Lake Palić recalls the atmosphere of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with its Art Nouveau castles and historical sport events.
Lake Palić and the eponymous town are located 8 kilometers from Subotica, 3 kilometers from Hungary’s southern border. This mainly Hungarian settlement has just under 8000 residents. The first written record mentioning the town as Paly is from 1462, when king Matthias Corvinus gave his mother the Palij meadow. The settlement that rose from the meadow was named Pálegyháza, which was later Slavicized, becoming Palics.
According to the legend, the lake emerged from the tears of a shepherd named Pál, whose sheep were grazing in the valley. One night, the sheep all disappeared. He then started bitterly weeping, and the lake’s water accumulated from his tears.
Actually, Lake Palić emerged from spring water, but is also considered a remnant of the Pannonian Sea due to its salty water. The reason for this is that its water is mainly resupplied by the precipitation that fills the valley. The water accumulated from nearby areas washes sodium chloride out of the soil, thus making the water salty.
The settlement started to grow during the mid-19th century, when the medicinal effect of the lake’s mud was discovered. It got its current, secession style (Art Nouveau) appearance during the early 1900s. The Water Tower, the Grand Terrace, the Women’s Beach – these are all results of the magnificent design of the Hungarian secession’s masterful designers Marcell Komor and Dezső Jakab. The lake’s ecosystem has recently broken down due to excessive sludge, so it is unsuitable for bathing, but the area has numerous sights that showcase the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s popular spa town’s past atmosphere.
The Water Tower was opened in 1912 and is decorated with rich folk elements. It used to be a stop for the tram coming from Subotica, which delivered visitors to the popular spa till 1972. After going through the water tower, you reach the Grand Terrace and the lakeside.
The Grand Park has an area of 19 hectares and reaches from the Water Tower to the lakeside. It was built during the 19th century based on the English landscape park style and was subsequently given a baroque look.
The Grand Terrace (also known as Vigadó) was festively opened in 1912. The top floor had a splendid ball room, while the ground floor contained restaurants and a confectionery. The lakeside part of the building has two large open terraces which are decorated with motifs that recall the Hungarian secession style. They say that the world’s second indoor tennis match (the first being in London) was held in the ball room of the Grand Terrace.
The smallest secession style building – the Music Pavilion – was constructed even before the Grand Terrace. It has always been a venue for outdoor concerts and remains so today. The Memorial Fountain is located nearby and stands monument to the completion of constructions in Palić. One of its plaques originally contained a quote from Dezső Kosztolányi.
The Women’s Beach on the side of Lake Palić is a real masterpiece of Hungarian secession architecture. It is decorated with folk art motifs. Different social conventions applied at the time of its construction, so women could only bathe in the lake far away from curious eyes.
The Villa Lujza is an eclectic building constructed near the end of the 19th century. Its yellow walls and yellow-green Zsolnay ceramic tiles recall the atmosphere of Swiss villas. Previously known as a “notorious” casino; today it functions as a hotel.
The Owl Castle is one of Palić’s symbols. This building was inspired by Swiss villas and features Zsolnay ceramic tiles of various colors. Its construction is tied to the story of Lajos Vermes. He was merely 20 years old when he organized the Palić Olympic Games, a forerunner of modern Olympics Games events. The Owl Castle is considered the world’s first Olympic village, singe Lajos Vermes provided accommodation for athletes participating in the competition here. He constructed the Palić bicycle course in 1884, which was Europe’s third longest at the time, and the only one in the country. A statue of Mihály Vermes was erected next to the Owl Castle in 1995.
After World War I, the Grand (Men’s) Beach was constructed by east side of Lake Palić, which was the largest building of its kind in Yugoslavia at the time.
After World War II, in 1950, the Zoo was opened.
The Sports and Recreation Center was built during the ‘60s and has courses for football, volleyball, basketball, and handball. The lake’s east side has a holiday resort where several companies from Subotica built summer houses for their employees to enjoy.