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Széchenyi 'Beach' Set

HUNGARY | Wednesday, 3 August 2016 | Views [380]

The Széchenyi Medicinal Baths are the largest in Europe and one of the continent's most famous thermal pool complexes with a history dating back over 100 years. It reminded me of the old Ramsgate Baths 50 years ago, but with a liberal measure of grandeur and style about it. This place really brings the punters in, all ages and types. It is open every day of the year and I reckon some locals do come every day! Its function and importance to the average Budapester is more analogous with that of the democratic beach in Summer in an Australian coastal fringe city.

Széchenyi is very large and crowded. It is hot, a landscape of cement and water littered with people either sunbathing or standing round in small groups in pools. Many pools in fact! Three outdoor pools plus 15 smaller indoor ones in all. The configuration of the outdoor pools is a conventional rectangular pool in the middle, bookended by two half-circular ones. The baths are mixed-bathing but some other of the very many therapeutic pools in Budapest are either single sex or sex segregated in bathing.

I liked the architecture a lot - grand, very ornate with arched columns with the complex as a whole set in the middle of a pleasant city park which the Baths shares with a circus and an amusement park. On the left side of the pool, near the Pepsi sign, groups of older men, half-immersed in water, were busying themselves attentively in games of chess.

The water was warm to quite hot in parts, up to 38°! It was very refreshing and relaxing, especially when you perch yourself for a while under one of the water spouts which are overshadowed by classical sculptures. But I couldn't stay in the open for long though ... too many people, far too hot and the poolside areas lacked for shaded spots.

One avenue of escape from the heat and potential sunburn was to venture inside to one of the smaller (also crowded) thermal pools where the water temperature was a more tolerable 27°. The locker system in place in the Baths seemed haphazard, rows of lockers up and down different alleys and different floors. It was very antiquated, looked like it was designed in 1913, annoyingly cumbersome and detracted a bit from the experience. When you pay to enter you get a plastic armband for the locker, its advisable not to lose it in the water hijinks.

Glad I visited, even if I found the aesthetics of the baths more rewarding than the swimming (more accurately, wading) experience.


Tags: recreation & therapy

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