 00:30h and three of us had a walk to Balázs place, the rest went to Dávid’s.
Tuesday, 16 June - David’s BD + A bit of work
We spent the next half day, working at a local co-working space called L'Office. There was a live stream event to be covered and everyone had some final work to wrap up, before we can grab lunch and explore Budapest.
Lunch took place at the 360 Bar, which was truly an amazing place. You can have a look at Budapest from a high view point and the place is located exactly in the downtown area!
Later we picked up a bike from Big Balázs (there is a reason for the capital B), as we didn't all have bikes with us. Took a tour around the Margaret Island, which was was very relaxing, so we slowly started to dive in the vacation mood. We split up at the end of the tour and went to take some rest, before the actual bike riding the following 5 days.
Wednesday, 17 June - Day 1 / Train to Balaton + 1st part biking - 56km
The weather was a bit cloudy this morning, but we were hopeful for the sunny sky later that day. The part of our crew sleeping at Dávid’s place were waiting for us in front of Balázs’s at 8am, from where we took a short bike ride to the train station.
Bought the tickets, got enough time for a coffee and 40min later we departed to Balaton. The train took us about an hour and the ride was very comfy. This is the right moment to make it clear that we were about to take a trip round lake Balaton, which is approximately 200km (without the mostly downhill detours) and we were about to do it in 5 days. Everyone did their best to pack as light as possible for this trip, as we would carry our bags through the whole time. I think that Dávid had packed a Backup Bike in his backpack. It was both heavy and huge but he has also done this trip twice so far (each time was in one day pace), so I guess that he has done the light version already. :)
The first city from where our trip started is called Siófok and our checkpoint was approximately 50km away. The weather was already much better and we started biking all laid back and easy going. There was an uphill at some point, which made us a bit concerned about the rest but Dávid reassured us that the trip is mostly downhill.
We had a lunch stop at some point and I must say Thank you, Dora! for the nice sandwiches. Dora is Balázs’s girlfriend and was very kind hosting me and Mirko at their place in Budapest. The food was a great kickstarter and after an additional drink at a local food place we set off to cover the 2nd part of the track.
Arriving at the camp place, we all fell a bit tired but I think that we didn’t actually feel the 50km that much.
The whole place looked very nice and there was great view of the lake from our porch. We bought some food, beers and palinka from the local supermarket and went back to cook and have dinner.
This was an epic first day and the dinner finalised everything! We spent the night in nice jokes and talks and eventually went to bed around midnight.
Thursday, 18 June - Day 2 / 39km
Waking up on our 2nd day of the Balaton trip was nice. The sky was clear and the air temperature cool (the trip was in June, so the summer heat was still not an issue). We prepared our bags, took some time to wake up and hit the road again.
There were two interesting places to visit on this day. The first was a SUP board (stand up paddle board) rental place, where we had scheduled a short trip. It took us about 1h in one way (about 4k) and we coasted at a small food place to grab quick lunch and some rest. Paddling back took us about 40mins, as the wind was in our favour which made it feel much lighter.
The second place revealed a beautiful view of Balaton, which was definitely worth the uphill. And trust me, this was an uphill! Considering the backpacks and the SUP board 20 minutes ago it felt a bit hard, but the view was really worth it.
From that point on, I can say that the rest of the trip was mostly flat and easy. We reached the second camp, where we checked-in through the desk office and finally reached the bungalows.
It was again a very pleasant night, full of laughs and story telling. The palinka drink was everyones choice for a good night sleep. :)
Friday, 19 June - Day 3 / 33km
This morning was different. The weather outside got darker, maybe a bit colder and we were somewhat tired. One day of rain was expected but hope is what dies last, so we were still hoping. The riding mood felt slower. :)
Halfway through the shortest part of our 5 day trip, it started pouring. We found shelter under a bus stop, till the strong part of it passed by and further continued on the route.
Personally this was the hardest day from the trip but considering our winter session at the Rila Lakes, the Balaton biking tour was like a walk in the park (in all positive aspects).
Once we reached our home base for the night, everyone suddenly felt much more lively. Balázs had prepared us a really nice dinner at the first camp and this time Dávid showed us his skills.
The dinner was cooked for several hours, but waiting was rewarded, once the dinner got served. Weather had already gotten much much better and the closure of this day went very sweet.
Saturday, 20 June - Day 4 / 54km
The sun is up and we are up! Mirko and Avi were trying the sand/rocky side walk, doing some quick bike starts. Having fun is a good sign and in this case it mean that we are fresh and ready to bike.
Somewhere after 10k or so, we stopped for lunch. The place had a very nice view of the lake, which from all signs so far seems to have a very relaxing effect. I’ve already printed out the below photo, so I can have a small piece of Balaton each morning at home. :)
The continuation felt epic! Time seemed to had stopped and we were just cruising round the lake. The bike roads going round the lake are great and I would suggest the trip to any bikers out there. Dávid and Balázs have done great job guiding us to different places and spots (both in Budapest and Balaton), so a slight research forehand would improve the experience in a great way for those who have not visited it yet!
Once our checkpoint was reached, we took some rest and went to a nearby village for dinner and some bumper cars. (This last one was not planned, but maan we had so much FUN!)
The night continued with some palinka shots back at the house and slowly faded away.
Sunday, 21 June - Day 5 / 40km biking + taking a train back to Budapest
By this date, we had covered about 170km. Looking at the map below, the trip went counter clock side. The finish line is also the beginning of the trip, and this last piece before reaching back to Siófok was waiting ahead.
Being our last day of the trip, it meant at least two things (as usual in life): first - we are going back to our daily agenda, with some rest and all the comforts that a big city provides, but second - this was our last glance at Balaton for some time ahead. Offtopic: Balázs is currently remote working from Balaton, so B, please greet it from me!
We did a lunch break on the way to the final checkpoint and I think that everyone was already preparing to reach the city.
The transition was sort of hard, but once we reached the train station I felt sudden relief. The whole experience was awesome from A to Z, even the rainy day was a nice ingredient to this vibe!
After having dinner back in downtown Budapest, we headed back to Balázs’s and Dávid’s places to get some much needed rest.
Monday, 22 June - Work + Walk to the Buda Castle and the tasty ice-cream
Getting back to working mood was actually not that hard. We spent the first several hours at a caffe place called Anker, where we had tasty coffee and good wi-fi. Proper ingredients for a Monday/After the trip day start. :)
For the rest of this afternoon, we went for lunch at a restaurant by the name of Humus Bar and later took a walk up to the Buda Castle. The city view was spectacle!
On the way back to the city transport and Baláz’s place, we stopped by an Ice-Cream store. I love ice-cream! Trying to moderate it as much as possible but whenever I get the chance to try out different variations I just go for it. What we tasted at Kedveskrém was something special. Real fruits and all flavours were natural… It’s really inexplainable, so I will leave it here, but do take the chance to go and taste them if you are around. :)
We then split up, till meeting later again in downtown Budapest for a goodbye dinner.
The Budapest-Balaton trip was one of a kind! Full of positive emotions and a great variety of city and lake/landscapes!
Thank you Balázs and Dávid for organising this epic time in your home country and I hope that we will be back sooner rather than later!