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Floating with Water Lilies

Despite its prosaic name, Heviz (the word translates to thermal water) is a magical place. A trip here is an excellent way to brighten up the autumn/winter months. Managed by Heviz Thermal Bath Ltd., the lake is considered a national treasure.

“There is a lake in Hungary where sorrow dies,” sighed a Finnish poet when he returned home from Heviz after a relaxing cure of thermal waters.  Located in Zala County, 6 kms west of Lake Balaton and 193 kms from Budapest, Hévíz is a picturesque spa resort surrounded by lush green forests and is ideal for those seeking some peace and tranquility from their workday rat race. The sight of the spellbinding landscape is itself a cure, but there’s more to this lake than beauty.

Hévíz Lake was formed in the Triassic period, along a tectonic fault line. A cave was formed later, by the currents and the turbulence of the water. The entrance of this cave was discovered only in 1972 by two divers and the cave was further observed in 1975. Today, the entrance of the cave is regularly cleaned out by scientists to regulate the amount of water coming out, and of course to make possible for tourists to enter it. The cave itself is popular among divers.

A geological curiosity, the 4.4-hectare Thermal Lake of Hévíz is the world’s largest biologically active natural thermal lake. Unlike other warm-water lakes in the world, usually formed in clay soil or in a rocky bed, Hévíz Lake has a peat-bed and is fed by several thousand year old karstic springs.  Through the spring-crater, 86 million liters of water breaks to the surface. The volume of the lake is about 100,000 cubic meters. If we keep a close watch on the surface of the lake, we can see that it does not stand still. In fact, the water of the whole lake is replaced every two days. The water flow has a beneficial effect on the body as it keeps bathers lightly massaged. Plus, the sulphurous water contains alkaline hydro-carbonate and is slightly radioactive, which is extremely effective in treating locomotor disorders and as part of post-operative rheumatologic, orthopedic and motor rehabilitation. It also achieves excellent results in treating chronic gynecological and dermatological complaints. The temperature of the lake varies between 34 and 36 ºC in the summer, but even in winter it does not drop below 26-29 ºC. The lake’s warmth and medicinal effect are somewhat protected by 33.9 acres of woods from the harms of the external environment (wind, dust and noise). The lake is covered in light steam in the winter and early spring and cool autumn mornings, preventing the water from cooling down.

The mud that covers the bottom of the lake in one-meter-deep layer black sludge, proved to be curative too, containing organic and inorganic substances and radium-salts. The lake is 38 meters at its deepest, but even those who cannot swim can easily bathe, since it is shallow at the shores and is also excellent for chilling out. You can stand up around the edges and sink thigh-deep into the softened and healing turf mud. Note that no more than 60 minutes of bathing is suggested at a time. In cases of chronic stomach and intestinal catarrh, the water may also be drunk for medicinal effects. Apart from the springs of the lake, there are 7 artificial founts in the Hévíz area that have a total discharge of 2,206 l/min. The water of these wells is used by various hotels and sanitariums to treat their patients. Hévíz is also famous for its St Andrew’s Hospital, which specializes in Rheumatology and Rehabilitation. In addition to a bath in the lake, a number of wellness hotels aim to provide a calm, stress-free environment and a range of treatments, including different kinds of massage, sauna and steam bath and several other services whose names are not even easy to remember.

Water lilies

The most beautiful plant of the lake, the water-lily, has become the symbol of Hévíz and has been incorporated into the coat of arms and also the flag of the town. The blooming of the strictly protected plants starts as early as the beginning of summer and lasts up to the end of November. These flowers interact perfectly with the lake: the leaves slow down the evaporation of the water. Water lilies were not native to Heviz. They were brought here from India and Africa in 1898 by Sándor Lovassy, a professor at the Keszthely School of Economics. A few years later, Hévíz had become the only place in Central Europe where warm water lilies bloomed outdoors.

In the neighborhood

Cserszegtomaj’s main attractions are a botanic garden and the fort-theater. From “Csokako Rock” you can enjoy a wonderful view of Keszthely, Lake Balaton, Hévíz and Egregy-Hill. The Fort of Rezi was built in the 13–14th century and protected the country against the Turkish troops. It is a bit tiring but a wonderful trip. In Zalaszántó, Europe’s biggest Buddhist choir of peace can be found. Kis-Balaton and the island of Kányavár, with its national park are also very popular place for outings. The ‘capital of Lake Balaton’, Keszthely is a city of university and cultural life. The castle of Festetics, built in 1745, is one of the most beautiful castles of Hungary. You can enjoy theatrical performances in the garden in summer and concerts in the ‘room of mirrors’ year round. Visit the Georgikon Croft-museum which was built in 1797. This was the first agricultural school in Hungary. Since Keszthely is at the shore of Lake Balaton you can take boat-trips to the most frequented towns of the lake like Szigliget, Tihany, Badacsony or Siófok.

Réka Alíz Francisck

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