The Road To Wellville

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 14, 2013

1835 km so far.

After taking in the outside of Keszthely’s only building of note that isn’t the giant Tesco, also known as Festetics Palace, which is a Baroque palace built beginning in the late 18th century, we headed to Héviz.

festetics palace hungary

My one decent shot of Festetics.

A paved bike path took us the 4 km to town through swampland, and at the end of the path a small but bustling town appeared.

Héviz is famous for its thermal lake, which is a lot like the indoor hot springs we have been visiting recently, except that it is a natural lake, and you bathe in the lake itself, outdoors, not in a man-made hot tub.

healing lake in hungary

People floating in the lake.

Several wellness centres and hotels surround the lake, and there are numerous pathways lined with elderly visitors here to take the waters, all carrying some form of floating device (water noodles being the most popular), and wellness center staff, in crisp white hospital-like uniforms.

It reminded us very much of the fantastical and hilarious film The Road To Wellville, which is a fictional account of life at JH Kellogg’s sanitarium in the early 1900s. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.

Is there any scientific proof that ‘taking the waters’ does anything but relax the weary soul?

Balaton By Bike

Since we’ve been sitting around in pools for days, we skipped taking the waters and instead headed back to the big lake we camped on last night. Lake Balaton is Central Europe’s largest fresh water lake and is surrounded by a ‘famous’ paved bike trail, which runs approximately 200 km around the lake. We ventured on the trail today, heading towards a campground I had found online that promised to be a bit more accommodating than our accommodation last night.

Riding a paved bike path is very different from riding on the road. The paths are often quite flat (apart from where tree roots have made them less than bike friendly) and free of cars (but not mopeds). This actually makes us a bit slower as we tend to look around more, knowing we can swerve a little to look at the stork, or crane our neck to see the church we just passed, without a large truck or crazy Audi driver running us off the road.

We stopped for lunch on the shores of the lake.

swamp in hungary

Pretty swampy grasses.

Balaton is a milky, reedy lake lined with properties still getting ready for high season, which doesn’t officially begin until July. The lake is quite shallow and warms up to Meditteranean temperatures later in the year, so the brochures tell us. They also tell us it is so shallow that it is not uncommon to see countless people knee-deep far off shore. Right now, however, the water is cold, the lake is quiet, and it’s the perfect place for a picnic.

A Breath Of Fresh Air

After lunch we pass through the wine-making town of Badacsony. The town is set on a hillside (as all good vineyards are) and is almost entirely one large vineyard. Every yard, every patch of land that isn’t a home, seems to be a vineyard (apart from the odd interspersed fruit tree).

The vineyards lead us to our campsite, El Dorado (this is the further east El Dorado; there happen to be two of the same name on this side of the lake). We are met by a very helpful, very friendly woman who makes us feel welcome. She is a breath of fresh air after last night’s shrewish character.

giant hay bale person hungary

Hay there!

As usual we are the only campers with a tent instead of a caravan, so Jane has lots of space to do some essential cleaning to her bike, and I find the essential dark beer under a thatched roof.  

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