A Day in Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Hungary


IMG_2330I ask the reader – who needs time? Who needs the concept of time, the planning, the organising, and the worrying of the ticking and tocking of the clocks hands as it steals your precious seconds from you. Thankfully, time does not exist at Széchenyi thermal bath.

The humid continental temperatures of a mid-June’s summer day in Budapest would make any person cry in anguish for the need of some kind of water activity to cool their baking skin gathered from a full day of sight-seeing in one of Europe’s most majestic, inspiring and rewarding (you’ll see what I mean by rewarding) cities.

Having researched Hungary on many websites and travelogues before I left, it came to my attention that Budapest is known the world over for being the ‘City of Spas’. I kept this in mind on that particular sun soaked day in City Park, which is where the most famous thermal bath in all of Hungary is located. I stepped off the subway train and climbed out of the maze like infrastructure, and being the second oldest underground railway in the world – it really did amplify the heat. Emerging from the tunnels of old and into the full bloom of summer, I looked down and gazed at my map – struggling to figure out where this landmark was. A sudden tap on my shoulder made me startle, I quickly turned around to see an old gentleman with a nicotine stained mustache smiling enthusiastically and pointing, ‘there, there.. Széchenyi” he spoke. It was right in front of me. How did he know I wanted to see this place? Maybe he could tell by my exhausted face I was in need of some relaxation… or maybe my trickling facial sweat gave it away – who knows.

The Neo-baroque façade stared at me in all its awe-inspired magnificence. I thought to myself, behind these majestic yellow walls lies a thermal pool – where relaxation exists without the need for time to moan at the user. To me it felt like some kind of fantasy novel, where a weary backpacker who has been on the road for days stumbles across a beautiful oasis full of magical charm, in which one wish is granted. For me, my wish was for time to leave me alone -with absolutely no regrets on how I spent my day.

I entered the facility – paid my entrance fee and made my way through the building to the changing room. I looked around, no clock to be seen. No annoying reminder that your day is slowly ticking away. I smirked to myself. Me 1 – Time 0.

I left the outer building ring to reach the main internal bathing area. What I saw blew me away.

The stillness of the thermal waters gently released hot steam, which quaintly blew upwards into the calming blue sky. There were many people about but that didn’t both me as they all seemed to be enjoying themselves without a care in the world. In one corner, I saw a group of 8 middle aged Hungarian men semi-submerged and semi-naked in the water, casually playing a game of chess! On the patio surrounding the pool I saw numerous people sleeping on sun beds, making the most of the weather. I did not see one person checking their watch, or hurrying about. What I saw was magnificent, a group of people – of all ages and professions – enjoying themselves. It seemed obvious to me that the inspirational surroundings of such a place can make anyone forget their troubles and relax.

I snapped out of my train of thought and slowly walked to the slight drop which entered the thermal bath. My toes were the first to feel the soothing medicinal qualities of Hungarian spa water. I then carefully submerged my whole upper body into the bath – which caused a wonderful tingling that was sent to every nerve. It was a huge pool of potion with great healing qualities, I felt magically empowered by the supreme quality of the water – from toe to neck. I closed my eyes and pictured Norse Gods playing around here, splashing each other like little children amongst hysteric giggles – it’s the sort of place they would hang out.

Time went by, or did it? I had no recollection. I slowly opened my eyes. The sun drowned in the horizon, its rays of light glimmering in the darkness of the clouds faded and the pale moon peeked at me from the stars. The water was shimmering with a white glow, but there were those 8 Hungarian men still sat down playing chess… and there were those families by the patio, still resting on the sunbeds.

I thought to myself “when in Hungary, do as the Hungarians”, I fell back asleep and continued enjoying myself without a care in the world.

About the Author:  Daniel Wild graduated with a Geography degree in 2013, this propels my travel  interest even further and I am thinking of undertaking postgraduate study. I also very much enjoy writing.

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