Swimming in Acid

Today, I went to the Szechenyi Baths — a complex of naturally occurring thermal baths whose mineral properties have been appreciated since the baths were created by the Turks in 1881. I don’t have any pictures (who takes a non-waterproof camera to a hot spring?), but they’re easy enough to find because it’s one of the largest bath complexes in Europe.

So, when we walked in, we were given a watch-like bracelet that served as our pass into (and out of) the baths as well as their added benefit as electronic keys to our lockers. We spent the next twenty minutes trying in vain to lock our lockers with the electronic bracelets until we discovered that they (the lockers) were actually broken. Ah, so we’re not stupid after all!

Moving to a different room, we locked up our stuff with no problems and headed out to the main bath complex, which was a series of swimming pools of various temperatures. The light-colored pool in the front of this picture is the hottest one outside — there is a sign stating that it is not healthy to stay in that bath for more than 20 minutes. Past the elongated bath in the middle is another, cooler bath used primarily just for swimming.


So, after we lounged around in these outside pools, I headed into the building to get into the more specific baths. I started with a thermal spring at 38C (about 100 degrees) and stayed there for a while before sitting for a few minutes in a 55C cedar sauna (131 degrees) with Kelly. Then, we found a carbon-acid soak at about 36C and hopped in.

I felt a little like I was in Spirited Away, sitting in foggy green water, expecting a young girl in a pink uniform to pull a water table out of the wall and refill the tub. I could smell the sulfuric aroma drifting up into my face. Numerous types of pools of all kinds decorate the inside of Szechenyi, so we went exploring to see what other kinds of thermals we could get into.


Kelly and I enjoyed doing the recommended hot-cold-hot-cold series of baths, so we alternated between the quite warm 38C acid pool and the 20C (68 degrees) chilled pool. It was refreshing! To finish off, we spent a few minutes in the 65C eucalyptus sauna. We wanted to go to the mud baths, but apparently those are only available to Hungarians who have a specific doctor’s order for them.

Speaking of doctors’ orders, let me tell you a bit about what I’ve learned of the health profession in Hungary. Kata, our Hungarian teacher, was explaining how doctors used to (and occasionally still do) operate. Here, doctors are some of the most poorly paid workers in the country. Because of this, they started to collect “tips.” So if one must go to the hospital, one is expected to sneak a small envelope with extra money to the doctors and nurses responsible for treatment. This practice has been somewhat negated and only happens in government-run hospitals, but it still exists. Giving the extra money must be done secretly, but the doctor can (and sometimes does) turn down the money.


So anyway, what’s on the menu for Hungarian? Well, here are a new set of phrases and words for today.

Belépni tilos, foglalt, érkezés, indulás, meg tudja mondani, tegnap, ma, holnap, szabad, lehet, hol van a bank, mikor indul a vonat, egy pillanat, éhes vagyok, fáradt vagyok, itt fáj, Decemberig, túl drága, mi ez az épület, van itt uszoda, szerintem.

Once again, unfortunately, I can’t cover any of the grammar that I know, because that would take way too much space. So, you only get some of the words. 🙂

The thing that I’d like to conclude with today is a Hungarian nursery rhyme that I love. Hungarian children use it as American children use Eeny Meeny Miney Moe. It goes like this —

Egy, kettő, három, négy,
tarka kutya, hóva mégy?
Nem megyek én messzire,
csak a világ végére.

One, two, three, four,
spotted dog, where are you going?
I’m not going far away,
only to the end of the world.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about another traditional Hungarian folk song that we know.



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