Relax at Budapest's Gellert Bath

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Budapest is known as the “Spa City” because it is home to over forty Turkish baths. Since Roman times, people have soaked in thermal baths for medicinal purposes. The tradition is honored today in Hungary, and you too can experience the healing and relaxing properties of the baths.

Everyday 70 million liters of thermal water ranging from 70 to 170 degrees surface from Budapest’s 118 natural springs. Budapest is home to these springs because of its geographic location on a fault line.

Gellert Bath is the most ornate thermal bath in the Magyar capital. Although Szechényi is the largest thermal bath in Budapest, it is more crowded and not as elaborately designed as Gellert. Gellert opened in 1918, and is located at the base of Gellert Hill in Buda, the hilly side of the Danube. Gellert has a total of thirteen pools, including three outdoor pools and two indoor pools. Swimsuits are optional in the separate men’s and women’s sections, so be prepared to see more than you bargained for.

In the steam room, visibility is about two feet. The steam fills the room through an opening in the floor. When more steam is needed, an employee moves a wooden board and a blanket of steam rises from the earth and engulfs the room. Sweat pours off anyone sitting on the second or third row of the bleacher style seating. Five minutes in the steam room leaves you begging for the pool of 40 degree water.

The hot spring water is rich in minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, sulphate-chloride. The water’s composition is said to help cure ailments, such as arthritis, blood circulation problems, and illnesses of the vertebral spine. Time in the steam room helps relieve problems associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis.

The vast number of Turkish baths in Hungary were built by the Ottoman Turks that ruled the country for 150 years, from 1526-1699. The Turks built at least forty baths throughout Hungary. The baths are characterized by a distinctive Turkish architectural style that includes a central dome. During a time when hygiene was not an integral part of European society, Hungarians valued their adopted Turkish bathing rituals.

Eastern Europe has a dismal atmosphere. Hungary has survived Soviet rule, and the low living standards relative to Western Europe have taken a toll on the people. The baths are a place where Hungarians can escape their problems and relax, play chess, and talk amongst friends.
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