Bath Time in Budapest

Me and my new best friend outside Parliament House in Budapest

Me and my new best friend outside Parliament House in Budapest

imageOur tour of the Parliament House includes a Budapest city coach tour. We are driven past many of the major sites, including Heroes Square, which according to our guide is the nicest and biggest in Budapest.

Heroes Square through the bus window

Heroes Square through the bus window

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We end up on the Buda side of the city, and our coach off-loads us for some time in the vicinity of the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Church of Saint Matthias, and the castle. The view, as promised, is spectacular, although covered in a heat haze.

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Queen Sissy in marzipan

Queen Sissy in marzipan

The model for Miss Piggy?

The model for Miss Piggy?

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What I did not expect to find in this area was a museum dedicated to marzipan. There are numerous showpieces moulded from the confection, including famous monuments, life size statues and “portraits” of famous people, wedding cakes and house furniture.

It was mid afternoon when we returned to our hotel, and the guys and I were keen to try out one of the famous thermal baths before we ran out of time. We chose the Gellert Spa because of its proximity.

Approaching the Gellert Hotel

Approaching the Gellert Hotel

This area is named after Bishop Gellert who in 1047 was killed for his beliefs – – -by being forced inside a nailed barrel and rolled down the hill which now bears his name.

Sculpture relief on outside of baths

Sculpture relief on outside of baths

Nearby is the Gellert Hotel, and the baths are located within, accessed by a separate entrance.

Gallery Hall of the Gellert Baths

Gallery Hall of the Gellert Baths

The spa was built in 1918 and is famous for its main galleried hall and glass roof. When we arrived, the entrance was so crowded we barely took notice of this. We had pre-purchased tickets, which was supposed to by-pass the ticket queues and get us the service of an assistant. Instead, we got tangled up with all the people trying to get in, and when we found the “help desk” it was anything but. All the same, we did come away with a bracelet which enable us to get inside the baths.

Bridge spotting on the walk back from the baths

Bridge spotting on the walk back from the baths

In love with fancy trimmings on bridges

In love with fancy trimmings on bridges

Getting into the baths was a highly confusing experience. The weather was so hot and the baths so crowded that I imagine the staff were overwhelmed. Eventually we located the changing area, although in the crush and confusion I found myself in with the men for a moment. We had paid for individual changing and storage cabins but evidently they had not given us the correct pass at the (non) help desk, and there were no lockers available in the ladies’ area, so I had to find Bill again to hand over my clothes and bits and pieces.

I was well out of my comfort zone by the time I made my way to the outdoor pool. I got a shock when I stepped out in bare feet onto the hard surface that led from the changing room to the pool. I was instantly transported back to the days of childhood – a hot Australian summer’s day and the white cement of the local municipal pool, and a giggling group of schoolgirls screaming “ouch, ouch,” as they ran across to jump in the cool water.

Except that these days I don’t run anywhere, and I certainly don’t jump into any pools. I inch my way in, a toe at a time, dreading the moment that the water will reach my chest. Even though this water was supposed to be 26’c, which should be a comfortable temperature, I was in the middle of this process when I heard a whoop from the hordes who were already in the pool. The wave machine started up. This is what this pool is famous for, and why there were so many youths in this pool. If I wanted waves, I would never have left Australia! I thought I was coming to a healing mineral spring where I would loll around watching old men playing chess in the gloom and the steam. Now here I was in the blazing sun trying to push my way into the water and getting pushed back against the edge as fast as I could take a step forward. Waddy, already in the middle of the pool, and an ex-lifesaver to boot, was laughing his head off.

Marzipan bridge

Marzipan bridge

Real bridge

Real bridge

The next pool we tried was indoors, a thermal pool of 36’c. This was more like it! It was a small semi-circle with seating around the edge. It was crowded, but after a while we each found a seat. At either end there was an ornate gargoyle spraying out water with great force. One can stand under it and get a back and neck massage at the same time as soaking in the thermal spring. I finally started to relax……..and then I got bored.

The next pool was much larger, a long oblong in which a group has been doing aqua aerobics. This pool required swimming caps, and they cost money – and Waddy was the keeper of the locker key. He trudged back to the chaotic changing rooms, trying not to slip over on the way there and back. Shortly after, he and Bill were in the new pool while I was still fiddling with finding a place for my towel.

“Watch this,” Waddy nudged Bill. I strode into the water confidently, expecting it to be as hot as the pool we had just left. I had not noticed the sign that this pool was ten degrees cooler.
“You b-st—d……” I yelled down the pool at him as the  water reached my chest.(This can be used as a term of endearment in Australian slang).
Waddy laughed his head off. Thanks a lot Waddy. Before too long I was actually shivering.

A bit more exploration revealed another couple of hot thermal pools of various minerals and densities. The walls and floor were decorated with mosaics in colours of blue and gold. Not so busy with people, and reminiscent of how I imagine a Turkish bath looks.

By the time we left a couple of hours later, the entrance hall was much quieter so we could more appreciate its design and decoration.

Beautiful Budapest  architecture

Beautiful Budapest architecture

My verdict? Well 60% was a traumatic experience, but most of that can be put down to the extreme weather and crowds. The thermal pools are synonymous with Budapest, and so I am glad that I checked it out first hand. I would be prepared to do it a second time, however the next time I would try the Szechenyi Bath. As for whether the baths do actually have a curative effect, well, I think you have to be a local, able to converse with the attendants, and bathing on a regular basis, to gain any benefit.

Personally, I found the gin and tonic before dinner relaxed my aching joints much more effectively 🙂

Friday afternoon 9th August 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Budapest Hungary

These boys were cooling off by filling their caps with water and putting them back on their head

These boys were cooling off by filling their caps with water and putting them back on their head

12 thoughts on “Bath Time in Budapest

  1. It took me a while to find this post…but that was nice because it gave me an opportunity to see some of the places and read some of your thoughts about your travels! How many countries did you visit in the 3 + months you were there? We traveled through nine countries in 27 days. If I were to do it again, I would add a day in some of the countries.

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    • I did n’t want to be so presumptuous as to put a link on your post. Not sure what the blogging protocol is around that. Glad you found it! The weather was well over 40’c so the conditions were extreme. Bill and I started our trip in Assisi Italy, and Sicily. Then we flew to Belgrade, joined another couple, and made our way from Serbia to Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. We were then meant to spend a fortnight in Austria with another friend, but had to cancel that leg. We flew from Budapest to England and chilled out with more friends there. One of our greatest unusual events was taking the sleeper from prague to Warsaw.

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      • I know what you mean…it can be annoying when someone puts a link on your blog. I haven’t been to Belgrade, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, or Poland. That’s the cool thing about Europe…there are so many countries you can see that are close together!

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        • I was lucky enough to live in England/Europe for four years as a young backpacker, and I can see you were there in a similar time with your army career. No doubt we both made the most of so many different cultures and languages clustered together. Going back to the Balkans was intriguing. My girlfriend was born in Serbia and left aged four, and I was living in Croatia (both places then Yugo) for six months until Tito died. So to see these places post communism was amazing. I posted every day, and I hope I tagged them effectively enough that if you are planning a repeat tour you may pick up some ideas there. Sounds like you did a great job on the planning!

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    • Thanks so much LaVagabonde. I do remember now that we had exchanged comments some weeks earlier. It is a pity that we are moving through these places so quickly because I would enjoy coming to know them as well as you have. If we ever return I will try the Szechenyi baths. GG

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  2. Oh mate we r still laughing our heads off at the thermal ( healing) spas!!! Our time there not a match to your story!! Enjoy it all

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