If not now – When?

Adventures around the world (with Beth and Chris)

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Taking a bath

It’s cool and cloudy today. It seems like a perfect day to check out the thermal waters of Budapest.

We stuff our backpacks with towels, bathing suits and flip-flops and head across the Danube over the sage green Liberty Bridge. There is ample sidewalk for bicyclers, skateboarders, people with cameras, river gawkers, and regular pedestrians. We stop where someone has long ago pasted a sticker that says “good kiss spot”. An enormous tourist barge with a life-size chess board on deck emerges from under the bridge. I notice the locks (signifying the commitment of an everlasting Budapest love) that couples have fastened on the curley-que iron railing. I think about finding a lock before we move away from Budapest ♥

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IMG_2843Gellért Baths are housed on the Buda side of town. They were built in the early 1900’s using the abundant thermal healing waters (minerals composing the waters are sodium, magnesium, sulfate and more) that dub Budapest as the “City of Spas”. At the entrance in the ornate building we receive our electronic bracelets that will admit us into the bath area and keep our stuff locked up. We wander back to the changing areas, don our suits and flip-flops, and meet at the bottom of the steps. Now to find the waters is a bit of a maze that is not made clear even with the use of the map – until you understand it. The indoor swimming pool where mostly older people are swimming (bathing caps are obligatory here) and sitting under the lion heads emitting warm water from their mouths is the first pool we find (we don’t go in). We pass by “cabins”, massage and health “treatment” area (we do not indulge here), shower areas, and finally find the thermal baths. There are four – you visit two at a time. We first go into the 35° C and 38° C baths, switching back and forth between the two and relaxing on the underwater benches at the source of the heated water. There are all ages, sizes, and languages in the warm and minerally fragrance-free H2O. Tucked in a corner is a tiny scintillating 18° C pool –  I try to go in and can’t make it past my knees – it’s frigid! There is a steam room with blue lights under the two-tiered blue and white tiles benches. The steam is so thick that you feel as though you must clear the air with your hands in order not to sit on someone’s lap. We spend a few minutes here, inhaling the heavy air, then go back into the hot waters for a few more plunges. Crossing to the other side of the original swimming pool, we find the other two baths and alternate between 33° C to 40° C situating ourselves under the Art Nouveau cherubs holding their turtle. This side feels older to me as I wonder at the tile patterns, lion drinking fountains, beautiful glass ceiling, the weightlessness of my body, and my wrinkly fingertips that tell me it’s finally time to go. We have been in the baths for over an hour (Chris’ sciatica has been temporarily relieved); we both feel loose and a bit wobbly as we cross back over the bridge and back to our place in Pest.

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IMG_2866Another neat-o Budapest experience!

xo

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Memento Park

Yesterday we took a bus ride out of Budapest to a small outdoor off the beaten path museum called Memento Park.

In 1989 when the the Soviet Union collapsed and the eastern block countries were democratized, many of the villages and towns had to decide what to do with their communist era statues, memorials, etc. In most cases they were destroyed or melted down to created new pieces that were more in keeping with the current political situation.

Budapest had the idea of preserving their statues and rather than create a memorial to communism, they conceived a memorial to the fall of communism and it’s associated tyranny.  It really helps you understand what life was like in Hungary during the communist regime.  They even have a small movie theater where they show actual communist training films on how to be a spy (with subtitles). It’s kind of hilarious!

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They also have an old Trabant on display, which was the “people’s car” during communism. It was an underpowered, unreliable, air polluting piece of junk, but was really the only car that most people could hope to afford.  Our tour guide told us her grandmother ordered one in 1974 at which time she had to put down a deposit for the full amount.  She finally took delivery of the car in 1984!

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C

The Five Elements

Let’s go get a Thai massage!

There are so many choices in Budapest for a Thai massage. So, of course we consulted TripAdvisor. We decided on a placed called The Five Elements. After a metro ride, then walking for a few blocks, we found the place.

We cut through the sun-filled courtyard and into the small spa. It smelled good. The short blond young woman at the small desk spoke English with a Hungarian accent and wore a short black kimono –style dress. She agreed to show us around before we committed to the next almost naked 75 minutes of our lives. She showed us to the dimly lit room where there were two massage tables draped with white towels topped with an orchid, a couple of wooden elephant heads where she suggested we hang our clothes, a paper lantern, sink, a spa-ish wall hanging, and soft music. We decided on Thai oil massages (vs. the dry Thai massage which apparently is “yoga stretching”  – hmmmm, maybe I’ll try that next time) – lavender for me, peppermint for Chris.

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Chris and I quickly got down to our skivvies (actually, we were each provided a pair of disposable “underwear”……tehetehetehe). We each got face down onto our respective tables (by now the orchid was on the floor placed right where I could see it from the face hole in the table) and waited to be covered. The masseuses quietly came in the room. At this point, the experience is an individual one, but happening in the same room.

The first sensation I had after the towel was placed on my back was of my masseuse washing my feet. She then pressed on my feet and legs through the towel. I then sensed that she was up on the table straddling me (she was) and continuing to apply pressure all the way up my back through the towel. I was dying to lift my head up to see if this was happening to Chris too (I didn’t. It was.). She eventually, light as a feather,  got off the table and using her strong and able hands worked her way around my body – back, neck, legs, feet, toes, fronts of the legs, arms, hands, fingers, sides and chest (at one point since I was still on my stomach with my face through the donut hole,  I could see her bare feet making her way around – at this point, to my shoulders). Long strokes, circular sweeping motions, fingertips sliding along the muscles – all with the lavender oil. She pressed her fingers deeply into my stomach, then back up to my neck, face, and scalp. Eventually we were both asked to sit up, and each of the women got behind us on the table and did more work – stretching our arms and necks – using their arms and legs. The last part of the massage was a return to washing the feet.

After we got dressed, they gave us tea while we basked in the relaxation of our massages.

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Wow. We felt great! We will be returning to The Five Elements again soon.

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