The city of Heviz is rarely found in tourist guidebooks around Europe, travelers do not come here for the sake of idle curiosity, and you will hardly hear about Heviz in everyday life. But the Hungarians from the school desk know about a tiny town in the west of the country, known all over the world for the largest thermal lake in Europe and the world's second largest thermal lake by area. There are legends about the healing properties of lake Heviz waters, and patients with diseases of the musculoskeletal system and nervous system are sent here by doctors all over Europe. Despite the small area (8 km2) and population (about 5000 people), lake Heviz is not the only one of interest, which is what the article will talk about.
History of the city of Heviz
Archaeological excavations conducted on the territory of Heviz in 2001 opened the veil of history of the region: scientists learned that these lands were inhabited by people from the sixth millennium BC, i.e., more than 7 thousand years. A lot of buildings, monuments and graves belonging to the era of prosperity of the Roman Empire (II-IV century AD) have been found, many of which nowadays have become the sights of the city. It is interesting that already in those days the Romans knew or guessed about the beneficial effects of the microclimate of the region on the body, trying to build a house or hut closer to the lake.
Popularity of Heviz began to grow markedly at the end of the 18th century after the publication of the first scientific study on the properties of thermal waters, conducted by physicist and physician Ferenc Slaby. Active development of the territories adjacent to the lake began in the 60s of the XIX century, the spa settlement grew, and along with the growth of the settlement, the quantity of people coming for treatment increased. By the way, around the same time, namely in 1898, Professor Lovassy brought water-lily from India to Heviz, which later became symbol of the city. Heviz survived two wars, a massive fire in 1986 that destroyed a wooden covered bathhouse, and the change of political regime in 1989-1990, which at the dawn of the new century turned into one of the most popular spa towns in Hungary and Europe.
Lake Heviz deserves a separate section in the article, thanks to which the resort became known outside Hungary. The area of the lake is 4.7 hectares. It is fed by underground springs located in a suspicious cave 18 meters in diameter. There are three - 2 thermal springs and a mineral spring, the water from which is mixed here in a cave. The temperature of water from hot springs reaches 42 °C, mineral water - 17 °C. Lake Heviz is shaped like a funnel with its lower point at a depth of 38 meters. A huge plus of the resort is that the seasonality does not play a special role for it. In summer, the water on the surface warms up to 33 °C and rarely drops below 23 °C in winter. At this point, with the numbers and statistical calculations, we'll slow down.
But not for long! The lake surrounds 50 hectares of deciduous forests, which makes it useful to simply be in Heviz. Amazing microclimate has a beneficial effect on the respiratory system, even if you are passing through the city and do not have enough time for procedures. It is worth mentioning the unique property of the lake Heviz, which is loved by guides and spa professionals: springs bring up to the surface on the order of a cubic meter of water per hour, which allows renewing all the water in the lake in 48 hours (there are various values on the Internet: from 28 to 72 hours, but we'll trust Wikipedia). And the bacterial flora present in the peat layer at the bottom synthesizes a weak antibiotic that prevents the birth of pathogenic bacteria in water.
In a tiny town today works more than two dozen spa hotels, but all are somehow connected to the lake. Earlier it was said that the local microclimate has a beneficial effect on the respiratory system, but this is not a complete list. In the middle of the last century the water from the lake was repeatedly tested and studied, the chemical composition was disassembled to molecules, but still every few years new properties of the wonderful water are discovered. Recent discoveries include the finding of the estrogen hormone in a meter-long layer of mud, which is useful in the treatment of gynaecological diseases.
And here's what was known a long time ago. The chemical composition of the thermal water of the lake includes: potassium, sodium, ammonium, calcium, magnesium, iodine, carbon dioxide, radon and a good third of the Mendeleev table, but in much smaller proportions. Vacationers bathe, take carbon dioxide baths, take drinking courses, attend massage and mud application sessions, they do underwater spine traction. Walking tours, therapeutic exercise are recommended, sometimes patients are given electrotherapy, contrast baths, cryotherapy, magnetotherapy and other modern treatment methods.
Heviz attractions and festivals
At the beginning of the article we lied a little, there are not many sights besides the lake in Heviz itself. But if you take a bus or a car, in a radius of 1-2 hours you will find a lot of interesting monuments of architecture and nature, buildings and objects of important historical value. Pick up your notebook and check out future tourist attractions.
The town of Keszthely is 8 kilometres from Heviz and can be reached in 10 minutes. And we strongly recommend going to the next town, at least because of the Festetics palace. It was built on the coast of lake Balaton in XVIII century. Ideas for construction were borrowed from French architects, so that the palace-suite is little different from luxury cottages of Parisian aristocracy of the beginning and middle of the XVIII century. The Festetics family has always enjoyed the respect of local people, as the family's money has been used for centuries for patronage of the arts, building and opening pharmacies, schools, hospitals and higher education institutions.
Festetics promoted science and art to the masses, and even now the palace remains one of Hungary's educational centres, where scientific conferences, art readings, exhibitions and concerts are held. Tourists are interested in the palace's unique architecture, the Museum of Arms, whose collection includes exhibits up to 1000 years old, and a huge library with over 100,000 books, folios and manuscripts, many of which exist in a single copy.
Half an hour north of Heviz is another small Hungarian town, Sümeg, with a population of less than 7,000 inhabitants. The main attraction of the city is the Sümeg Castle, the oldest surviving fortress in Hungary, which was founded in the XI century. One of the towers has survived in good condition since the 13th century, inside of which a museum of weapons was founded (yes, again weapons, but the exhibits almost do not intersect with the exposition of the Keszthely museum).
Cold and firearms of the XI-XVIII centuries, including cannons and large-caliber shells, real armour of knights, torture instruments, medieval crews and many other items found during archaeological excavations are presented to the attention of visitors. If desired, the guests of the fortress will be able to master the skill of horseback riding, to which the surrounding medieval environment pushes. It is worth noting that the Sümeg fortress has never been taken by anyone throughout its history: storms of Mongol hordes, siege by Ottoman troops, national uprisings after entering Austria - the walls trembled, but remained unbroken. And after the reconstructions and restoration work carried out in the last century, most of the buildings have taken on their original appearance.
One of the favorite ways to spend time with the guests of Heviz is to visit historical reconstructions. They are attended by local people interested in the history and ancient customs of the region. The most popular event of this plan is a knightly tournament held in the first half of August near the walls of the Sümeg fortress.
In a theatrical performance, improvised medieval knights will fight for the Crown's honour and seek the Countess's favour, demonstrating excellent riding skills, mastery of sword, mace, spear and other more exotic types of cold steel weapons. Everything you've seen in feature films about knights and read about in historical novels - love and fidelity, courage and bravery, nobility and valour - is brought to life in the ancient Sümeg castle.
And if you drive half an hour, but east of Heviz, you'll end up at Szigliget Castle. The construction of the fortress was completed in 1262 year and many buildings are now destroyed, but since 1991 they have been under active reconstruction. Szigliget fortress attracts tourists with its rich history and a magnificent view of lake Balaton. The walls of the fortress survived the bloody battles of Hungarian soldiers with the forces of the Ottoman Empire in the XVI century, the war with the Mongols and were almost completely destroyed in 1702 by the decree of Austrian Emperor Leopold I.
In parallel with the reconstruction of the fortress, archaeological excavations are underway, the results of which are constantly surprising. The ancient palace contains many secrets: deep wells and secret passages are periodically excavated, even a multilevel system of labyrinths was discovered. Staff members of Szigliget fortress dress up in medieval outfits, which creates an amazing atmosphere of antiquity. Lovers of history, mysteries and beautiful landscapes will be delighted with the tour.
Lake Balaton Museum
Let's go back to Keszthely, the main attraction of which, Lake Balaton, you could get to know during one of the excursions described earlier. Well, the largest lake in Central Europe and one of the most beautiful in the world has its own museum. The museum exposition will be interesting for everyone: nature lovers, history lovers and ordinary tourists. You will learn a lot about animals and plants, see historical dioramas and showcases, objects found during excavations, hear from the guide about the traditions and customs of local people. There are two other interesting objects nearby: the Kis Balaton Nature Reserve and the Georgikon Farm Museum.
Holy Spirit Church
No desire to leave the borders of tiny Heviz? Then you can take a walk to the city center, to the crossroads of Szechenyi and Zrinyi streets, where the Protestant Evangelical Church is located. Construction of one of the most recognizable buildings of Heviz began in 1998, and the temple was blessed in September 1999. Despite its young age, the Blue Church, as it is often called by locals, is known to all residents from small to large and will serve as a great landmark when walking around the city.
The temple is interesting to tourists for its unusual architecture and exterior with sky blue walls, towers and windows made of colored glass. At the same time the service can be attended by about a thousand people, and the acoustics in the hall are so good that the church often hosts chamber music concerts. Near the church you will see another local attraction, the "Nymph" Fountain.
Heviz Museum Collection
In Rakoczi Street, the Heviz Museum is hiding in plain sight. Entrance is absolutely free, visitors can take photos - already good. A permanent exhibition about the history, famous residents and traditions of the city is waiting for the museum guests. This exposition is usually complemented by temporary exhibitions of local artists and photographers. In short, if you're walking through the center of Heviz, it's definitely worth a half hour to stop by this museum.
What to bring
Tradition requires us to bring small gifts from travel to our friends, colleagues and relatives. And you often want to buy a souvenir for yourself, even if it's a trivial magnet on the fridge or a T-shirt with a print of the city. There are not many branded souvenirs in Heviz, so most of the items on the list below are gifts that tourists bring from Hungary in general.
- "Unicum" likeur (Unicum Zwack). Becherovka is brought from Karlovy Vary, and Unicum is brought from Heviz. The liqueur insists on 42 herbs and in small doses has a therapeutic effect on the gastrointestinal tract, increases appetite, relieves colds and restores muscle tone.
- Wine. Dessert Tokaj wines are in great demand among connoisseurs throughout Europe. The signature hue of raisins and honey notes are so absorbed in the soul that after drinking a couple of glasses in Hungary, you will definitely want to treat your friends to this golden nectar.
- Therapeutic mud. In any Heviz pharmacy (and not only in the pharmacy) are sold containers of healing mud from the lake. Not the most compact and easy to transport souvenir, but you can continue your treatment course at home. Remember to make sure you have the instructions for use in English!
- Lotus and lilies. Live flowers, of course, don't take them home. In the souvenir shops you will find hundreds of items associated with the main symbols of Heviz: magnets, statuettes, embroidered handkerchiefs, tablecloths and many others.
- Delicious souvenirs. Hungarian national cuisine is very tasty and varied, you will want to take something delicious home yourself. Chocolate, marzipan sweets, Hungarian salami and a variety of seasonings are the most popular among gourmets travelers.
- Rubik's Cube. The famous inventor Erno Rubik, famous for his puzzles, is from Hungary, so it is not surprising that many tourists bring home Rubik's dice, balls, snakes and other trinkets that can take up hands and brains in their spare time.
- Palinka. And again, we finish our review of gifts and souvenirs with an alcoholic drink. Palinka (emphasis on the first "a") is a traditional for Hungary and other countries in the Carpathian basin fruit brandy, which is driven from grapes, pears, apricots, apples and other fruits. Like Unicum liqueur, Palinka is drunk both pure and mixed in cocktails. In the bar, a connoisseur of quality alcohol will take the place of honor.