bathing in budapest

Joey and I didn't expect to love Budapest so much; who knew it was like Paris without all the tourists and at less than half the price?!  We traveled to the gorgeous city with our friends, L&O, over the long Easter weekend (got to love having Good Friday and Easter Monday off), and had a fabulous time.  Some friends who lived in Budapest before serving in Abuja highly recommended we partake in the baths that dot the city, which we found to be a fantastic idea, albeit not exactly straightforward.  So here are some helpful instructions for visiting a public bath in Hungary.  Based on my experience.  So take from them what you will.

Step 1:  Pick a bath.  In a city called, "The City of Spas," for its prime location over natural thermal springs, this was no easy feat.  We eventually settled on Szechenyi (pronounced "say-chen-ee" - I think) Baths because of it's beautiful Neo-baroque architecture and status as the largest bath in Europe.

The exterior of the massive Szechenyi bath complex
Step 2:  Verify that when you want to go, you can.  Certain baths designate certain days as "men only" and "women only," and we all wanted to bathe together (does that sound pervy or is it just me?), so we had to make sure we could (and maybe we all also wanted to avoid the awkward nakedness of the single-sex bathing days - yes, we have already established that I'm immature).

Step 3: Pack a bag.  We didn't think to pack flip flops or towels; while "towels" were available for rent (thin, white sheets), we really missed our flip-flops while walking barefoot across the tiles.  (And in the sauna.  Holy blisters on the bottom of your feet batman.)  Also would highly recommend waterproof mascara.

Step 4: Find the right entrance.  Not to be confused with the hospital entrance.  Yeah...
What?  This is a hospital?  Ohmygodwearesosorryandleavingrightnowpleasedon'tjudgeusasidiotAmericans.
Step 5: Find your cabin, change into your bathing suit and lock your insecurities away with your clothes.  Everybody is here to relax and nobody's concerned about anybody but themselves.  All different shapes and sizes populate the baths, and the sooner you get over yourself the sooner you'll be relaxing in the pools.

The cabins
Step 6:  Wander the huge complex, experimenting with hot and cold and wet and dry.  Go into the piping hot sauna and dunk in the icey pool outside.  Try the hot tub, the various steam rooms, and the medicinal pools. Get a massage, drink a beer (yes, they even sell beer), and relax.

This whole complex is baths.  Behind the outdoor pools are more indoor pools, saunas, steam rooms and more pools.
Step 7: Contemplate moving to Budapest.

Step 8: Clear your calendar for the rest of the day.  You could also explore one of the several incredible museums nearby if you're super-human and have any energy left over.  Two and a half hours of bathing later, we'd all unwound so much we were exhausted; our muscles so loose they hovered somewhere between numb and sore.  We decided our best next course of action to be spicy sausages and beer.