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Gellért Bath ("Gellért fürdő"), Thermal and medicinal spa - Budapest, Hungary
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Hévíz Lake Bath (natural thermal bath and spa) - Hévíz, Hungary

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GPS coordinates: Latitude 46°47'12", Longitude 17°11'34" (N46 47.2 - E17 11.57) Map

Information, short stories, interesting facts

Older spa building - Hévíz, Hungary Older spa building

According to a legend from the ancient Roman age there was a Christian nanny who begged Virgin Mary to heal a paralyzed child, and the Blessed Virgin opened a spring here. Thanks to the erupting hot water and the steaming mud the child completely healed, and he was none other than Flavius Theodosius, the later Theodosius I Roman Emperor.

In the empire of "Theodosius the Great" the Christianity was declared as a state religion already in 391 AD, as well as he was the last Roman Emperor whose empire was still unified. After the death of Theodosius I in 395 AD the ancient Roman empire was split into two. As a prelude to this in 392 AD Theodosius divided the empire between his two sons with Rome and Constantinople seats, so actually that action already started the process of splitting into Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire.

Renovated modern spa houses - Hévíz, Hungary Renovated modern spa houses

The former main building of the Hévíz Lake Bath was burned down in 1986, and the long years of restoration then strongly decreased the guest traffic. The new building complex was built in 1990 by the plans of Tamás Czigány and Attila Bodrossy. The layout of the buildings was changed, the four formerly separated spaces were connected together, and a rambling, exciting, continuous new indoor space has been constructed. The color scheme was also changed, instead of the earlier dark brown structures now the majority of the bath buildings have light and cheerful colors.

The improvement of Hévíz town is unequivocally based on the tourism, today the number of guest nights spent here in this town is the second highest in Hungary immediately after Budapest, the capital city.

The southern entrance of the thermal bath - Hévíz, Hungary The southern entrance of the thermal bath

The steaming water leaves the Hévíz Lake somewhere near this entrance, through the broad Hévíz Channel towards the Zala River. The water output of the lake is extremely high, so because this and the circular motion the water of Lake Hévíz is completely exchanged and the lake practically renews during every three and a half days, thus the water is always very clear.

The cave or chamber with the source is 38 meters under the surface, it contains both cold and hot springs. The age of the cold water that comes out is aproximately 5-7,000 years, as well as the hot water is about 10-12,000 years old.

Because the water of the springs comes from a quite large drainage basin, the bauxite mining in the Bakony Mountains from the 1970s, or more precisely the large amount of karst water which needed to be removed due to the mining rapidly reduced the water discharge of the lake, so for the 1980s the amount was less than the half of the original output. To save the Hévíz Lake the bauxite mine in the Bakony Mountains was closed in 1989, and for today the water discharge is quite high again, about 410 liters in every second.

Deciduous Bald cypress or Swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) forest around Lake Hévíz - Hévíz, Hungary Deciduous Bald cypress or Swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) forest around Lake Hévíz

The mediterranean microclimate of Hévíz is favorable to the exotic tree species. Beside the old planes (Platanus x hybrida) and the Hungarian narrow-leafed ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia subsp. pannonica) of the Schulhof Promenade there are bald cypresses (Taxodium distichum), dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) or the "living fossil" ginkgo or gingko (Ginkgo biloba) trees here as well. Thanks to the many special plants the park around the lake can be considered as a kind of arboretum.

The restored and renewed central bath building - Hévíz, Hungary The restored and renewed central bath building

Hévíz started to become a bathing-resort in the 18th century, according to a travelogue of Mátyás Bél Hungarian polymath or polyhistor (it means a person who is excellent in many disciplines), written in 1731. The first official study about the water of Lake Hévíz is from 1769, the curative effect was pronounced already at that time. At the end of the 18th century the utilization of the healing water finally came into view, the first bath was established by Count György Festetics in 1795.

Healing is an adventure as well when swimming around the stilts of the bath houses - Hévíz, Hungary Healing is an adventure as well when swimming around the stilts of the bath houses

If somebody wants to just relax instead of swimming, a rubber swim ring can be rented, by using that anybody can float for a long time or roam between the gorgeous water lilies and the stilts of the bath buildings, without much effort. The water temperature of the Hévíz Lake is 33-35 °C in summer, but on very hot, scorcher days it can reach even 36-38 °C, as well as in winter it is about 24-26 °C. Considering the human heat balance these temperatures are neutral, so it is pleasant and soothing to stay in the water even for longer time.

The central bath house - Hévíz, Hungary The central bath house

Between 1905 and 1940 the brewery owner Vencel Reischl hired Hévíz town from the Festetics family. After the agreement between the bishopric of Veszprém and Count Tasziló Festetics in 1858, the new developments were begun in the town. There were many construction works and also a new district, "Hévíz Új-telep" was established.

The beautiful Thermal Lake of Hévíz - Hévíz, Hungary The beautiful Thermal Lake of Hévíz

The medicinal lake of Hévíz is the largest bioactive (biologically active) natural thermal lake in the world. It is a geological rarity, while other hot water lakes are in a rock or clay bed, on the bottom of the Hévíz Lake there is a 7-meter-thick peat or turf layer, a curative mud enriched with slight radioactivity. Thanks to this mud, the pleasant and soothing environment, as well as of course due to the water that comes from a depth of 38 meters and rich in minerals the healing power of the lake is known and recognized worldwide.

The Lake Hévíz was formed in the same time as the basalt butte hills (or inselbergs) of the Balaton Uplands. Initially the spring of the lake almost surely wasn't located here, but on the Meleg Mountain in the Keszthely Mountain Range at 427 meters above the sea level, close to the Rezi Castle. This so-called "Őshévíz" ("Ancient Hévíz" or "Ancient Hot Water") spring had another opening as well, near Cserszegtomaj village (here there is a thermal water cave, too). The spring moved lower and lower along a geological fault line, and finally 20-22,000 years ago it reached its current position. At that time the thermal water spring was in the bed of the just-formed Lake Balaton, under the water surface. Moreover, the present peat layer was formed from the lush flora of the ancient Balaton Lake. Today Hévíz is no longer below the surface of the Balaton, due to the later climate changes and the decrease in the water level of the lake.

Interestingly, warm-climate-loving plant and animal remains (e.g. rhinos) were found around the Hévíz Lake, which lived there in the last ice age (more precisely the last glacial period). At that time the climate here was milder due to the hot water thermal lake, probably that would help these creatures to survive here.

Since 2003 Lake Hévíz is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage recommendations together with the Tapolca Basin and the volcanic and geothermal formations of the Tihany Peninsula.

A purple or violet colored water lily (Nymphaea) flower in Lake Hévíz - Hévíz, Hungary A purple or violet colored water lily (Nymphaea) flower in Lake Hévíz

One of the specialities of Hévíz is that there are waterlilies (Nymphaea) in the thermal lake with floating leaves and wonderful flowers, and the guests can of course even swim between them. The native small-leaved variant of the European white waterlily or white lotus (Nymphaea alba var. minoriflora or sometimes Nymphaea candida minor) flowers ousted from the lake. However, this plant species still can be found in large numbers in the so-called Hévízi-lefolyó (drain-canal), a hot water channel which begins at the southern side of the lake and connects it with the Gyöngyös Stream, so indirectly with the Zala River and Lake Balaton as well. The bred or cultivated Indian red waterlily (Nymphaea rubra var. longiflora or Nymphaea rubra Roxb. subsp. longiflora, syn. Nymphaea pubescens) species were planted into the lake during the experiments of Sándor Lovassy academic teacher between 1898-1906. After some time the red waterlily appeared in the coat of arms of the town, too. Sándor Lovassy tried to acclimatize more waterlily species in the lake, but among them just this one was viable in longer term.

There are white, pink, red and also purple water-lilies in Lake Hévíz, and there could be several reasons why. On one hand a single species could have more color variants, and on the other hand these aquatic plants are prone to mixing and hybridization. Moreover, the red water-lilies suffered the fire of 1986, and although a few years later the species was normally reproduced and grown again, in a certain part of the lake experiments were started with other Nymphaea species as well.

The purple or violet colored flower that can be seen on this picture is a subject of discussion in Internet forums, and probably doesn't belong to any species or subspecies mentioned above. For example the Indian red waterlily can be excluded, because its leaves are usually purplish or mauve colored, the flowers are deep pink or red, open at night and close in the morning or forenoon. This is more likely to be a blue star water lily (a.k.a. blue lotus, Nymphaea nouchali) or a blue Egyptian lotus (a.k.a. sacred lotus or blue Egyptian water lily, Nymphaea caerulea), or maybe a cultivar of Nymphaea 'Panama Pacific'.

One of the large sun terraces which are built on stilts - Hévíz, Hungary One of the large sun terraces which are built on stilts

The healing power and therapeutic effect of the Hévíz spa thermal water is based on the dissolved minerals like the calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate (hydrogen carbonate), sulphur and small amount of radon. The uniqueness ot the water is further enhanced by the floating biologically active organic compounds, as well as the curative peaty mud that thickly covers the lake bed and contains mildly radioactive radon gas. In the water the dissolved substances are optimally in balance with the gaseous ones and this helps to promote the absorption of the active ingredients. In wintertime the lake is shrouded in a thick layer of vapor and mist, this protects the water from cooling down and also a natural inhaler.

The medicinal water of Hévíz is especially suitable for rheumatic and musculoskeletal complaints, but as a drinking therapy it is also good for stomach and digestive disorders. An addition, due to its vapour contains hydrogen sulphide and radon it is also recommended for the treatment of tired vocal cords.

Of course the effects on the psyche is also non-negligible, because the relaxing environment, the water at a pleasant temperature and the relaxation on one of the many sun terraces in itself can help a lot. So among other things that's why the lake bath is strongly recommended not just for those who wish to heal and recover, but for every younger and older people who want to relax and refresh.

Interior of the central spa building - Hévíz, Hungary Interior of the central spa building

Two yaers after the older bath building was burnt down in 1986 a new modern central spa building was built. It has glass-walled covered interior from where it is possible to go directly into the warm water of the lake. The structure is built upon the thermal spring, so under the building the water always remains warmer even in winter, but it is also easy to swim out from here to the open-air part of the lake.

The healing could come between flowers floating in the thermal water - Hévíz, Hungary The healing could come between flowers floating in the thermal water

The real boom of Hévíz town was begun after the 1st World War, from the 1920s many holiday resorts were built, and by 1939 the number of these buildings was already multiplied. The bath at Lake Hévíz was built in 1926, and by 1932 already a roofed, indoor bath house was waiting for the guests. However, the big boost was breaked by the 2nd World War, at that time Hévíz was a pleasure resort of the German soldiers, then in 1948 it was deprivatized.

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