Sunday, February 08, 2009

Turkish Bath anyone?

Turkish Bath anyone.....but of course! Well, to say the bath houses are a centerpiece of Budapest life is probably an understatement. The bathhouses are wonderful, ornate affairs that we imagined for many years were the great retreats for the "Party Officials" and off limits to the people. The first one we went to almost had a military feel; dour expressions, information desk staff that appeared bothered with our questions, and a labyrinth of hallways, rooms, changing rooms, towel rentals, hot baths, cold baths, massage rooms and WCs that would confuse the best navigator. So--we finally get in, buy what we think are the right tickets, get changed in what appeared to be the correct gender change rooms (but Fiona insists she saw the bearded lady), rent our towels, and go out to the main pool. It is ornate, massive fountains, not too crowded and the water is tepid at best. Tepid? Where are these steaming thermal baths? But we figure the other 200 people can't wrong, so we "soak" in the luke-warm bath for about 40 minutes. We finally notice two small doors a few people seem to be trickling in and out of at the far signs, no instructions from the staff, but curiosity gets the better of us so we head that way. I send Fiona into the door I think says "Ladies" and by golly, message rooms, hot baths, very hot baths, and saunas! Unfortunately they are male/female and Fi and I part ways agreeing to meet in the lobby in an hour and a half. Well, after massages, hot baths, cold baths, eucalyptus steam baths and way to many men in a loin-cloth type bathing towel that would make a cave-man blush, we felt totally relaxed, refreshed and content. One you broke the code and got used to Communist-style customer service it really was very enjoyable. In fact, so much so we went to a different bath two days latter and had a similar experience, but even better; coed so we could enjoy together, no loin-cloths, and a wonderful, huge outdoor pool/whirlpool with HOT enjoyed at night as the thick clouds of heavy steam billowed up into the clear night air. Of course as closing time approached, in our limited Hungarian, Fiona was pretty sure the announcement said "OK, everyone out of the pool in five minutes or we start shooting!" What a quaint place.....

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