Wherein DF travels to Mitteleuropa and recounts his merrie adventures to his adoring broad readership.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Szechenyi Furdo

A brief explanation of above title for the Bröd Readership:

"Furdo" (with additional diacritics) is Hungarian for bath (as in public bath, not as in bathtub), and Szechenyi--yeah, I have no idea. But I do know that the S.F. are the more obscure of Budapest`s two main public baths, and the one thing that folks on the road told me I had to do in the city.

Personally, the thought freaked me out. In the U.S., "public bath" has less-than-savory connotations as a locus for gay sex parties circa 1981. Also, the "public" part of the equation did not thrill me. Are these things clean, what with being open to any damn skanky tourist?

Yet while Budapest definitely grew on me by day 2, it still is not a city rich in stuff to see (more a stuff do to place--cruises on Danube, sitting in bars or cafes, etc), so I bit the proverbial bullet and decided to head to the Szechenyi F.

First hurdle: no swim trunks. Though I considered the possibility of going there in my travel underwear (black boxer-briefs), this just seemed too weird for what was already a kind of weird thing to do, so I bit the bullet and went by a store that sold surf apparel imported from the US. Bad news: the cheapest trunks available cost 8000 forints. Slightly less bad news: even with the generous exchange rate, that still comes to 40 bucks US.

But I had saved money all the while in Hungary, so I splurged, bought the trunks, and headed to the baths. And I must say,they were awesome. Easily the best thing I did in Budapest. There are three large pools outside of differing temps. The best (and most popular) of the three is as hot as a jacuzzi, and is surrounded by classical fountains that spray streams of water you can stand under for a delicious (and free) water massage. I assure you, B.R., it was heavenly. So much so that I stayed in the various pools and rooms til my hands were pale, pickled and prunish. So much so that I went the next morning early, and then again that same day.

To be fair, there were some drawbacks. For instance, the various steam rooms and saunas did not really do it for me. I have never seen the appeal of saunas so much, except when leaving them and no longer suffocating in the oppressive heat. Plus, they were typically crowded with beefy elderly Magyars who were a little too into the experience for my taste, with the sighing and the profuse sweating, and the massaging each other, and the post-sauna self-rub-downs with ice chips.

And it was often painful to see the aforementioned beefy elderly Magyars crammed into tiny, tight swim apparrel (by contrast to what most of the men wore, even my black boxer briefs would have seemed modest).

But on the whole, the baths ruled, and were well worth both the admission price and the extortionate amount I paid for the damn powder-blue Oakley swim trunks.