Thursday, December 25, 2014

INTREPIDLY, FROM BERLIN TO VENICE (Part 5): Kiraly Furdo and Gruffy Granddad

When in Budapest, a visit to the thermal baths is definitely in order. The hot mineral water is filled with calcium, magnesium, sodium and other minerals, all meant to provide therapeutic relief from aches and pains.

The one i had chosen to go to was the Kiraly Furdo, which was constructed way, way back in 1565 (yes, this is not a typo) during the Turkish occupation. Kiraly is one of the smaller thermal baths, and one of the more quiet ones as well. If one wants a festive atmosphere and a hot pool full of people, a visit to the Gellert Bath or Szechenyi Bath would be more appropriate - Szechenyi, in particular, if one fancies playing chess while bathing!

Finding the place was not difficult at all. I do remember when walking along the street and knowing i was quite near, i looked at this old, decrepit building on my left, and thinking "i hope it's not this place". . . .only to find out from the sign below that, yes, it was this place!

I duly entered, and paid HUF2,400 for a daytime ticket (valid for entry during 9AM to 12NN, and includes a refundable amount of HUF1,100). 

It is best to bring your own towel, since renting one costs HUF700; and you have to leave a deposit of HUF4,000!!!  Bring your own swim suit or trunks as well, in order to avoid having to rent one (although i must admit this may by impractical advice for a tourist, especially if you are going directly to other places after your trip to the bath). 

Aside from the pools, one can opt for a massage as well. I paid HUF4,100 for a 30-minute massage. 

I was given a waterproof plastic wristband (it looks like a watch without any numbers or hands on the dial), which will be used to open and close my changing cabin. I was led to the locker area by the bath attendant, an old, pot-bellied man with white hair and a gruff demeanor who spoke zero English (let's call him 'Gruffy Granddad'). Pointing with his hands, and grunting, he checked my watch-wristband and gave me my rented towel. 

So there i was was, in front of my changing cabin, but not quite sure how to open it.

I searched for Gruffy Granddad, but he was nowhere to be found. Good thing, an elderly local customer (he looked like he went to the baths every day!!) saw my predicament, and using sign language (he spoke no English too!), he showed me how it's done.

You just put your watch-wristband on the round thingie, shout "Open Sesame!" in your deepest voice (hahaha, i jest :-D), and wallah! ;-D

I must say that the facilities of Kiraly Furdo seem to be from a totally different time zone, and it reminded me actually of being in a hospital. 

Anyway, to the thermal pools. There are four of them here at Kiraly - one big circular main pool, and three smaller rectangular ones, all with varying degrees in temperature (ranging from 26 - 40 degrees Celsius). 

There was a sizeable number of customers, even at the early hour; but i wouldn't say it was crowded. Mostly elderly people, but there were some younger tourists as well (including two sexy ladies, hehe). 

It's really up to one's preference how to use the pools. Dip in a warm pool first, then steam room, then to the hottest pool, shower  (the pipes of the shower area were these narrow metal ones, which were really rusty and creaking, and looked like they came from the 1600s!!!!), cold pool, back to the warm pool, etc. 

My massage was at 11AM, so i got out of the pools, dried myself and went to the lounge area (which, again, faintly reminded me of a hospital). Then Gruffy Granddad appeared, pointed at me, led me to the massage table, and motioned for me to lie face down, before leaving. 

After a few minutes, the masseur/masseuse appeared. Guess who it was? GRUFFY GRANDDAD!!!  [shocked expression]

But in fairness, he proved to be adept in giving the massage and seemed happiest when karate-chopping my back using quick, short hand movements ;-D 

And as expected, when i discreetly slipped a tip to him as i exited the locker area, he grunted without a hint of a smile.

All in all, a great experience which set the tone for the rest of the day. Must-do when in Budapest!!!

For complete information on the various thermal baths, check out the Baths Budapest site. If you are not sure which Budapest bath is right for you, check out this helpful article:

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