Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bathing in Budapest

When planning last summer’s six week Europe trip, we organized the itinerary around Prague, England and the south of France. We hadn’t even thought of going to Budapest until my well travelled sister and brother-in-law recommended it. Because of its close proximity to Prague (three hours away by train), we decided to check it out. I am so glad we did.

The city was beautiful and well priced; similar to prices in Canada and the USA.

As is our habit, we booked a private apartment owned by Carolyn and Gabor Banfalvi. For the cost of a little more than $110.00 CAD per night, we had a spacious one bedroom apartment with a pull out couch in the separate living room, a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom. We even had a washer/dryer and wireless internet. Best of all was the location; a short walk to the Chain Bridge or the Buda Castle area. The landlords were friendly, extremely accommodating and helpful. Carolyn is a food and wine critic with a number of books under her belt. She suggested a few excellent Hungarian restaurants, ultimately introducing me to delicious Hungarian paprikash dishes. Check out "Eat Planet, Discover the World" where Jennifer Bushman will highlight Hungary and my favourite Chicken Paprikash recipe.

There is something for everyone in Budapest; art, history, beautiful architecture, castles and my family’s favourite, the baths.

Public baths are part of Budapest’s culture. Locals and tourists alike go there to recharge and relax. You can even have a massage. Many believe the minerals in the thermal spring waters help aching muscles. I tend to agree.

There are many baths in Budapest to choose from. My family visited the beautiful Szechenyi Bath for the perfect way to end a heavy day of touring.

We dragged our hot, sticky and exhausted bodies into the beautiful building that looked like a palace. My husband and the boys shared a locked change room while I got one all to myself. (There are advantages to being the only female).

A slight smell of sulphur permeated the air as we entered the bath area. We walked through room after room filled with pools of different sizes and temperatures. Exercise classes were conducted in a few of the pools. All ages mixed at the baths. In one of the outdoor pools, a large group of elderly men crowded around floating chess boards.

Many of the pools had strategically placed fountains that massaged my shoulders.

Not wanting to miss anything, our family tried most of the pools. By far my two boy’s favourites were the ones that had built in currents. I felt like a noodle in a stirred pot of chicken soup. You enter the water, lift your feet and let the current carry you around and around.

We dried our bodies in the sun because we couldn't figure out how to say we wanted to rent a towel in Hungarian. You can also bring your own towel with you, but we didn’t want to cart four towels around all day.

More to come in the next post on other favourite Budapest experiences.

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