Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Visiting the bathhouses of Budapest, Hungary
Mermaid or not, I am happiest surrounded by water. When I travel, I chase waterfalls and hop along rivers and bathe wherever I am allowed (even sometimes where it is not). This is why I wanted to visit the East European city of Budapest in Hungary.
I came all the way to Hungary from California on a 9 hour flight with a day long layover in Sweden- plus all the expectedly unexpected hassels of transit -to visit some the many ancient Turkish bathhouses.
It took only four full days of bathing for me to begin seeking out, then passing by, the yet unexplored bathhouses merely as an observer because I was all bathed out!
The most elaborate bathhouses are now extentions of two hotels. Gellért Thermal Bath & Széchenyi Thermal Bath both offer full Spa services and are riddled with bus loads of tourists. While I architectural romance alone makes me want to visit again and again, you can expect to be at the mercy of a lot of noise in a very social atmosphere.
As a solo traveler without a group to interact within, I found this atmosphere to be quite mundane. For the most part, people were not interested in meeting a stranger and males always interpreted my friendliness as much more.
The pinacle of my bathing experience in Budapest was a small local thermal pool on the Buda side of the Danube river. Known as Király fürdő, it was built in the second half of the sixteenth century during Ottoman rule over this region.
Király thermal bath hasn't been restored to the extent of other more touristed bath houses, possibly because it is still somewhat a secret and located off the beaten path. I imagine the multitudes of visitors must make extreme demands upon the old architectural beauty.
Beyond my romantic notions of how the cultures of time's past would enjoy these places is my fascination of the architectural engineering which has withstood thousands of years of use. Every bathhouse had creatively integrated ventilation into its design as well as overflow filtering.
The simple cleanliness practice of puddles outside the pools to gracefully rinse everyone's feet as they walked in and out is brilliant.
Alongs the outsides of every pool is a small canal which channels the water that spills out through a fountain like system keeping everything contained.
The sauna's have a series of doors which open into hotter and drier climates to choose your space of desired heat. This always serves as a sound barrier for different visiting social groups.
Many times I felt as though I was wandering among labyrinthian mazes as each room opened into another bathing house complete with steam & dry sauna, hot and cold thermal pools as well as lounging space.
This is testament to the importance bathing held in cultures of our ancient past. The benefits of it are well known to myself. So if you desire to find your own personal fountain of youth consider learning from some.of the World's oldest cultures. But please, also consider the benefits of this practice in contemplative silence. In my personal opinion that is an optimun ingredient to rest, rejuvenation and relaxation!