Lenti (Zala), Hungary July 2022 (Tour 6)

Pausing only briefly in Heviz, we headed for Lenti, still in Zala County (named after the River Zala) but further west near the borders with Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. We were committed to going back to Austria at the weekend because our daughter Rohan would be travelling to Enzesfeld (and we were keen to both see her and pick up on where we left off with the Dedic family) but we had to keep our options open. Keszthely didn’t make the same positive impression on Vanya as it did on me and she remained unsure about this part of Hungary. As it happened, we needn’t have worried. Lenti proved a great place to visit and Vanya enjoyed it so much that our planned one night stopover was extended to three nights.

We were going to Lenti for a specific purpose. The campsite Vanya chose sits alongside a spa complex known as the Lenti Thermal Spa & St George Energy Park and guests of the campsite are given free access to the spa for the duration of their stay.

It proved to be a really good spa complex. Vanya rates it better than any of those she used in Budapest. According to the blurb the water is a 40,000 year old sodium-hydrogen-carbonated water. Okay, fine. The spa comprises 5 outdoor pools, 7 indoor pools and 1 pool which is half inside and half outside. We favoured two of the outdoor pools being, the medicinal pool at 36-38 degrees centigrade and the adventure pool (with the lazy river, water jets, bubbles and big slide, etc) at 26-28 degrees centigrade (but which was closer to 30+ degrees because of the hot weather).

What we particularly liked about this complex is that the spa pools are spread across 8 hectares of lawn around which are bars, restaurants, food kiosks, etc and we didn’t once feel crowded despite the place being busy.

Another unusual feature of the complex is the Energy Network or Earth Radiations, more often referred to as Saint George Lines or Dragon Streams. It seems that sometime in 2002, ‘Earth Radiations’ and ‘Crossing Points’ were discovered in the area of the Lenti Thermal Spa and, according to certain authorities, “the energy radiation here harmonizes the flow of energy throughout our bodies and triggers positive processes that can restore our physical and mental balance”. The Spa has marked the Crossing Points of the Lines with columns or posts and guests are invited to spend between 20 and 30 minutes at these posts to maximise the beneficial effects of the spa.

I know very little about Saint George Lines and Crossing Points but I do know that time spent in the spa complex was time very well spent. We used it every day and found the whole process very relaxing. Sated would be a more accurate feeling. I think if I were to visit the place again I would stay in the 4 star Balance Hotel next door to the Spa Complex. This comment does not reflect badly on where we stayed but the Balance Hotel also provide sauna rooms and massages. That would have been cream on the cake.

But I haven’t talked about Lenti itself. It’s a small quiet town of just over 7,000 inhabitants. We didn’t see much of the place during our stay (preoccupied with the thermal baths, I suppose) but, I walked into the town centre a few times for a ‘look see’ and to replenish our supplies from two local mini-markets and we both took the dogs into the town for a meal one evening.

It’s a tidy town, almost Slovenian or Austrian in many respects (although the roads in this area by no means match those in Slovenia or Austria). There are a couple of small but nice squares and small parks (funded by EEC money judging by local signage) where a number of locals seemed to congregate as the day cooled. The largest of the two squares we saw was the one in the town centre where St Michael’s Church and the War Memorials are situated.

The people we met in Lenti were very welcoming but none spoke English and the fall back language was definitely German. Our Hungarian is non existent. What really impressed us about the place was the low prices. In one bar opposite where we were staying, three pints of lager and five glasses of Irsai Oliver (a very respectable Hungarian wine) cost just 9 Euro. That is £7.56 at today’s exchange rate. We used that bar more than the once and we’ll no doubt be bringing some Irsai Oliver back from Hungary.

* Typically, Irsai Olivér wines from Hungary are dry, medium bodied, with low acidity and a pronounced aromatic fragrance giving it a Muscat-like character.

Heviz (Zala), Hungary July 2022 (Tour 6)

I wasn’t going to write even a short blog on Heviz because it was a place we simply passed through on our way to Lenti. Okay, that’s not altogether true. I made a short detour because I had read about the Roman Catholic Holy Spirit Church (known locally as The Blue Church) and I wanted to see it. I was going to mention the detour and the church in the Lenti blog but then, after researching the church on the internet and coming across some absolute drivel, I changed my mind and decided to write something about Heviz if only to put the record straight about this unusual and quite beautiful church.

So, it has been written on at least two internet sites that the Holy Spirit Church in Heviz was designed by the renowned Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz and that it was built in 1988. No it wasn’t! There, the record is straight. The church was actually designed by Janos Bocskai. Construction started in 1996 and was completed three years later. It is the largest church in Heviz. It can accommodate 1,000 people and it is made entirely of wood. The exterior of the church is a beautiful sky blue colour and it’s seven towers represent the seven pious gifts of the Holy Ghost. Not being a catholic, I had to look those up but can now confirm that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The inside of the church is also beautiful and surprisingly minimalistic by Roman Catholic standards.

It is a glorious piece of work, inside and out, and I love it.

One other church perhaps worth a visit in Heviz is the Lutheran Reformed Church which was built in 1993. It is the only protestant church in Heviz and it’s small size reflects that of the local protestant population. Again it is a pretty and unusual looking church.

Only other thing I would say about Heviz at this time is that the Holy Spirit Church is close to the Heviz thermal bath which until 1948 was owned by the Festetics (i.e. the same family who own the Festetics Palace in Keszthely). I was going to pop in on the thermal bath (it is only a couple of hundred yards down the road from the Holy Spirit Church) but, with Vanya taking us to Lenti especially to visit the thermal baths there, it seemed a bit excessive. Having said that and in case you are interested, the Heviz thermal bath is purportedly the world’s largest (swimmable) biologically active medicinal lake. More important, the waters of the lake are completely replaced every 72 hours. That makes it clean, notwithstanding the lake’s average summer heat of 34 degrees centigrade.

I am certain that there is considerably more to Heviz but Lenti beckoned.

Keszthely (Zala), Hungary July 2022 (Tour 6)

During our stay in Enzesfeld with our friends, the Dedics, Rohan (our daughter) advised she would like to see us all (the Dedics, Vanya and I) and that she would be flying out to Vienna the following weekend. Fair enough. We were all keen to see her. Vanya and I decided to spend the intervening time (that was 6 nights) in Hungary and we set off for Lake Balaton, a part of Hungary neither of us had visited before.

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in central Europe and it has almost 200 kilometres of shoreline. With the country being land locked it came as no surprise to learn that this is a very popular holiday destination in Hungary.

We made for Keszthely at the western end of Lake Balaton. It is much closer to Austria than the larger beach resort of Siofok and it is cheaper and quieter (probably because Siofok is that bit closer to Hungary’s capital of Budapest).

The shoreline comprises a handful of private pay beaches and a large public area with a small promenade and boating pier, fairground activities, cafe bars and wooden beach huts serving local beers, wines and fast foods. It was quite lively as we arrived with a local band playing rock music on a temporary stage.

After checking out the beach area (very touristy) I made my way to the town’s L shaped main square, Fo Ter, which was just over a kilometre away. It is an attractive square holding the town’s principal church (Our Lady of Hungary); the town hall, a theatre and a school (both closed); what looked like an old monastery and; a couple of hotel bar restaurants but all was surprisingly quiet.

Leading off from the square towards the Festetics Palace (an absolute ‘must see’ in Keszthely) is the old town’s one main street, Kossoth Lajos Utca. It is on this street and in the lanes leading off from this street that most of the town’s interesting spots are to be found; shops, cafe bars, restaurants and some of the town’s many museums.

I didn’t visit any of the museums but some are quite unusual, to say the least – they included a Radio & TV Museum, a Toy Museum, a Puppet & Doll Museum, a coach museum (as in horses and carriages), a Marzipan Museum (I kid you not), an adult only Erotic Renaissance Museum (with wax model displays, so I read) and most bizarre of all one containing a scale model of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest made entirely of snail shells. It was made between 1975 and 1989 by an old woman who has since died and she used 4.5 million snail shells in the making of it. It takes all sorts.

And so to the Festetics Palace, which certainly has the ‘Wow’ factor! It is a beautiful, sparkling white Baroque palace dating back to 1745 (and extended significantly in the late 19th century). It isn’t cheap to go inside and, most odd, you have to pay extra if you want to take photos inside the palace. Money grabbing b—–s. Having said that, I spent hours wandering the palace and the equally impressive gardens with small lake, fountains, bird park, palm house, etc and I loved it.

We stayed two nights in Keszthely and then decided to move on.