When himself read recently that Tapolca was featured on a list of the top 13 towns/cities in Hungary to visit, we figured we’d missed something. I’d been there years ago to see the caves and we’d skirted the ‘burbs so many times on our way to the market in Káptalantóti without ever going actually into the town itself, so we thought we’d better do so post-haste. And we did. And we weren’t disappointed.
Malom-tó (Mill Lake) lies in the heart of the town overlooked by the Templom-domb (Church Hill), a neighbourhood dating back to the Middle Ages. The lake itself never freezes apparently, apart from one year when something happened to cause the water level to drop. The 18-degree spring water comes from the karst cave system that runs beneath the town. The water is so clear that you could count the scales on the fish that swim in it. The mill wheel in front of what’s now the Gabriella Hotel and Restaurant could be as old as the sixteenth century.
Gabriella herself has her own statue in the park by the lake. Never having heard of her before, I had to look her up. Hers is a story. A poet herself dubbed the Sappho of Vienna met her husband János Batsányi, who I’ve read was Hungarian/Austrian/German poet. Given the times in which he lived, he could have been all three. Described as ‘a poet, a muse, and wife’, she married him, accompanied him in his exile, and died in his arms. It was after Batsányi translated Napoleon’s proclamation into Hungarian that he was branded a traitor and the pair fled to Paris.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars Batsányi was handed over to the Austrian authorities, who at first imprisoned him in Vienna and then exiled him to Linz. Gabriele accompanied him to both places, and died in Linz in 1839.
This interesting marking is a nod to Dr Lodner Nándor, a well-known local whose life was well lived. The work is intricate and shows friends/family gathered around a patient as the doctor holds his hand. It’s by Etelka Csavlek, an opera singer and ceramist. I found a translation of the plaque:
He lived and / healed in this house // DR. NÁNDOR LODNER / (1903-1960) / general practitioner and dermatologist. // He was a faithful follower of that eternal doctor of Nazareth. / He leaned over the patient with his heart.” (Sándor Reményik) / He claimed the memory of posterity. / 2003
Tapolca was home to my favourite Hungarian sculptor, Marton László. I spent the occasional afternoon with him, me talking in English, him in Hungarian, both of us smoking, drinking palinka, and righting the world, each making sense in our own way. He made me chicken soup once when I was ill. A lovely, lovely man. There’s a museum to him in the town not far from one of his most notable pieces, The Four Seasons. My hands-down favourite of his is the statue of József Attila that sits on the banks of the Danube in Budapest. He’s probably most famous though for his statue of the Little Princess that sits on the railing at Vigadó tér in the nation’s capital.
The walk around the lake itself is quite lovely and home to some interesting pieces. Am sure the fountains are in full flow in the summer and that in post-Covid times, there’ll be plenty of people milling around the restaurants and cafés.
The Church of the Blessed Virgin was built by Ispán Turul in the 1200s. It started off in Roman style, finished in Gothic, and in the mid-1700s was rebuilt in Baroque. That’s some shape-shifting. From the mid-1300s, the town was home to Carthusian monks. The foundations of the old castle which housed their monastery, underneath what is now the school, can still be seen. Oh, the colour! The colour is amazing. I had Donovan’s Mellow Yellow buzzing in my brain the whole time we were there. Just call me mellow yellow…
There is plenty to do and see in Tapolca and its surrounds. We’ve made a note to overnight there once the hotels are open and travel resumes. A well-deserved place on that list, methinks.