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Deep within the earth, waters are heated by geological forces.  Lightly scented with the sulfur-y smell of rotting eggs and bad B.O., they push their way up through cracks at the bottom of a small volcanic crater.  The water collects to form a small lake.  And crazy Hungarian entrepreneurs build a large bathing complex on stilts in the middle of it.  Welcome to Heviz.

Heviz is located just west of Lake Balaton, a popular summer vacation area.  Lake Balaton is one of Europe’s largest bodies of fresh water; in fact, it might be the largest though I usually like to avoid making up facts that are so easily verifiable.

The waters of Heviz, on the day that my father and I visited, were a balmy 29 degrees Celsius and the air a chilly 14 degrees.  The complex has an indoor and an outdoor swimming area. The outdoor swimming area is the whole lake, the indoor area is the water under the bathing complex, with Plexiglas walls around it.

The lake is up to 40 meters deep, so unless you’re sitting on an submerged bench suspended between log piles, you’re treading water.  The edges of the lake has warm, squishy and slightly radioactive mud that is supposed to cure diseases of the joints and nervous disorders. I decided not to swim all the way to shore, however, so my nerves are as disordered as ever.

The complex was full of people, and by people, I mean, real people, middle aged hairy guys, chunky women, gawky teens wearing ugly bathing suits, and slow moving and musty old people.

It was actually fascinating to observe a crowd of humans who were not trying to mold their bodies to a plastic ideal, all tanned and toned.  It made for much more interesting people watching than the beaches in California, which are more of an occasion to gawk than to ponder.

My father and I stayed in the waters for about 45 minutes—the recommended maximum is an hour.  Because we both had not been to a public swimming area for ages, we were sorely unprepared.  My father, in fact, brought in only a small European bathing suit which he had stuffed into his jeans pocket.  He bought it from a small department store in Budapest from two leering saleswomen, and was concerned that it was a little too transparent in the buttock area.  I told him out of kindness that no, the fabric was quite opaque.

What did we forget? Well, towels, for starters, though we rented some once we solved the riddle of the rental system.  Also, flip flop thong type sandal shoe things would have been great.  Also, a bit of shampoo, a comb and a floatation device would also have been useful.  Almost everyone in the place had a small innertube or water wings on.  It would have been great sport to bring the MONSTER innertube that my family has at our cabin—it can easily support about 4 people, and it’s fun to stand on the tube and dive into the hole in the middle.

The most striking thing about the lake resort, other than its geographical origins, was that there were no life guards or monitoring cameras to be seen, and there were several places where you could swim under the supporting structure, dog paddling in the bowels of the complex in up to 40 meters of water with nothing to hold onto.  You could also swim out to several places in the lake that were easily 200 yards from any support.  All in all, it was a lawsuit waiting to happen, and a stupid swimmer could get himself into serious trouble.  But it’s all par for the course in Hungary, I think.

We had an excellent time, and I will be returning to these healthy waters—next time, I’m bringing a dingy.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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