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Historical Thermal Baths

26 March 2012 26 Comments

As mentioned in previous blogs, I currently reside in beautiful Budapest. For how long, I don’t know, but while I’m here, I’ve been making the best of it.

Making the best of it?

OMG, what an understatement!

Budapest is such an amazing city that merely stepping out my front door means a remarkable day is in the making. If it weren’t enough that my tree-lined street is an enclave unto its own—venerable buildings adorned with statues and all manner of baroque ornamentation, a post office, hair salons, vegetable stands, restaurants, pubs, super market—a couple hundred feet to my right is a trolley stop. Climbing into one of those finicky communist era transports and I’m minutes from connecting to all the efficient public transportation I need.

Turn left out my front door, walk to the end of the block, and there I am, in City Park.

What a grand place!

There’s the castle I referred to in a previous blog (photos two blogs down), a lake, a Skating Palace (in summer the water is used for boating), Heroes Square, museums, restaurants, a zoo, and those famous thermal baths.

Did I say thermal baths?

Oh, yeah.

Front entrance to Szechenyi Baths

Budapest sits on a huge underground thermal lake so the city is thick with Turkish baths, some of which date back centuries (one has been operating since the 1600’s). Stepping into some of them is like stepping into an Ottoman Palace for bathing.

My favorite is the Szechenyi Baths, one of the largest complexes in Europe. And glory be, if it isn’t located in the park right down the street from me. A leisurely stroll and there I am, inside a grand neo-Baroque building, circa 1881. Exquisite.

There are indoor pools and outdoor pools at Szechenyi—fifteen to be exact, one of them being an Olympic size pool kept at swimming temperature. My favorite is the huge outdoor pool that roils with clouds of steam when the hot thermal air connects with the icy air in winter.

Public baths are cheap in Hungary, even cheaper if you have a doctor’s prescription for things such as an ailing back. For about twelve dollars you can while away an entire day. My favorite time in summer is late afternoon where we laze around until the sun sets and the palace lights up.

A steamy night at the baths


Masseuses will crank your muscles every which way for not much money, and there’s a bar there should you thirst for anything from water to mixed drinks.

Listen in on conversation around you and you’ll hear a cacophony of languages. People come to Budapest from all over the world, some just for the baths. I once met two Americans and started up a chat (not very difficult for me to do, hehehe). Turns out the men have been friends since elementary school. One is a pilot, the other an officer in the military stationed in the Middle East. They arrange for their R&R’s in Budapest and take the baths on every trip.

Budapest should be on everyone’s bucket list make that “to see” list (I really don’t care for the other phrasing). What a city!

Where’s your favorite city or what city have you visited that has its special magic?

If you have time, take a look at this website with all the photos of Szechenyi Baths. http://www.budapestgyogyfurdoi.hu/en/szechenyi/virtual_tour#

Szechenyi Baths



  • Barb - Kat's Mom said:

    Kathleen, how magical it all sounds….as if I can close my eyes and walk with you to these fascinating sites. Your words come alive for me and I have missed your blogging.

    Welcome back! Keep these lovely pictures coming our way for they give me peace and an eye to the world that I wish I could visit as you are doing.

    Shalom! Barb S

  • kathleen said:

    Thanks Barb,

    I promise to be more faithful in my blogging from here on out!

  • Ashlyn Macnamara said:

    How beautiful. Next week my younger daughter will be on a school trip in central Europe, but they won’t be in Budapest.

    Congratulations again on your GH final!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Thanks, Anne!

    You’ve been a Golden Heart finalist so you know the ropes. I’ll probably be calling on you for some advice. I’m still reeling from the news. But what great news.
    Too bad your daughter won’t be in Budapest, I’d show her around.

  • JennyB said:

    What inspiration–no wonder your stories come alive. Congratulations on finaling in the Golden Heart!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Hi Jenny!

    Thank you. Without people like you, Anne and the others, a final never would have happened. I wish you were all here to jump in the baths with me tomorrow and celebrate! I am sooooooo excited.

  • Deborah Trickey said:

    Oh Kathleen, Budapest sounds wonderful. It would not be hard to make the best of it! :0)

    Congratulations again on the Golden Heart contest… I have to say, I am not a bit surprised!

  • Averil Reisman said:

    What a lovely blog. The baths sound wonderful. I love to swim and it would be such a delight to swim in such a beautiful place, not to mention the wonders such a bath would do for arthritis. And congratulations on your GH final. You so deserve it.

  • Joan said:

    Kathleen, having read most of your beautiful historical novels, I’m not surprised that you are a finalist. As I read each of your novels, the characters come alive because of the amount of details and research you include in each page. I feel like the fly on the wall, peering into the lives, loves, twists and turns of each character and situation. I have never previously cared for romance novels and historical fiction, but I became hooked from your first chapter. You don’t need luck, Kathleen. You have real talent. ~Joan

  • Ella Quinn said:

    My son’s been to Budapest, but I’ve not gotten there yet. It looks beautiful.

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Thanks, Deborah!

    Budapest is wonderful. I belong to a women’s expat group. They are for the most part, wives of executives of American companies, embassy employees, NATO comman forces, United Nations, etc. They have lived everywhere and not a one of them wants to leave Budapest when there time is up. The Danube splits Buda from Pest and there are tons of restaurants along the water. Spring is here so all the outdoor dining is going strong. You should visit,

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Thanks, Averil,

    I’m still reeling over this wonderful news!

    Oh, hanging out in those thermal pools feels so decadent. I love to go with my son and his Hungarian wife. She grew up around these baths and feels they are necessary to one’s health. Hey, they are soooooo great for the aches and pains.

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Gosh, thanks, Joan!
    What a great compliment. I love research. Funny thing, I detested history in school. That is, until the day a history teacher spent the hour talking about Benjamin Franklin and his mistresses. Should have known then I was destined to write historical romance!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Hi Ella,
    I’ve lived in lots of places, but Budapest has this incredible beauty that is all over the place. The architecture is incredible. I can walk the same streets time and again and always see something new. There is a particular style that is strictly Budapest in the late 1800’s. I’ll have to write about it. Soon, the little ducklings will hatch and start swimming around in the lake that surrounds the castle. Last year I started feeing them every day and their mamas started bringing their babies to me after awhile. It was too cool.

  • Paisley Kirkpatrick said:

    Waving Kathleen. Another interesting and fantastic post from you. The photos are gorgeous and I so enjoyed getting to see them. So glad you are taking advantage of all the beauty that surrounds you.

    You know my heart belongs to Scotland and that just about covers the entire country. If I had to choose, I do love the older section of my namesake – Paisley. It’s beautiful and I left a chunk of my heart there.

    Once again – congrats on your final today. How proud Hans is watching over you and seeing your great success. I hope I get to see you in Anaheim. I will be there since it is so close for me. I live near Sacramento so it’s just an hour’s flight.


  • kathleen (author) said:

    Hi Paisley,

    Yes, I will be in Anaheim for Nationals! A long trip from Budapest, but worth it. I really look forward to seeing you in person! Scotland has a place in my heart as well. Married in a castle there, my mother’s maiden name was McGillivray and my grandfather, Alexander McGillivary was named after the 8th Laird, the “Yellow Haired Laird,” who stood over six feet tall and was said to be an extremely handsome man. Sounds like a story here, right? Thanks for stopping by.

  • Kari Bovee said:

    Kathleen, your website is beautiful and I loved the post about the baths. What a magical place! I look forward to reading your books and more blog posts. Good luck in the Golden Heart. Congrats for finaling!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Hi Kari,

    Thanks for stopping by Kari. Glad you like the blog on the baths. Come on over and we can read to each other while steamiing in the baths! Honestly, you will find people reading in them, playing chess. It’s amazing. In the summer the same old guys are chest deep in the big outdoor pool, playing chess on the side of the pool–all day, every day. 🙂

  • Ann Y. said:

    Kathleen, I had no idea what a beautiful and fascinating city Budapest is until you began painting verbal pictures of it in your blogs & emails. (Actually, I can say the same about Croatia). It would never have been on my buc…er, “must see” list before, but is now near the top! Your photos of the baths are really beautiful, as well.

    Congrats, again!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Thanks for stopping by, Ann.
    I had no idea Budapest was so lovely either. Actually, my favorite part of Europe is Eastern Europe, the post communist countries. They’ve kind of been left alone, a little back in time and I like that. There is so much history here that I just have to write about it! It is spring here and now I am walking to the castle in the park every day to see if the ducklings are in the lake (moat?. Not yet, but soon!

  • Tess said:

    How wonderful for you, Kathleen!

    It sounds like you live in wonderland!!!!

  • kathleen (author) said:

    I was at coffee yesterday (in a gilded coffee shop from the 1800’s tht with expat women who’ve lived all over the world. We all agree that this is the most magnificent city and the long we live in it, the more special it becomes. Glad you stopped by!

  • Lori Brighton said:

    I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Budapest before meeting you. But now I want to go!

    3 years ago we moved to the south and have been visiting some amazing southern cities: St. Augustine Fl, Charleston SC and Savannah Ga. All three were so very interesting and full of history and magic!

  • Lori Brighton said:

    Got a question… do you have a hard time getting around there, not speaking the language?

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Hi Lori! Thanks for stopping by. I have heard so many people comment on the three cities you mention. My husband said St. Augustine was, in his opinion, the most beautiful city in the U.S. I think it’s the oldest, isn’t it?

  • kathleen (author) said:

    Do I have a hard time getting around not speaking the language? Ha! Yes and no. If I have to do government business, I will take a Hungarian speaking person along to translate because like the U.S. has become, they want you speaking the language if you are going to live here! Hungarian is considered the second most difficult language in the world (after Japanese; Chinese ranks 3rd). The younger people speak English and I just ask someone if they speak English and someone comes forward and is happy to help. I have learned a few words and if you try to speak the language, Hungarians smile and try to help you. You’d be amazed what a few words will get you! About the only really recognizable word is ‘hello’ and that means goodbye!

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