A stay in Budapest is not complete without dipping into their thermal spring baths.
As the city stands above a bevy of bubbling thermal springs, the Romans took advantage of them by channelling these waters into their military baths. Then the Turks who occupied it from the 15th to the 16th century developed the Hamam baths as part of their religion.
Two days before we left Budapest, we went for the thermal dip at, where else, at the very glamorous Hotel Gellert, one of the oldest hotels in Europe, renowned for its art nouveau style of architecture.
Hotel Gellert is at the foot of Castle Hill, at the end of the Freedom bridge on the Buda side.
The art nouveau facade
This magnificent hall will stupefy you as you line up to buy your spa tickets.
The stained glass and mosaic ceiling will give you a feeling of royalty as you enter the famous Gellert baths.
Our itinerary that day was to hike up the Castle hill in the morning, for the purpose of exhausting our bodies, ready to wallow into the soothing Gellert spa in the afternoon. Toting a backpack each containing our swimsuits and towels, we took the side entrance of the hotel which is reserved for spa clients and queued up on to what was expectedly a busy ticket counter.
For 2 hours use of the pool, we paid 3,200 Ft each, which means 26 euros for the two of us, a reasonable amount indeed for what we are getting – relaxation! Inside, a stocky woman gave us a key to a cabin which H and I shared. The number indicated on the key is actually different from that of the cabin so the stocky missus had to write with a pen the cabin number at the back of our ticket. So what is the use of the key-numbering system, makes me wonder…
After changing into our bathing suits, we had to look for the shower rooms where we had to walk round and round like rats getting lost in a maze. There must be hundreds of changing cabins arranged on a circular pattern that I assumed everyone would be groping their way in search of the shower rooms.
And finally, into the pools!
Despite the steamy environment, I just had to take a shot of this delightfully opulent pool.
This is the smaller pool, and hotter than the bigger one.
H was in his devilish mood: sweet-talking me into switching from one pool to the other, the two are just 3 meters or so away from each other. The hotter basin was very soothing, but to climb out of it and splash rapidly into the cooler pool is agony!
But the sensation of hot to cold back to hot is all worth the torture – my body was instantly energized and heavenly relaxed right after the almost 2-hour session.
After deliciously wallowing in the water for something like 1 and 3/4 hours (we had to set aside the remaining 1/4 hour for another shower and dressing up), we went to claim our “free drinks” included in the ticket. I found it funny to find the drinks counter to be in the form of a half-open giant orange fruit, but I missed photographing it!
The outdoor pool
The art nouveau decor is amazing! Not only our bodies were feeling so relaxed, but our mental state as well (it was actually bordering on numbness!), to find ourselves in such an elegant environment as this without actually breaking the bank.
This is the outdoor pool that sends waves every few minutes. We must try it next time!
p.s. we actually got a refund of 1.5 euros for getting out of the pool in less than two hours