Budapest, Hungary - Polarsteps
We sleep, we work, we teach.
We force down a kebab.
We spend the rest of the golden golden day at the old baths. The Rudas baths.
There were three sections. A modern upper section, with a rooftop bath area, bar, super hot and intense mineral pools, super cold plunge pools - lots of LEDs everywhere, and situated on a highway junction, so you’ve got the old city and traffic everywhere. Cool.
Second section was a sauna village, nuts like 100-110C.
Very cool, moseyed around there for a couple hours, but we heard of something called the octagon, the third section.
Apparently there was an old Turkish, Ottoman area from the 16th century, built during in the brief occupation.
We found a local German man named Niko, who was very passionate about the baths and said he went multiple times a week. However, he had possibly the worst sense of direction out of anyone I have ever met. I knew we were going around in circles (the place was a labyrinth), but he was so confident in his chosen paths that I didn’t have the heart to say anything.
Eventually a steward guided us and we found what we were looking for.
The room itself may or may not have been octagonal, but it was a cavernous space, marbled on all walls with large marbled awning, almost a large temple structure in the middle, containing a large pool.
At each corner of the room (ah yes, there were four corners) there were smaller pools, and on close inspection you could see little signs telling you their temperatures. The game is simple. Chill out in increasingly hotter water, get into the steam room for as long as you can bear, and then descend into the frigidarium, that is the really, really cold pool.
How can you describe the feeling?
It’s a little like being really, really thirsty. Stuck in a broken down car about 3 hours outside the nearest city, and about 6 miles from the nearest service station. You’re signal doesn’t get through to the rescue company consistently, you don’t have what3words installed on your phone, and you’re starting to panic.
Then, some absolute geezer with a huge truck (and buckets of super cold water) hitches your car to his tailgate and tows you down the highway, gets you to a garage run by a mate of his. They do the minor works free of charge. You check into your surprisingly clean and well stocked hotel room, freshen up, and take the stranger up on his kind offer to show you the town for the night. You have phenomenal wings and drink lots of beer together, but he is a good guy and minds you also drink lots of water to avoid a potential hangover. You get to bed around 1 o’clock feeling grateful to be alive.
It’s a bit like that. Scary at first, but ultimately relieving and warm and leaves you with some serious warm fuzzies.
We sleep and ready ourselves for the next 9 hour train to Bucharest