Keszthely Tourist Attractions
Situated on the west bank of Lake Balaton the holiday center of Keszthely, with its population of 22,500, is the largest town on the lake, rich in tradition and offering a sandy beach, hotels and ample leisure facilities.
György Festetics built Europe's first agricultural college here (now the University of Agriculture), which helped to confirm Keszthely's importance as a cultural and educational center. Keszthely was the birthplace of Károly Goldmark, the composer of the opera "The Queen of Sheba".HistoryNeolithic man settled in this region, to be followed later by Celts, Romans, Lombards, Avars and Magyars. Benefiting from its position at the intersection of important trade routes, Kesthely became a thriving market town in the Middle Ages and a provincial town from 1421. It found itself unable to avoid being taken by the Turks and later by Habsburg troops, after lending its support to the Rákóczi uprising. After 1739 Kesthely came into the ownership of the Festetics family, who possessed large estates in the surrounding countryside and made the town the center of their cultural activities. The great landowner György Count Festetics (1755-1819), a patron of the arts and sciences, founded the Helikon literary circle and the Helikon Festivals, and laid the foundation-stone of the Helikon Library. His most important contribution to the country's cultural development, however, was the founding of the Georgikon (1797), the first agricultural college in Europe (now the University of Agriculture). Since the mid-19th C, Kesthely has become a fully-fledged holiday resort.
Festetics Castle was first built in 1745 by Kristóf Festetics and later enlarged by Duke Tasziló Festetics in the 1880s. The castle contains 101 rooms and features a Neo-Baroque façade.
In 1386 the Franciscans built a single-aisled, groin-vaulted church on FO tér; in 1550 a priory was added on the north side. During the Turkish occupation it was converted to a fortress and linked with Lake Balaton by a canal so that boats could sail right up to it. The Turks besieged the fortified church but were unable to take it. The Neo-Gothic tower on the front was added in 1878. In 1896 the Baroque furnishings were removed to reveal the original Gothic. During the restoration work some fragments of frescos of remarkable quality were uncovered; these show the influence of late 14th C Italian painting. The coat-of-arms of the architect István Lackffy adorn the keystone of the choir ceiling; his tomb is also in the choir.
The magnificent 1928 Neo-Baroque building (entrance in Kossuth Lajos utca) now houses an extremely informative and rich collection of exhibits devoted to the natural history and culture of the "Balaton" region. On the ground floor is a lapidarium with Roman and medieval stone finds, while the second floor documents a range of subjects including flora and fauna, unique aspects of folk-lore and traditional forms of work, shipping and tourism on Lake Balaton.
Helikon Park, an extensive area reaching as far as the promenade along the bank of the lake, is Kesthely's modern leisure center. It has shops, sports facilities and a large beach.
The plain Baroque building, one of the town's oldest houses and with a medieval cellar, is where the composer Károly Goldmark was born.
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