A relaxing spa experience

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.

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Hotel Gellert is at the foot of Castle Hill, at the end of the Freedom bridge on the Buda side.

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The art nouveau facade

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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.

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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!

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Despite the steamy environment, I just had to take a shot of this delightfully opulent pool.

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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.

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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!

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The outdoor pool

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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.

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This is the outdoor pool that sends waves every few minutes. We must try it next time!

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p.s. we actually got a refund of 1.5 euros for getting out of the pool in less than two hours

Parisi Udvar

I was constantly mesmerized by the beauty of every single structure I saw in Budapest but nothing has prepared me for this: life-sized half-bodied figures protruding from a building!

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The building’s name is Parisi Udvar or “Parisian Arcade”, derived from the popularity of arcades in Paris in the early 20th century.

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It was originally built for a savings bank. It now houses an apartment building in the upper floors and a shopping arcade in the ground floor.

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It follows the style known as Eclecticism, a rave in the late 19th century where architects try to mix Gothic, Rennaissance and Baroque elements into the same facade.

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Though somewhat faded, rundown and has become unpopular to shoppers, it is a magnificent work of art, an architectural gem! I sure hope it will remain as it is …for future generations to appreciate…

The Chain Bridge

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Until 1849, the towns of Pest and Buda were separate cities. It was the construction of the Chain Bridge which paved the way to making the two into one city – Budapest. Today, the Chain Bridge is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

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A “piece” of the nearby Freedom bridge being transported into the Danube, going under the Chain Bridge. The domed structure is the Cathedral of St Stephen

The Chain Bridge Summer Festival

One Saturday afternoon, while sightseeing by the river, I noticed some activity happening on the Chain Bridge. There was the sound of parade music going on.

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Whoah! the bridge was closed to traffic! There were kiosks lining up from end to end.

A stilts play is going on – about two knights competing for the love of a princess.

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The referee

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showing off

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the rivals

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Of course, every play has a villain

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the princess

The entire length of the bridge was lined up with kiosks selling handicrafts and food, others showing a glimpse of Hungarian culture, music and even comedy.

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A puppet theater

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Peeking into a marrionette theater

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potpourri

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and more potpourri of herbs in season (here shown is a crown of lavander sprigs)

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Some clowns – they were supposed to be snorkelling….out of the water!
(wonder how much they got paid for it

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The bridge is about 1/3 of a kilometer to walk so if one gets thirsty, there’s always a refreshment point to stop to..

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…or even declare your love over a glass of beer

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a music performance about to start

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This is the kürtös kalács, a hollow, cylinder-shaped pastry coated with sugar or walnuts.

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They remind me of German sausages!

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Different hair dyes…?

The power of the One Euro

Three days ago (Sept 1), a new bus line started operating from our (mountain) village to Menton and back, at 4 return trips per day, and for the entire journey of one hour (each way), the fare – believe it or not – is only ONE EURO! The bus is airconditioned which is typical in Europe (heated in the winter of course), very comfy, and because of the high viewing point, one gets to enjoy better the sights of the Valley de la Roya which comprises of gorges, rivers, high altitude vegetation, hilltop villages, etc.

This new line has created lots of excitement in our village especially among old people who, until Sept 1, except on rainy days, would confine themselves into benches in the square to gossip all day. This morning, we saw some of these old people nicely coiffed and smartly dressed, on their way to the bus stop to wait for the bus that will take them to the next town. I, myself, took a trip to the other end of the line, Menton, via H (he dropped me there on his way to his destination) with the intention of taking that bus for my return home later on.

It’s like, this bus is too good to be true! Heck, with the total number of passengers this afternoon -around 10 or the equivalent of TEN EUROS – after deducting a toll fee of 3 euros (as we had to go through the Italian border) would give a net total of SEVEN EUROS. But wait, the cost of diesel and driver’s pay are not yet deducted there! But it’s not really a profit-oriented endeavour, you see. It’s just one of the government’s way of aiding its citizens so that they can travel to and from their jobs/schools cheaply and I guess, for old people so they are encouraged to move around outside of their villages/towns in great comfort and without digging deep into their pockets. I love that! Imagine having that same privilege as in the Philippines! Well, I mean, for only ONE PESO!