Hungary for a relaxing breakBy Laura Herbert
December 03, 2008
I have never thought of Hungary as a place to go for a relaxing and unwinding break – somewhere for a romantic city break in Budapest, perhaps.
But when I was offered four days of spa, wine tasting and horse riding I soon began to change my mind.
From the hustle and bustle of a busy working week in Reading, it seemed a very appealing invitation that was just too good to turn down.
As I sat aboard the plane looking forward to a much needed massage, I glanced over the itinerary for the days ahead which packed in several activities from wine tasting in picturesque vineyards to a guided tour of an abbey.
After spending the night in one of Budapest’s many hotels we set off for Lake Balaton, about a two-hour drive from the capital staying in the Ramada Lake Balaton Hotel in the area of Balatonfured.
The lake itself is very popular for sailing and windsurfing and I was lucky enough to explore part of it by speedboat.
After our quick trip across the lake we headed to Pecsely for an afternoon of horse riding.
The panoramic views of riding through the mountains was a fantastic experience – although the language barrier proved a slight issue – and one that inspired me to resume horse riding after a 15 year break.
Csikos Lovasudvar riding school also offers tailor-made horse riding holidays for people at all levels.
I was still dreaming of that perfect massage when we were whisked off to Tihanyi Bences Abbey and a guided tour around the area.
We continued our trip stopping off at the Royal Balaton Golf & Yacht Club before taking in the views on top of Hegyestu Geological Exhibition Site, and then got to taste some beautiful wine deep in the heart of Hungary surrounded by vineyards.
It tasted so good I left items of luggage behind just to fit the two bottles of white and one bottle of rose in my suitcase to bring home.
We then continued our journey to Heviz where we spent the last two nights of our trip staying in Hotel Europa Fit. It may have ‘Fit’ in the name but the clientele appeared exactly the opposite, and I had still not had that massage.
Upon arrival at the hotel we were treated to a guided tour of its spa facilities and told a little about the hotel itself. Most of the guests come to the hotel for recovery and healing after suffering illness or a physical injury.
Guests have a range of treatments and exercises to choose from to help with their specific problem.
At last I finally got the massage I had been dreaming of but it did not meet my expectations. Unlike spas back in England where people use them to relax and unwind, there is a much more clinical approach in Hungary.
As I entered the small, dingy treatment room and ordered to lie on the massage table I was subjected to 20 minutes of utter pain and discomfort – not what I had in mind.
We were currently staying in Heviz which is home to the popular radioactive Lake Heviz. During the summer it goes down well with Hungarians who spend most of their time relaxing in the warm water.
It is filled with calcium and magnesium and this keeps it bubbling all year round at warm temperatures, even 24 to 26 degrees centigrade during the winter months.
The natural healing powers of the water are said to help physical pains or injury, but as I was not over 60 and didn’t suffer from arthritis I wasn’t sure what good it might do.
A range of spa treatments are also available at the lake for an extra cost including a detoxicating massage with honey, a breath-relieving massage and an anti-cellulite detoxicating massage.
But I decided to give the treatments at the lake a miss and give the hotel another go.
This time I wasn’t disappointed. Just before we headed home I visited the hotel’s Beauty and Wellness centre, which is separate to the hotel treatments, for a rejuvenating dead-sea face treatment and dead-sea body mud pack.
This finally left me relaxed and convinced that Hungary is definitely a place to go to unwind.
Ryanair offer single flights from London Stansted to Balaton Airport from £49.90 per person.
Rooms at the four-star Danubus Astoria Hotel in Budapest start from £35.60 per night. For more information visit www.danubushotels.com.
The Ramada Lake Balaton Hotel offer rooms from £77.60 per night. Visit www.ramadabalaton.hu for more details.
A night at the Hotel Europa Fit Lake Heviz will cost around £60 a room. For more information visit www.hoteleuropafit.hu.
First Great Western run trains direct to London Gatwick. They also offer great savings on monthly group rate returns. A five-day off-peak return for one person is £21.90 and the monthly return costs just £26.30 per person. For more details on train fares and special offers visit www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk.