As It Has Always Been
We will never know what the first people to come upon the thermal lake at Hévíz thought. They would have had no knowledge of the natural plumbing which causes an unfathomable 60 million liters of water to gurgle up to the surface daily.
They would not have known that the lake refreshed itself on a near daily basis. They would not have known that the steam coming off the water in the winter was harmless or that the water had more healing than harmful effects.
Did they really need that knowledge though to soak, frolic, to relax and enjoy this incredible thermal lake? We will never know what the first people who discovered Hévíz thought, but we are able to know what they felt.
Aches and pains give way to the curative powers of a natural wonder that combines the therapeutic power of water and minerals. An invigorating soak can also serve to stimulate the imagination and allow us to conceive what those first visitors must have thought: this lake is incredible.
It is the timeless evocative power of Lake Hévíz that links past and present.Yet those people of long ago and even those of not so long ago had a great advantage over the visitor today.
They were not visually assaulted by the gaudy high rise hotels, the crass commercialism that permeates tourism in Hévíz today. Their experience would have been much more natural.
So visitors must close their eyes to this unsightly mass of modern tourism and let these waters do their work, taking them back to a time before all that.
Even if we cannot stretch our minds all the way back to reimagine those first visitors, let us at least start at the point where Hévíz began its rise to prominence and popularity, the late 18th century.
In 1795 Count György Festetics piped the thermal lake’s bountiful waters into a bathhouse, creating Hévíz’s first spa. This was the trigger for Hévíz to become a playground of the aristocracy.Aristocrats and spas have a long lineage in central Europe.
Those were the days of monarchy and nobility, empire embellished by a final belle époque. Scores of European nobility made their way to Hévíz, the majority of them connected in some way to the Habsburg Empire.
The thermal waters were a sparkling wayside in an era that would soon end and the nobility did not even know it. The allure was not just the waters of Heviz, but to be among the elite of an empire.
Soaking to their heart’s content, surrounded by languid water lilies topping the thermal water’s surface, it must have been quite a moment. Yet nothing lasts forever, especially power.The First World War upended the old elite, but Heviz retained some of its charm, if not its glory.
In the years that followed, Lake Hévíz continued to offer fun and frolic. We can see the spirit of this short lived age, displayed in a photo taken at the lake in 1933. Men and women face the camera. They soak and smile brightly.
They look so happy, so relaxed, they do not know what is to come. They do not know of the next war or the even longer cold one that will follow. They do not know what Heviz will become. All they know is that moment.
It is a feeling of pure enjoyment. This is what they experienced, what they felt. This is Lake Hévíz as it was then and as it has always been.
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