Blue skies and sunshine, huzzah huzzah!!! Costumes packed, towels rolled we hit the road once again on our way through Heroes square to the City Park and on to Budapests largest baths. More stunning architecture and beautiful painted ceilings greeted us as we worked out ticket prices and booked massages with one of the helpful gurus who waited by the door.
‘Do you prefer a male or female masseuse?’ we were asked…I’m not sure which was faster, my response or Luci’s eyebrows when I said ‘male please!’. Booked in for 1pm we were free to explore the rest of the baths. Wow. Were we glad about the swimsuit rule! People of all shapes, sizes and nationalities surrounded us in a vast array of swimwear which ranged from the roomie to the ‘leaving little to the imagination’.Ah the prudish Brits, forever fascinated by the human form and the many types it comes in. Luci and I looked at eachother for reassurance, and receiving none, steeled ourselves to see a LOT more than we’d bargained for. But still, yay swimsuits!
There are multiple baths of different temperatures inside Szechenyi, each one tinged with green and emitting the aroma of stale feet. The people here sat awkwardly in pairs or small groups, with high ceilings and central pools not lending itself to the usual cosy feel of a spa. We pressed on, wandering from cavern to cavern until eventually a door to our left offered the promise of daylight…making a break for it we breathed in fresh air, freedom!!
The three pools outside ranged from ‘it’s cold…do lengths’ to ‘what am I, a lobster?!’ so of course we made ourselves right at home in the latter. Jets of hard water jutted out at regular intervals, strong enough to plant you in place as it massaged aching shoulders. At this point anyway. After my beating *ahem* I mean massage from Stephos I wasn’t able to stand underneath it again as my poor shoulders were too tender! Though this was most definitely my favourite part of the experience, heated floors, sedate hammocks, cups of herbal tea and fresh fruit platters all under a glass roof which made the place feel like an orangery. Luci fell asleep during her massage, no chance of that on my side of the curtain as I was manipulated, clicked, pushed, pulled and generally beaten into submission. It was magic, although now I do sort of feel like I’ve gone three rounds with Mike Tyson!
All the relaxing got too much for Tig, who’s obviously not used to such luxury and needed to lie down for a while on our return to the hostel. Just as I was attempting to sneak out to eat she woke up, and decided to try a little jaunt outside to see if it made her feel better. It did! And 20 minutes later we were munching Langos, a traditional Hungarian food, which is sort of like a deep fried pancake with toppings. Scrumptious!
Today also saw the beginning of the Palinka festival, but having already learned that lesson we meandered down to enjoy the lights on the Danube by night, and visit the famous shoe memorial which sits on the waters edge in front of the Parliament building. It seems impossible to escape stories of the Holocaust here, and Hungary was no exception. These metal replica of traditional shoes stand as a poignant reminder of the Hungarian Jews shot by Nazis on this river bank. Of course, ever efficient, not all those condemned were shot; instead they were asked to remove their shoes (they were in short supply during the war), bound together in threes and only the tallest one shot. There were men’s boots, ladies court shoes and even a pair of children’s boots, all in clusters along the bank, with flowers and candles amongst them.
Pausing to admire the huge parliament building, and the various museums, embassy’s and halls around it we were soon on our way back to Visegradi and bed!
Tomorrow we’re off to country number 4…Slovakia and Bratislava!