We woke up to the cloudy Budapest sky, but it wasn’t cold, and no rain at all. The plan was to move our stuff to our next host’s place and start our great reward aka post-exercise day – go to the thermal baths with our new American friends. We first thought about Gellert, but I wasn’t too impressed by the reviews, and we agreed upon Sezchenyi.
We said goodbye to Daniel as it was time to move to Gabor’s place, him being our next host. All I knew about Gabor was that there were few countries he hadn’t visited, he was the most rated CS’er in Budapest and he lived close to pretty much everything. We discussed the option of walking, but gave the idea up pretty soon, still weary of all the walking of the last day. So we hopped on a bus (thank you Google maps) that brought us straight to his place, again getting where we needed to be without paying (shame on us, right).
Gabor’s place really was in the heart of Budapest, and we were impressed by the insides of the pit house – columns wrapped in ivy, and that authentic look of some ancient ruins. His door was easy to locate – bright and featuring the CS sticker. His apartment was even cooler, with Moroccan carpets, African tribal masks and loads of backpacks stored upon the closet. He had a guest, a Hungarian lady who’d lived in Guatemala for the last two years (which immediately led to tasting the raw Guatemala chocolate). We talked a little. He invited us to join his meditation class in the evening, and it sounded like we had a perfect plan for the day of relaxation – baths and all. Gabor spoke great Russian, making Siranush grumble that we didn’t have a secret language anymore. But it was time to go – Siranush needed her shot of coffee, and me some fuel in shape of a meal before the baths.
We met Elton and Brendan at the Heroes Square as agreed, and headed towards the baths. Sezchenyi were said to be the best in Budapest, and my mom said so when I asked her. A day pass with a changing cabin cost 4600HUF, or around 15 euro. Worth every cent. You can rent swimwear, towels and swimming caps, but of course bringing your own is much nicer. You only need a swimming cap for the big outdoor pool, the colder one. Otherwise there’s no need to worry.
The building’s all baroque and fancy, more on the outside than on the inside, and seems a bit confusing at the beginning. Inside there are a few pools and saunas, and the outside features a big hot pool and a big cold pool. There’s another hot one, I think, but it was on renovation during our visit.
Walking out in your swimsuit when it’s hardly +14C, and then diving into the divine warmth of the spring – hell yeah! It made me recall the good old SAS days when I was the only crazy person touching the water of the pool on the MV Explorer during our passage to Portugal. Damn, that was cold!
The Sezhenyi pool was hot, and there also was a fountain-like thing that spit the water out under great pressure, thus being awesome for massaging an aching neck like mine. And underwater here and there you could find the hot streams that massaged your feet.
I was jumping in the water in pure glee, yet watching the time – it’s not recommended to spend more than 20 minutes in the hot pool. People there were a lovely sight: cute couples embracing and making out in the water, proud dads whirling their kids around, teenagers splashing each other, old gentlemen playing chess… Szechenyi baths had it all and more. It felt like a place where people came to feel closer to each other and to spend time with their loved ones. Everyone looked relaxed and smiled a lot.
The water was… mmm. Thicker than the regular pool water, making it easier to float on the back, and felt smooth and silky on the skin. It’s said to help recover after traumas and ease joint pains.
There were pools inside and outside and a bunch of saunas. In a regular humid sauna I can survive for around two minutes, so I jumped out as soon as possible, leaving the guys inside, found a fountain producing ice and was just throwing it at my friends in the sauna from time to time. Fun times.
They toured the saunas, I did so with the pools, all of different temperature. But nothing felt as good as 36C, the natural body temperature. The relaxation was incredible, and what I loved about that water was that you could just let go of your arms and legs and they would float like they’re weightless.
In the end, all of us were just happy hippies with peaceful faces, bodies of jelly and talking tummies. Yet instead of landing at the nearest Thai cafe we wandered on in search of something better, and found nothing. Having walked quite a distance already, I suggested just heading to Vapiano, and everyone agreed. Vapiano is this cool concept Italian place where you can order custom pasta, pizza, and salad. There’s usually one of those in every big city, but it’s still good. We made it there forty minutes later, exhausted and beastly hungry. Totally worth it: a steamy bowl of freshly made pasta and some white wine were good enough to smooth the effect of a long walk. The wifi sucked though, so we followed the guys to their hostel – that very Wombat hostel that gives the visitors a Hungarian phraselist consisting of slang and alcohol-related sentences. There we heard about a free pub crawl starting very soon, and decided to join. Budapest is well-known for its ruined pubs concept, and we hoped the crawl would bring us there. The time was ticking though, and we didn’t want to be assholes and come back to our host’s place after midnight. We walked to one pub with the tour, disliked it, and Siranush googled the one her friend told her about – Szimpla Kert, where the friend once managed to spot Jude Law. That was the real deal – a huge shabby facility with great drinks, great prices and great atmosphere. It really did look like the remainings of some old Victorian house where local non-maistreamers chose to throw a party, decorating it with all kinds of weird junk. We ended up drinking wine on the seat of a car cut in half, wrapped in lively chatter like in a warm plaid. We drunk to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and talked about life. But eventually, it was time to finish the drinks and say goodbyes. We got back to Gabor’s before midnight – he still had guests – and chatted with them for a while. Gabor provided us with a huge mattress and a load of pillows and blankets. Before going to bed he left a few photo albums on the table, which I started to leaf through. Turned out he had taken some great portraits all around the world. We were getting more and more impressed with the guy, who spent the last 11 years traveling, and I turned the lights off planning to ask him a lot of questions the following day.