Sitting on the front balcony of the Selfness Hotel Vadvirág (Wild Flower) in the end-of-the-road village of Mátraszentimre, this is a perfect place to "listen" to the sound of silence – or as almost silent as you can get in the modern mechanical world, anyway. This is a heavenly calm, pierced only by a little neighbourly chat and laughter from the handful of nearby houses, birdsong, the occasional barking dog and the rare passing vehicle.

The view from the balcony past the road and beyond the few village houses is a high and long wall of unbroken greenery. This is the sort of place to go to clear out the marsh gas that accumulates in the lungs in a polluted swamp such as Budapest. You can breathe deeply in the clean mountain air and feel it must be doing you a whole lot of good.

Not only that: while in sweltering Budapest the temperature is soaring, here, higher, it is five to ten degrees cooler but still lovely and hot. Breathe deeply, breathe deeply, then, amid the tranquility. Summer holidays don’t have to mean sea and sand. A break amid the peaceful mountains is just perfect for lovers of long hikes, or dreamy upland vistas.

Selfness Hotel Vadvirág has just 10 rooms, including one for handicapped guests, and they range from a considerable 30 square metres to a huge 75. Ours, in the middle at 55 square metres, must be the largest hotel room we have stayed in. In fact, it is three rooms, consisting of a really large living room with L-shaped lounge, desk, television and loads of cupboards and drawers, a bathroom with a corner bath, shower cabin and bidet, and a bedroom with king-size bed, even more drawers and a second television.

In the wellness area are an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, two infrasaunas (infrared light experienced as radiant heat which is absorbed by the surface of the skin), a Finnish sauna (a basket of rocks heated by a stove on which to throw water to increase the humidity) and a Sószoba, or salt room, with a big chunk of the mineral sitting in the middle (considered useful in treating a range of respiratory and skin conditions). Or be pampered with a massage.

The Vadvirág also has a restaurant with an outdoor terrace and there is a children’s room to keep the youngsters busy, for a while at least. The vintage skis and ski poles displayed on the restaurant walls are a reminder that the Mátra mountains are a winter venue too, when skiing and bobsleighing become popular as well as the hiking. Any time of year is good for enjoying the magnificent mountain panoramas and recharging the batteries far away from everyday life.

The building underwent a two-year rebuild before opening as an independent family-owned hotel three years ago, though it has retained a freshness and cleanliness that make it seem like it opened much more recently.

The Mátra is a mountain range in northern Hungary between the towns Gyöngyös and Eger. The country's highest peak, Kékestető, at 1015 metres above sea level, is here, with the Kékestető TV tower standing at the summit. The name Kékes is derived from the mountain's often bluish hue, "kék" meaning "blue" in Hungarian, while "kékes" means implicitly "bluish". Kékestető lies 12 kilometres northeast of Gyöngyös, and the town is in Heves county, 80 kilometres east of Budapest up the M3 motorway. It is situated at the foot of the Sár-hegy and Mátra mountains, with Mátraszentimre another 30 kilometres or so further.

The Mátra is Hungary's third most popular tourist attraction, after Lake Balaton and the Danube, and has a number of skiing pistes. These may not be the highest mountains in the world but they are scenic and surrounded by some spectacular and pristine scenery.

Mátraszentimre is a good base for outdoor pursuits. There are hikes into the mountains straight from the doorstep of Selfness Hotel Vadvirág. You don’t have to be a hardy walker to enjoy – they are short and long, and the trails are marked. The forests are fabulous, and so thick that sometimes the sun can’t penetrate. When the flowers are in bloom it is even better.

The village had a population of about 430 at last count, plus a statue of its namesake outside the church. Szent Imre, born circa 1007, was the son of King Saint Stephen I of Hungary and was killed by a boar while hunting, apparently at Hegyközszentimre (now Sântimreu, Romania) on 2 September 1031, aged 24.

Driving around the Mátra is also nice and often takes you through a tunnel of greenery: the trees sometimes come so close to the road it’s as if they want to make contact, and occasionally they stretch right over the road and meet overhead. But driving is disturbing that all-enveloping silence.

Better to walk if you can, and after exercise it's time for relaxation in the Selfness Hotel Vadvirág wellness facilities.

Selfness Hotel Vadvirág
Rákóczi út 35-37, Mátraszentimre
Tel.: 37 376-440
Email: reserve@vadviraghotel.hu
Website: www.vadviraghotel.hu


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