by: Rick Chapo
Budapest is an amazing city with so many attractions that it
is hard to know where to start. The health resort spas seem
as good a place as any.
Budapest sits on a tectonic plate fault line in Eastern
Europe. While earthquakes seem inevitable, one advantage
to the location is the proliferation of mineral water spas in
the city. Here are a few highlights.
The Gellert Spa Hotel is located in the center of Budapest
on the eastern shore of the Danube River. From the front,
the hotel looks like a classic renaissance building you would
find in Paris or Vienna. The entrance to the hotel opens
onto an indoor pool that looks like something out of ancient
Rome. The square pool is surrounded by baroque columns
and covered by a glass roof two stories above the water.
Palms, plants and relaxing Hungarians are everywhere. It is
For roughly ten dollars, you can have the full Gellert
experience. There is on mixed sex indoor pool and two
sections reserved for just men and women. In these
reserved sections, one can get massage services, but keep
in mind these are vigorous Turkish style massages. Put
another way, you will be getting slapped around a bit
instead of nearly falling asleep.
At the rear of the Gellert, there is an outdoor area that rivals
any Las Vegas hotel. Unlike Vegas hotels with themes, this
pool area is truly historic. The area comes with marble
steps, ceramic tile mosaics and lush landscape. One tends
to feel a bit like you are taking a bath in the Vatican.
Frankly, there are spas all over the place in Budapest.
Although I didn’t personally visit it, I was told very good
things about the Kiraly Baths. Kiraly was apparently built
during Turkish rule and the spa experience is entirely
If you get the chance to visit Budapest, make sure you drop
by one of the spas. Prices are relatively cheap and the
experience is definitely worth it.
REVIEW OF GELLERT HOTEL SPA
The Gellert Hotel Spa is renowned as the ultimate spa
destination in Hungary. Here’s a first hand account of
the Gellert experience.
Gellert Hotel Spa
While in Budapest, everyone kept saying I hadn’t
experience Hungary until I had a spa. According to my
newfound friends, “a spa” meant the Gellert Hotel Spa.
Being a macho American male, I had dragged an
American girl I met on the train with me to the spa. The
purported purpose, of course, was chivalry and
introducing her to an experience she would never
forget. After paying $2 each, my bluff was called.
Women and men were separated for the treatments. I
was alone and didn’t speak a word of the language!
Once separated, I was sent into a large room with what
appeared to be a few hundred dressing rooms. An
attendant looked up from a desk, said something in
Hungarian, slapped a piece of cloth in my hand and
pointed to a dressing room.
In the dressing room, I prepared to change only to
realize the cloth was no more than a string and a 2 x 2
inch square of cotton. For those anatomically
challenged, the string went around your waste and the
cloth hung in front. At this point, there was only one
thing to do. Chant the traveler mantra, “Ah, what the
heck. I’ll never see any of these people again.”
Outside the dressing room, I proceeded to immediately
stand around, try to look casual and see what the locals
were doing. This was a bit difficult as I was the only
person in the room. Eventually a local showed up,
changed and headed down a hall. I followed and hoped
he didn’t notice.
At the end of the hall, we walked through two giant
pools. The walls were painted in baroque styles, the
steps into the pools were marble and the whole place
was impressive. I nearly let my loincloth slide up.
After the pools, we approached a room that looked
remarkably more industrial. There was a line out the
door and I dutifully joined it behind my guide. After a
few moments, we rounded the door and I saw
something I did not expect. Eight loincloth clad men like
myself were lying on metal tables. Large male
masseuses were standing over them. They would slap
them about, spray them with garden hoses, slap them
about and repeat as necessary. This wasn’t the
massage I was anticipating, but I sure as heck wasn’t
getting out of line. That would be to embarrassing!
After a few moments, it was my turn to jump up on a
table. My “masseuse” looked at me and said,
“Americanski?” I nodded. He grinned. And the beating
began. A Hungarian/Turkish massage reminded me of
the movie “Rocky.” In Rocky, the lead character pounds
on sides of meat to get ready for his fight. In the case of
the massage, I was the side of meat. It didn’t hurt, but it
wasn’t exactly relaxing.
After a few moments of tenderizing, I was lifted off the
table and sent flying through the air. As time slowly
passed, I noted this hadn’t happened to any of the men
who went before me. I also noted the limestone and
marble material used in the walls. Just as I started
panicking, I splashed down into a pool to the sound of
laughter. While I was trying to decide if I should laugh or
be enraged, my body started sending its own signals. I
was in a pool of what had to be the coldest water on the
planet earth. I am talking Antarctica kind of cold.
Leaping out of the pool, the men in the room gave me a
standing ovation accompanied by hunched over,
gasping laughter. Now I knew Hungary.
Well, when in Rome…err, Budapest.
About The Author
Rick Chapo is with http://www.nomadjournals.com - makers of travel journals.
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