Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Széchenyi Baths

I don't understand why Hungary isn't a more popular holiday destination. It has just about everything going for it. It has great currency with mustachioed kings on it! It has beautiful architecture, wonderful local foods served in generous portions, wine regions, nature AND because it used to be part of the old Ottoman Empire and there are thermal springs in Budapest, they have the baths!!
If I lived in Budapest, I'd have a lifetime membership to THIS PLACE!
The front desk

My pal Jo joined me on my trip to Budapest this year and the way the planning went this time around we got an entire day to play at the baths.We got there very early and immediately upon checking in we went up to the sports massage desk to book our massages. I'm glad we were early. There were two openings right away. Jo went first and then me.There are the private changing rooms with their enamel doors and more of that old world charm that seems to be as integral as the grout between the thousands of tiles.
Then there are the lockers which are less expensive and not quite so private. We went for lockers.
Our lockers

Last year I was comforted to note that this place is scrupulously clean. It still is. There wasn't a bit of dirt anywhere! In any forgotten corner there was an absence of the detritus that can usually be found there. With all the warm water and bathers, one would expect the occasional musty or damp smell but this wasn't there either.
The cold pool for laps - with statues

There are three large outdoor pools. Each pool is a different temperature. There is the cold pool in the centre where laps and serious athletic swimming occurs. There is this pool which is the warmest at 38 C. Famous photographs of old chess players are taken at the edges of this pool. Indeed the day we were there we saw at least two chess games going.
There was also a card game being played by these gentlemen. By the depth of colour on their skin, one can assume that they are regulars here. The cards were particularly interesting. The cards looked almost like a tarot deck. I have no Hungarian so I couldn't ask them if I could have a closer look at the cards. As it was, I mimed a request for permission to take their photograph.We had a glorious May day with barely a breeze and undiluted sunshine. After having been pummeled during our massages, soaked in the warm water and indulging in some serious people watching we got thirsty. For a mere 300 Hungarian forints, you can have beer. Nice beer too.
We had lunch on this terrace.OK, so with health inducing surroundings such as this, one would expect different food but sometimes you just want chips (french fries). Washed down with more beer, I felt completely relaxed!

After lunch we investigated the almost dozen rooms on the opposite side of the complex to the changing rooms.There is this room with exquisite red pillars surrounding the warm water pool.

There are pools with varying degrees of warmth from freezing cold plunge pool, 18C to very warm 40C. There is this pool that has a current. It reminds me of those pools that are used for therapy for injured race horses.
Of course there are saunas as well. There was the aromatherapy sauna that smelled of Olbas oil and this Finnish sauna that was the hottest one in the complex.We had a full and completely relaxing day. At the end of our day, we waited for our hosts in one of the temporary cafes and had . . . another beer!

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