Ever since my arrival I’ve been waiting for a warm day to visit Budapest’s famous thermal baths. Although the most well-known images do show huge indoor pools under vaulted ceilings and skylights, most of the complexes in fact contain numerous outdoor pools as well – some seem almost like mini waterparks, with wave pools and lazy lagoons. One or two of the photos I’ve seen even reminded me of the lavish swimming pools of Las Vegas – and I certainly didn’t want to go to a complex like that on a rainy day, limiting myself only to the chlorinated indoor air. That would defeat half the purpose.
But alas, such a warm day never came. So at the first hint of sunshine on my last Thursday in Budapest, I quickly grabbed my swimtrunks and dashed out the door – Gellert Baths, arguably the most famous, is just a few blocks from where I’m staying so I figured I could make it there before the clouds once again consumed the sky.
I failed. But at least I made it before the rain resumed, and got a brief taste of the courtyard wave pool – even if I was one of the only people there.
Back indoors, I was surprised at how different the “Thermal Baths” were from what I’d expected: the main pool was actually quite chilly, and even the hottest hot-water tub barely topped out at 38 degrees. Perhaps my perception is just a bit skewed after years of living in Japan, where the Onsen get so hot your skin literally turns red on contact; often you have to dip into consecutively warmer pools to have a hope of reaching the hottest (which I personally never have).
Still, I’m glad I got a chance to do it – as the thermal baths were right up near the top of my list for Budapest – along with a Kertek (outdoor garden party, none of which happened due to the rain) and of course the recently mentioned visit to my “family heritage sites.” Fingers crossed that I get a second chance to cross off that last item off the list 🙂