Budapest, Hungary: Jacuzzis and Cadavers

The museums in Budapest are closed on Monday, so I had to find other things to do. One of the city’s biggest draws are the baths. Budapest’s location above a fault line brings superheated water up to the surface, and so numerous baths are located around the city, piping in thermal spring water rich in minerals. After talking to the receptionist, Julia, and some of the other travelers the night before, I headed for the Szechenzyi Bathhouse, located in the City Park. I got up early and walked there, passing the church of St Istvan (Stephen).

Now you all know my fascination with novelty-sized things, so you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was when I saw this:

How crazy is that! Who in the world could even ride that thing?? It’s not like there’s another seat close to the handlebars, turning it into a kind of tandem bike. Whoever owns it must have incredibly long arms.

At the park entrance is Heroes Square:

Only a short distance into the park lies the bath house, itself an impressive building:

I walked into the lobby and bought a ticket. The entrance fee gives you access to all the pools and saunas for the whole day. Massages are extra. If you leave within 2 or 3 hours, you get a small refund.

Fortunately some of the workers there spoke a few words of English and I found my way to the changing room. I got into my board shorts and went to the indoor thermal pools. These range in temperatures from 20 to 36 degrees Celsius, but don’t have any water jets. There are three large pools outdoors, one only at a mild temperature, the other a lap pool and the third heated to between 36 and 38 degrees. The latter has jets along the sides of the pool and a fountain in the center. I sat against one of the side jets for quite some time, allowing the strong stream of water to massage my back and legs. Then I moved to the fountain and let it beat against the back of my neck and upper back.

The majority of the bath’s clientele were very old people. Some of them seem to make the bath’s a regular experience, even a place to catch up with friends. A group of old men had brought a chess set and were playing at the side of one of the outside pools. The facility also contains a cafe and bar, so it’s easy to see how you could make a day of it.

Next I went inside and sat in an aromatherapy sauna, set to about 55 degrees Celsius. I couldn’t tell what the aroma was, but I’m guessing something like vanilla. I endured the heat and sweated like a madman for about 15 minutes before stepping out in to the cool air for a moment.

I took a shower and changed into my clothes afterwards, and headed back towards the town center.

Now from Houston to Boston to pretty much every city I’ve been, the Body Worlds exhibit has been showcased and I’ve missed it. Either by my own bad timing or laziness, I always seem to be one step behind. I found out that BODIES … The Exhibit, a similar exhibit not affiliated with Body Worlds, was being shown in Budapest so I went there after the Bath. Despite the criticism (which I just read about while trying to figure out if it was associated with Body Worlds), I thought it was phenomenal. The detail and in-your-face reality of what you’re shown is exceptional. Although some school groups and other patrons blew by the exhibits, giving them only a casual look, I read every word and examined each piece with fascination.

I stopped by the hostel for a quick break before heading out again. The same travelers who recommended the bath house, three Americans from Chicago, suggested a walk up to the Citadel, an old fort and lookout high above the city. The park area of the hill itself was a maze of walkways and scenic viewpoints. This is one that looks at the south side of the city:

I finally made it to the top of the hill and was treated to a great view of the city:

Budapest is actually made of up two cities: on the left is Buda, a large portion of which includes Buda Castle; on the right is Pest, home to the Parliament building and much of the modern cultural and commercial districts, my hostel included. According to the other travelers, the lookout is perfect come sundown, but I got hungry and bored, so I left shortly before sunset.



  1. I wish you had camped beside that bike to see the owner. A dude with very very long arms? Or maybe, if you had looked around, you may have spotted the bike’s owner hiding behind a tree waiting to see who would fall for his trap and wait to see the owner!

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