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We left Balatonfüred a day earlier than planned as it made more sense to make for Hévíz with its thermal lake, at the far western side of the long lake. We had realised that this would be better as an overnight stop rather than a daytrip from Balatonfüred and there wasn’t really anything “essential” to see or do right here. We had been rather underwhelmed by the lacklustre service at the hotel anyway so were quite happy to leave. Balatonfüred felt very much like a town which was now closed for the season, full of new constructions and very pleasant streets which were still readying themselves for the next season. Eddie had been parked in a better spot and had escaped the accumulation of falling leaves and the sticky sap from the trees overhead.

It was a beautiful feel-good sunny day, still a full-on summer with a nice crisp feeling in the air, and it was a pleasure to drive along the lake, with one of our favourite Baltic CD’s playing as we drove west, past the reed beds that lined the lake shore. The long drive along the lake demonstrated how extensive it was, 78km end-to-end. Off to our right as we drove, we passed vineyards, active cultivated ones as well as many now overgrown plots advertised as elado (for sale). We passed through several villages, less touristy at this end but still with zimmer frei signs and campings.

Then, at the far end, we left Balaton behind and quickly thereafter reached Hévíz, a small but intensely touristic spa town, with most visitors of the grey-haired variety. It took us a few attempts to penetrate Hévíz’s town plan but with a bit of perseverance we got there. And with a little searching we came up trumps with the Pannon hotel. On the way into Hévíz we had already noticed that it was a somewhat different place, with tall green trees which neither of us could place (like evergreens but with fern-like leaves, very odd). Along the streets we saw people walking around with rubber rings and “noodles” (the swimming/flotation aids), and many shops selling them.

We navigated our way round the streets and passed the thermal lake and saw many little heads bobbing up and down in the water around the central complex. At the Pannon we dumped our bits, chilled for a few minutes with another half a bread roll with salami, chilli and “shite”, and then went out to the thermal lake. On the way we picked up some noodles, in bright primary colours and with a connecting piece at the end (to turn them into rings). Most of the folks toddling around the streets were older. This is very much a “wellness” place, with “patients” coming here for “treatments” of several weeks. Our hotel had a few plaques advertising the services of the resident doctor for rheuma (arthritis) sufferers, along with various other therapies.

The entrance to the thermal lake complex at first sight appeared traditional and I was expecting another Budapest Gellert-style somewhat old-fashioned centre, but inside it was immediately clear that this place had the most modern and up-to-date facilities, with a modern reception, and wristwatch style passes that could be used to open your lockers, etc. Outside the complex there were rows of colourful flowerbeds. Inside the fenced off area there was a whole complex centred on, and in, the small lake. A long corridor led into the central complex from where you could access the lake, as well as the various platform dotted around the sides. Lots of flabby and wrinkly flesh was on display, mainly old people.

It was hardly a place for the “beautiful people” but a fantastic spot to spend an afternoon, or a lot longer! We changed and then headed for the central bit. Oh no, first I went around to get some pictures and then, the camera stored back in the locker, we ventured into the lake with our brightly coloured noodles. It was lovely and warm, nicely so, a perfect temperature, and the water was buoyant. With our noodles we chilled, floated, bobbed, paddled. The thermal lake itself was a real oddity and a real surprise for us to find this place. Around the edge there were various complexes with changing rooms, sunning platforms, a café and, in the centre the main bit, with various rooms and platforms as well as an enclosed area.

Radiating around the lake at several places there were bars you could hang on to and float, along with a few other underwater bits of seating. Green “lilies” with their pink/purple flowers, on clusters at various points around the lake. The most “picturesque” sight consisted of the many bobbing, floating visitors. Maybe it was my imagination but they looked rather comical, with curious expressions, surprised to find themselves in this floating position. They simply bobbed. No-one swam more than just a few strokes to move around a bit.

The pictures inside showed us the actual spring, located in crevices located more than forty metres down. It looked more like the bottom of the deep ocean. Shallower bits were closer to the lake edges, which we went in the next day, but we stayed in the centre where it was deep. We connected our noodles and floated happily for a couple of hours. Early on we met a British couple, elderly of course, who had spent two weeks here. We had a lovely lazy afternoon in this unique spot, thoroughly enjoying our relaxation.

We dried out on the solar terrace and had a bite – a szendvic and a burger and coffee. I nearly forgot to mention the strong eggy smell, which we soon stopped to notice. But when we finally left the thermal lake we did still smell eggy for a long time afterwards. A coffee, cake and cards on the way, and then we returned to our hotel. For dinner we stuck to Lonely Planet’s recommendation and went across the road from our hotel to a cosy informal eatery, and waddled back later, with tummies full of tasty fish, nosh, beer, wine and schnapps, and that essential end-of-the-evening bonus, a short waddle across the road to our room! We were very glad that we had decided to spend the night here and really enjoyed the soak and noodles (and we’re going for another tomorrow morning!)