Lake Medve was formed in 1875, with the collapse of a salt mine and filled after that with water from the rain falls and from the streams that descend from the nearby versants. Lake Medve (Lacul Ursu) is the largest heliothermal (receives heat from the sun) salt lake in Europe and it is shaped as a bear’s skin, hence the name. Its surface salinity is 100 g/l, which exponentially increases with depth. The water can get up to 35゜C due to the heliothermic phenomenon: the fresh water of two small brooks that flow into the Bear Lake form a 10-15 cm thick layer on top of the salt water. This freshwater layer behaves just like a magnifying glass: the sunrays penetrate it, warming up the underlying salt waters to a depth of 1,5-2 m up to 35 degrees. The freshwater layer also acts as a heat insulator, preventing salt water with a much higher density to rise to the surface and lose its accumulated heat in contact with cooler air.
The lake’s water has been used over the last century (and is still used today) to cure diseases such as infertility, rheumatism or different types of inflammation.
The touristic potential of the lake was first recognized by landowner Lajos Sófalvi Illyés, who officially founded the Felső-Szováta (Upper Sovata) in 1900. In the beginning the lake carried the name of the resort’s founding father. In the 1902 touristic bath/spa guide it was named Lake Illyés-Medve and since 1910 it is trebuie has been simply Lake Medve.
To preserve the heliothermal effect, bathing is restricted: bathing is restricted every day for two hours, because the lake needs to rest; the freshwater layers resume their roles: get back to the surface to keep the salt water below, warm (the maximum measured water temperature was 80゜C, which decreased because of the freshwater of the creeks and bathing).
In 30 December 2015, Szovata Municipality finished the “Salt-road” project, within which trails and promenades were created around the Lake. The trails have boards with useful information, not only about Lake Medve, but other lakes also, rest areas etc. There are four more salty lakes: Lake Mogyorósi (Nut Lake), Lake Rigó (Black Lake), Lake Vörös (Red Lake) and Lake Zöld (Green Lake). In the interwar period, Sovata became one of the most fashionable spas in the country, visited several times even by the Romanian Royal Family.
How would you imagine the perfect morning? Waking up in Szováta, hearing the birds sing and, as the first sunrays wake up, running to the lake and taking a healthy and salty bath.