As we all know, Hungary is the queen of thermal baths and spas. But did you know that this can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century? Furthermore, as strange as it might sound, the development of our baths is partly due to the progress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Termalfurdo.hu tells us why the second part of the 19th century is called the golden age of Hungarian baths.
The development of Hungarian baths
Hungarian baths that later became famous among inland and foreign Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin were built from the beginning of the 19th century and then during the decades of the age of reforms. After the 1848/49 war of independence, developments stopped for a while. However, it is probable that the strict controls of the Bach era, which highly affected the traditional scenes of social life (casinos, theatres, social circles), were milder regarding the bath life.
Therefore the bath culture was able to become the centre of social life. Something that contributed to this was that in the provinces of the monarchy, mainly in Austria and the Czech Republic, the bath culture and the funding of bath constructions was a lot more advanced than in other provinces like Hungary.
Having the best baths
After the 1867 compromise, Hungarian baths were sized-up and qualified. In that time, around 30 baths were ranked first class, which data signified a quite good place among the provinces. Cities like Balatonfüred, Parád and Pöstyén were mentioned among first class baths. Thanks to the success of the size-up, serious developments started in several locations. So it’s no surprise that the years following the compromise, especially the 1880s are called the golden age of Hungarian baths.
Bathers in 1930 – Photo: www.fortepan.hu
The success of baths and springs and the development of the bath culture is mainly due to the geological facilities of the Carpathian Basin, because both cold and hot springs rich in minerals and curing powers were found in almost all regions of the basin. It was the industrial and technical development that led to this. Just think about the progress in boring methods owing to which experts could reach hundreds of metres deep in the soil.
The technical development brought along scientific research. This was the time when Hungarian scientists like József Török, Vilmos Hankó and Vilmos Zsigmondy published their balneologic writings. Their work also contributed to the law made in the end of the 1800s concerning the conditions of public healthcare and hygiene, which also clarified the duties that needed to be done in connection to thermal baths and mineral waters.
Different needs, different distribution
The development of transportation and the construction of the train network also contributed to the growth in the number of baths, since countryside baths that were cheaper than Budapest baths became available for poorer layers as well. The popularity of countryside thermal baths increased a lot in these years. Civilians took part in water cures and enjoyed the healing powers of water and sunshine. Besides Budapest, the spas of Harkány, Hévíz, Herkulesfürdő, Pöstyén and Bártafürdő were the most visited in the region.