Fifth Day

Again it was a 7 a.m. wake up call. We left Budapest for the Eastern Part of  Hungary. This morning we were going to study the very rich Hungarian spa culture.

“Thermal waters have been used by people for thousands of years for cleansing, relaxation and easing aches and pains. The chemical absorption of minerals contained in thermal waters is said to be beneficial to the human nervous system, as well as muscles and skin. Drinking thermal water, which has been properly cleansed and tested for mineral content, can also help aid gastric and respiratory problems and increase metabolism.
It was the Romans who first capitalized on Hungary’s thermal waters in the 1st century, when they built baths on the banks of the Danube River. Archaeologists have since uncovered 21 baths from the Roman era. Later, when Hungarian tribes touched down, they established themselves in the region, known today as northern Budapest. The tradition was continued under Turkish rule of the country during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hungary’s oldest bath, the Rác, is located in Budapest and dates back to the 15th century. Roughly 350,000 cubic meters of thermal water – water naturally occurring at temperatures greater than 30°C – reach the surface daily in Hungary. Water classified as ‘medicinal’ must be run through a series of test to prove it has healing effects. Such certification is conducted at Hungary’s Ministry of Health over a several-year period.
According to the Hungarian Geothermal Association, Hungary has enough thermal water for the next 40,000 years. Flush with thermal water, Hungary in the 1960s undertook a baths development program, and constructed dozens of medicinal baths, swimming pools and strands. The United Nations took notice and in the 1970s established the “Thermal Project” institute in Budapest, which was charged with promoting development of the baths and planning programs to utilize the practice in other countries across Europe.
Today, thousands of locals and tourists annually visit  Hungary’s thermal waters, with more than 100 spas and bathhouses across the country.” (

Our first stop today was Egerszalok.


Egerszalok is located in the middle of the Northern Hungarian oil field.

In 1961 the Hungarian oil company was drilling an oil well, but at 410 m deep they hit a thermal water pocket. Since then the water is gushing out almost like a geyser. It is very rich in minerals and through the years it has built a very unique travertine deposit. The water has a very unique chemical composition. This medicinal water has international significance for the treatment of physical locomotive diseases and MS. The temperature of the thermal water is 68 ° C.




        Close up of the travertine

Travertine is the name given to the calcium carbonate deposits that form when a super saturated solution of groundwater surfaces, releasing carbon dioxide gas and precipitating solid calcite or aragonite (two calcium carbonate minerals). Groundwater under pressure can dissolve carbon dioxide gas. This super saturated solution is stable as long as the CO2 pressure remains high, i.e., while it is under ground. When the super saturated groundwater surfaces, however, the dissolved CO2 is released to the atmosphere. Travertine forms when this happens.


Our next stop was Eger. We visited the famous castle and just walked the streets to have the feel for this beautiful town.

“Eger truly one of Hungary's most attractive towns, famed for its medieval and Baroque historical monuments. One of the country's largest castle sits overlooking the town. The town’s most famous legend is the Turkish siege in 1552 where 2000 defenders under the command of Istvan Dobo held their own against the 100.000 invading Turks for a month. Dobo opened the castle's wine cellars, and broke open the casks for his men who greeted the soldiers without wiping the incarnadine wine from their lips and bearded chins The rumor circulated among the invaders that the defenders of Eger drank Bull's Blood and were therefore invincible. The women too had a role in this, pouring boiling oil on their attackers. The French proverb, "As strong as a Turk." was changed to "As strong as the women of Eger."




The next on our agenda was to visit the famous valley of the beautiful woman to try the renowned wine of this area called the Bull's Blood.

Eger is exceptionally famous about the wine. The ten thousand acres (4000 hectares) of this historical wine area were producing grapes as early as the eleventh century. Its best known wine is the "Egri bikavér", better known in the English-speaking world as Bull's Blood. But a wide variety of wine can be tasted in any of the cellars in the Valley of the Beautiful Lady, dug out of the rhyolite tuff hillside.



The geology of the Eger wine region is characterized by the Lower Miocene rhyolite tuff and the somewhat less frequent rhyolite-dacite lava rocks. These volcanic rocks are particularly important because they produce zeolite rich soils. Zeolite is a typical silicate mineral, which can absorb water and keep the moisture in the soil all the time. The full bodied and alcohol-rich wines of the region are produced on this soil. The rhyolite tuff also important because it is easy to carve houses and cellars into it.  99% of the wine cellars in the Eger region were carved into this rocks, including the casamates of the Eger castle, or the several kilometer long cellar-system beneath downtown of Eger.  In the cellars a special type of mold grows on the walls which keeps the moister concentration stable year around.

The molds in the cellar

After the wine tasting we were ready to eat.

This was our food.


Our next stop was Szarvasko. The szarvasko area has a very interesting geology. The rocks around here are part of an ophiolites sequence from the Mesozoic Tethys ocean. We took one of the very good geology path around this area and observed the outcropping Middle Jurassic pillow basalt while walking up to the remnants of a medieval castle.

Typical pillow lava                    Our group at the castle



It was very hot, so the good cold drink felt really good after the hike.

Haley even got into the water.

We really had to go now, because dr. Anna’s friends were waiting for us at Szogliget in the heart of the legendary Hungarian karst.


This is our hostel the “Szalamandra haz”

The house used to be a border post to Slovakia. Today it is a hostel. It was very simple eight people in a room, with bunk beds, but it was in the middle of nowhere, with a huge yard and a very superior spring closed by.

When we got there, the food was ready. We had real Hungarian gulyas made in kettle with pogacsa (small unsweetened round cake). It was very mouth-watering.



Kettle                               Dinner

After dinner our friends asked us if we were ready for the hike to the medieval castle “ Szad var” at moonlight. We started the hike in the dark with a couple of  lights. It was very romantic, full moon, lots of stars.



The Hungarian flag at the castle…us on the remnants of the castle


After the castle tour our friends were waiting with a nice fire, and  good wine. We told good stories to each other and were singing Hungarian and English songs. Had a very good time.



Trip scheduleNext Day