Taking the waters (May 3, 2017)

Budapest has more thermal and medicinal water springs …118… than any other capital city in the world. As far back as Roman times the hot mineral water was enjoyed, but it was during the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th century that the bath culture really started flourishing. Some sumptuous baths remain today and Robin and I decided to check one out. We read up on what to bring along (swim suit, towel, small tote, flip flops) and headed to Gellert Thermal Baths which is part of a hotel of the same name dating back to 1918. It is on the Buda side of the river.

From the outside the bath looked nice but nothing that would stand out from all the other beautiful buildings here. We easily managed to pay admission (we both opted for bathing and the use of a changing ‘cabin’) and then stepped into a huge, two story lobby of sorts with giant colored glass skylights, massive tile and marble walls, chandlers, and a beautiful mosaic tile floor. We began to see what all the fuss was about. We were a bit clueless from there, so we wandered around this huge space until we found an entrance sign. We were given rubber bracelets when we paid admission, so we watched the other bathers and realized we had to scan the face of our bracelet which then triggered the turnstile to rotate and let us in. Next was to find our respective cabins, tiny changing rooms with a small shelf, bench seat, and a couple hooks. We found lots of cabins but were clueless which were ours, so we defaulted to asking for help. Come to find out we were supposed to scan our wristbands again which promoted a small screen to display an available cabin. A very impressive system, actually, once we figured it out! We did this, changed, and began a search for the actual thermal water. Up some stairs, down some others, over a small breeze way and we were still not wet. Finally we located two beautiful, smallish (for the number of bathers) pools. One 36 degrees Celsius and the other 40. They were located in a beautiful room with aqua blue ceramic benches, mosaic tile floors, huge skylights, and tiled walls. Off this bathing area were showers for rinsing off and a cold plunge (no thanks). We soaked for a short time and then set off to explore again. We found a beautiful indoor lap pool with columns all around and a balcony above. Then we strolled outside and soaked in a hot pool but passed on swimming in the huge outdoor pool.

Feeling like we had had the experience, we somehow quickly located our cabins and got changed. We wandered around in our street clothes and bathing slippers and took loads of pictures and then managed to find the exit. In order to leave, we dropped our bracelets into a machine that read the chip inside and promoted the turnstile to let us out. Interesting is how I would describe the experience, especially because we had to figure so much out. If I came again or was a local I’m sure I would become a regular at a small, quiet bath.

The day was still young so we walked back across the bridge to the Pest (pesht) side. The bridge had quite a few pad locks attached to the side rail. One was red and heart shapped, others were engraved, but most were regular ole padlocks. We have seen these Locks of Love other places and have read that some cities are removing them because of the weight from literally thousands of them.

Our next stop was the New York Cafe, the most sumptuous cafe dating back to the cafe culture, which is right downtown and off the lobby of the Boscolo Hotel. Robin and I were gobsmacked to put it mildly. Think of having a very expensive snack of ice cream and still water for just under 4,000 forints (1,000 Ft = $3.52) in a party room at Versailles. In this case so worth it. When the musician was not delighting us with tunes on the grand piano, a four piece combo was playing. To add just the right touch of over-the-top, our server had a very impressive pompadour hair cut with shaved sides. Downside: he whispered. We basically did not hear a word he said even though he was speaking English.

Dinner that night was with the Agility team at a wonderful restaurant across the park from our hotel. We appreciated the short walk because it was pouring rain. I had venison and noodles, my favorite meal of the trip so far.


2 thoughts on “Taking the waters (May 3, 2017)

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