So I did it. I found the Kiraly Baths and went in. They are accessible by public transportation, like everything else in this city, and I could use tram #4 to get there (it is a very nice tram, by the way).
I found the building by the map and was really expecting to see something looking Turkish, but it did not. To me it looked more like a Soviet style sanatorium, and because of that any desire I had to go there kind of disappeared. I stood outside in the rain trying to decide if I really wanted to subject myself to whatever was inside when my decision-making process was interrupted by a woman with bleached hair, big cigarette in her mouth and a white coat. She walked out of the building to smoke, and left the door open for me, so I sheepishly went in.
Another woman sitting at the ticket office stared at me. I asked her if she spoke English, to which she said “Lit-lee”. She gave me a ticket and told me to go upstairs. Upstairs yet another woman met me and told me to get naked. Seeing my dumbfounded look, she said “Ok, as like you” and brought me a sheet to wrap myself into after I did get naked. This woman was nice – she also sold me two rubber circles which would serve as my pass to massage later.
Today, Monday, was a women’s day at the baths. Besides me, at 8:30 AM on Monday, there were also two Japanese girls who did not mind walking around naked and two Hungarian women -one was about 50 and another was definitely a hundred years old. They also did not bring their swimwear.
The baths inside looked much more Turkish than outside. The main pool was in the center of a room with vaulted ceiling which had star-shaped openings for lighting. This pool’s water was at 36C and besides this one there were 3 other pools – two at 32C and one at 40C. What was in the water I did not quite get because all signs were in Hungarian. Oddly enough the warning signs only were written in German and Russian (what a relief not only in Russian). So I know I could not use soap and dive in the pools according to those signs, but I do not know the composition of the “medicinal” water as it was described.
After soaking in each of the pools in the order that I made up (again, because there was nobody to ask how to do it right), I went to the sauna. Then I went back to do the pools again and did them in the opposite order just for the heck of it. The 36C pool was the coolest as after dipping in each pool that one starts feeling like your skin – because it is exactly the temperature you have then. And I also liked the star-shaped lights that were casting reflections on the water and made it look fairytale-like.
And then came the massage. It took me a while to understand the masseuse – I kept laying down on the wrong side facing wrong place, but she situated me with her strong hands. I think though the fact that I had to do all of this in full light, naked and in presence of other women frolicking around naked, made it hard for me to feel totally comfortable.
After a resounding “finished!” the masseuse let me go and here I am now sleepy and totally relaxed. It is definitely a highlight of my trip to Budapest.