We had a tough few weeks after we left Budapest. We have all enjoyed excellent health during this whole year so far, but unfortunately in Budapest Andy picked up a nasty cold and, much as he tried not to share it with the rest of us, we are living in such close proximity to one another that it was almost inevitable that we would all succumb to it at some point.
The other factor is that it has been scorching hot. The temperatures have been in the low 30s Celsius now for weeks and it is starting to wear us down. It saps our energy and sometimes we don’t want to do very much at all. M described it well the other day when she said, “the heat has taken away our sparkle!”
So, after our city break, we headed for somewhere quieter and with a pool so that we would be able to cool off in the heat of the day. And we found a campsite with free access to an amazing water park and thermal spa complex in north west Hungary, right alongside the border with Slovakia. Result!
The Challenge of Towing on Hungary’s Roads
But before we could get there, we had another challenge – towing on Hungary’s roads. Have I told you how appalling the roads are in Hungary? The motorways are not too bad, although they are still not what you would call smooth, but once you get off the motorway, you have no idea what you are going to be faced with. I have included some photographs to give you an idea. They have signs everywhere here telling you the road is uneven. These show two bumps on them and there is usually a distance underneath indicating for how many kilometres you should expect it to be uneven. The problem is that the signs are almost back to back, so as you get to the end of one section of uneven road, there is another sign warning you of the next 3km section or whatever. It would be easier if they marked the sections of road that AREN’T uneven!
Anyway, we spent 5 nights at the campsite at Lipot Termal Resort and Spa. We felt like we had stepped right off the beaten track because suddenly all the couples and families surrounding us on the campsite were Hungarian, Czech or Polish. There were no Brits around, and no Dutch or Germans either. And everywhere we have been there have been Dutch and Germans, especially Dutch, so this was a noticeable difference. The little town of Lipót nearby was very picturesque with its yellow baroque church in the centre and its small general store, stuffed from floor to ceiling with produce. No-one around here spoke English, so we had a few challenges with the language, but we got by and were always able to make ourselves understood.
We are still getting used to working out prices in Forint too. Everything seems so expensive when you go shopping as you are calculating in thousands rather than hundreds or tens. And then it has also surprised us that on the campsites we have often been quoted prices in Euros. There is a sort of sub-economy going on here that sells things to you in something other than their own currency. Want a token for the washing machine in Hungary? Yes, that will be 5 euros please.
So, anyway, the waterpark/spa was amazing and could be accessed for free from the campsite, so we would just pop over for a couple of hours, then come back for lunch and head back again later when it got unbearable in the heat on the campsite. (Fortunately we had a pitch with lots of shade, but really caravans are not that great when it is scorching!) The water in the pools was lovely and warm and it had the BEST water slides! Our favourite was the yellow one where you got to slide down sitting in a single or double inflatable ring. I lost count of the number of times we all went down it. And for most of the time the site was so quiet that we didn’t have to queue. It was brilliant and just what we all needed!
Apart from the slides, there were multiple other pools; one with a whirl pool and bubbles; another with lane swimming and a diving board; another area with water jets and tipping buckets; and a shallow paddling pool for toddlers. The complex also had two very warm (34 and 38 degrees Celsius) and rather pungent thermal spa pools. Like the Széchenyi Baths that we visited in Budapest, these had certified medicinal benefits, mostly for inflammatory conditions of the joints, and they were filled mostly with older people who seemed to be soaking away their aches and pains sitting on the ledge around the side and chatting away to one another. Once you got over the rotten egg smell, the waters were very soothing and relaxing. The water comes from a spring of 65 degrees Celsius, breaking from a depth of 2000 metres and it contains a huge number of minerals and trace elements, including sodium-hydrogen carbonate and fluoride. In addition to relaxing in the thermal pools and playing in the water park, there was a sauna available and you could also pay extra for spa treatments, massages etc.
We have been amazed at the scale of the thermal spa culture that they have going on in Hungary. So many places have thermal waters and I guess since they have no coastline, these water parks and lakes serve as their beaches and seas. I would love to come back to bathe in the thermal waters during the winter when the heat makes the steam rise from the surface. And surprisingly, even though it was hot outside, it still felt good relaxing in the warm water.
Even if we hadn’t been staying at the campsite, the resort would’ve been a great place to spend a day or two. There were plenty of grassed, shaded areas in which to lay out a picnic rug or hire a lounger on which to stretch out in between dips in the pools. There were also plenty of restaurants and cafés to get refreshments and an entertainment programme in the summer. All in all it was a great find and was just what we needed as we got over our colds. Of course, we are virtually unable to stay in places without looking what else there is to do in the area and as we were only about 30km from Bratislava, we also managed to find time for a quick trip into Slovakia, which is the subject of my next post.
And finally, before I sign off on this post, I have one other memory to share with you of our time at Lipót Thermal Resort and Spa. Even now, it makes me shudder to think about it. Earwigs. Who knows why they have this name. They certainly don’t burrow into your ear in the night, which is what I thought when I was a child, but they do get into every nook and cranny imaginable (and a few more besides!). We have never had a problem with earwigs before on this trip, but a few days into our stay at the Lipót Thermal Resort and Spa we noticed some of them on the awning and one or two in the caravan itself. It wasn’t until we took the awning down though that we realised we had been infested with the little critters. As we bashed and shook the awning, more and more of them appeared out of nowhere, crawling away and into any tiny, narrow space they could find. Ughhhhh! Three weeks later and we are still finding them!