TRAVEL with pat and lew

* the Szechenyi baths in Budapest

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

Located in the middle of City Park, the Szechenyi Baths are powered by underground thermal springs, and enhanced by palatial Habsburg architecture, a huge dome and numerous Baroque statues.

Although easy to find, actually getting into the baths is complicated. There are separate entrances for those who want lockers and those who want changing cabins. At yet another location, towels are rented, with a hefty deposit to assure return. It’s been 15 years since the Soviet Union left, but vestiges remain, reminiscent of the key ladies who used to rule each floor of Russian hotels.

There are three outdoor baths within an expansive ornate structure. In the center is a lap pool. There are no Olympic aspirants doing laps this morning, where doggy paddle is the main stroke and the pace ranges from leisurely to dawdling.

Flanking the lap pool on the far side is the family area. From time to time, Jacuzzi like flows emerge unexpectedly and joyously from the floor and the walls. In a circular section of the pool, the water flows fast and pulls you around, running and laughing in the swirling tide. The waist high water is deliciously warm, refreshing even on a hot summer day.

The third pool is much hotter. The crowd here is older; there are no families with children, no swimming, only standing. Serious men play chess on stone tables while the hot water eases their elderly muscles and joints.

I’m tempted, but I don’t dare ask to play.


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