It was a somewhat surreal experience floating around in warm water of the the thermal lake at Hévíz in Hungary, among the drifts of water lilies with a sulphurous waft of rotten eggs in the air.
We spent the morning wandering the gardens of the palace at the palace at Keszthely, looking just like an 18th century French chateau and decided we’d spend the afternoon visiting the thermal lake at Hévíz nearby. I knew that this was an area that was very popular as a holiday resort and close to Lake Balaton where Hungarians come for their summer holidays, just as we were doing in August.
Navigating your way around the Hungarian system of baths and spas can be something of a daunting experience, unless you happen to have a friendly Hungarian speaker with you, but we’d already had some experience by visiting the baths on Margaret Island in Budapest. At Hévíz it was a little like going to into a rather smart leisure centre back home, luckily with some signs in English to explain the numerous options of tickets for different lengths of time.
We were given a plastic bracelet with microchip that got us through the turnstyles in to the communal changing rooms with lockers. You need to scan your bracelet on a machine to tell you which number locker to use, then find the locker and use the bracelet again to unlock it. Luckily there were some private changing cubicles, so it wasn’t quite so communal as it first appeared, and then we went through into the main spa complex.
The lake at Hévíz became known over the centuries for the curative properties of its naturally warm spring waters that are full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium and are slightly radioactive making them ideal for the treatment of rheumatism and other ailments.
The lake became especially popular in the early 1900s as a spa centre with modern hotels being built to support the increasing numbers of visitors. The Hungarians take the concept of wellness very seriously, based on an ideal of health and wellbeing more than beauty and there is even a hospital nearby where you can receive treatment with the water and mud from the Hévíz lake.
The current spa building is built in the centre of the lake with wings from which you can step down into the water and swim around, or sun decks where you can relax. As we walked through the complex which was pleasantly warm inside, there were plenty of sun loungers with people relaxing although unfortunately, due to the syndrome of reserving a lounger with your towel, there was nowhere we could find to sit, even though plenty of sun-loungers were unoccupied.
Undaunted we walked down into the water and swam around in the lake for a while, enjoying the warm lake water. Soon we realised why so many swimmers of all ages were floating with foam or rubber rings, an incongruous sight that you’d normally only expect to see with children. The lake was large and after a while you’d want to stop swimming to float in the warm water, hence the rubber rings. We made use of the wooden beams fixed by poles to the lake bottom that you could cling on to for a while in the middle of the lake, although they were a little slimy and covered with weed in places. Every so often there was a patch of water lilies growing beside the spa building that you could become entangled with.
After our swim we found some space on the bank and laid on our towels to dry off. All in all it was a rather surreal experience to float around among the rubber rings among a large number of older visitors who were obviously there for the curative properties. There are so many different thermal baths and spas in Budapest and Hungary, that visiting one at least once during your stay is part of the Hungarian experience.
Have you visited the spa at Hévíz and if so, what did you make of it? Did it cure your rheumatism?
Read more about our holiday in Hungary
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com
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