Europe | Hungary | Budapest – The world’s largest jacuzzi
Until today I had yet to find something that really excited me about this city (That’s only giving it a day and a half though). Budapest is like Vilnius but the size of Berlin. It hasn’t quite got the magic of Prague. Then again it’s a bit more of a challenge to find your way around a new city completely unaided (I know people in all the above mentioned cities – but not Budapest). And all the more rewarding when you make discoveries for yourself. Today was one of those days….
While Sexton rested amongst the 10,000 trees of Margit Island (wonderful in itself – woods, gardens, ruins, and sprinklers that make rainbows on soft green grassy areas) I headed to the open air baths. The queue was full of festival goers with dreadlocks and dirty feet (some music thing was on at the weekend – we never bothered figuring out what or where it was – I think it was a rave thing) and it took ages to buy a ticket. Once inside the locker system was strange – one key for hundreds of lockers and an old woman with tiny tin ‘tickets’ – she would write your ticket number on a chalkboard inside the locker.
At first the bathing area looked like a very crowded public swimming pool, albeit in a beautiful setting of tall trees and hills in the distance. I got in one pool, swam around, saw a giant slide like I could only have dreamed of as a child, and wished I’d had some kids with me so I’d have an excuse to go down it now.
People were also swimming in a fountain. I got in and found myself in the world’s largest Jacuzzi. (that was before I’d been in the next 4 pools, each an even bigger hot tub). Warm water poured from several cement fountains around the sides of the round pool, and from a huge fount in the middle. Jets of water also sprayed all around the circular pool. It was amazing. Each pool got warmer and better. They were all made of in blue and white Victorian looking tiles. Some are fed by thermal springs.
I have no idea how old the baths are but they certainly aren’t new. There goes the myth that no one had fun in Soviet times. I’ve never seen so many nearly naked people of all ages and almost as many colours having so much fun together.
At one point I saw several dozen people moving very quickly, very close together, around an oval shape in one of the pools. It was as if they were all running in chest high water – but no one can run that fast in water. In fact it was the current pushing them along. Everyone was laughing as they bashed into each other and into the sides of the pool. A lifeguard stood at sharp attendance in case anyone got pulled under (no one did.) I had to join in. And I’m usually one who hates being in crowds, especially being up so close to fellow humans. Unlike in England where swimming is a kicking battle for space in a lane, sharing a giant hot tub in Hungary with hundreds of strangers was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.