Big Euro Adventure

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Subj: Hey Ho — Spa I go...

Date: 8/5/2003 2:27:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, Well, not quite the way the Ramones tune went but I kept thinking about it as I was walkin' the bridge to the spa. I'd been feeling a bit burnt and very worn... a couple from S.F. suggested I spa it up at GELART HOTEL SPA just on the other side of the Danube. It's a simple walk from the hotel. They were sayin' how it woulda been easy to spend an entire day there. OK... I'm not the spa type but when in B'pest, do as they do.

I begin to hoof it over. Half way across the bridge I see graffiti crews out cleaning up. Nice to know we're not alone in that regard. The spa is just beyond where the crew is working and looks inviting… from a distance. However, as I approach the place it looks like a TOTAL dump. I pace back and forth checking it out. I'm thinking — what did those S.F.'ers have in mind? Were they settin' me up 'cause I'm from L.A??  I walk in and look thru a window. There is this indoor swimming pool... again, what's the big deal??  So I hang on the inside and watch the action — who's comin' and who's going. The only things I see are the elderly hobbling in — hold outs from the commie era... I dunno know? Finally, I see a couple of younger guys go in and that was good enough for me — no turning back now...

I walk up to the cashier and pays me money — she mumbles something and points toward the back. Now I'm confused 'cause the swimming area is in the other direction. I follow her command and cautiously walk toward the back. I turn the corner where these BIG Hungarian men in white outfits start yellin' at me. They usher me over giving me this cloth thing with a string attached. I look at it — suppose to be what I wear in the spa however it looked better suited for a Surgical ARS mask than anything else.

These guys keep yelling like the louder they yell the sooner I'll be fluent in Hungarian... One guy leads to a locker area --  a private cage with a key. He keeps yelling. I start to get the picture and begin to feel fluent in Hungarian. I wanna mumbo jumbo back at 'em but I'm afraid he's gonna bop me or something. Finally he leaves me alone.

So I change and tie on my Surgical mask — o what a feelin! I'm thinking it's like a hospital ?? people in white and my butt hanging out... Anyway, I venture out and start lookin' for the spa. I wander into a couple of weird places — turn a corner and find the entrance. O MY GOD — it's something outta a roman movie. It's completely enclosed — dark, steamy. My glasses keep foggin'... It's a dome with arches. Totally cool -

There is a main pool with fours smaller pools in each corner. Each pool is a different temp — from near boil to ice cold; at least it felt like that. On the dome are these little holes with colored glass. The out door light hits the glass turning it into a laser hitting the water and going to the bottom of the spa. Totally cool — on the wall is a stone with some writing and a date, 1560–1572. The place looked that old, if not older.

The real shock is seeing all these old geezers walking around — my gosh, what a tribute to the elasticity of human skin. SO this is what happens to men's bodies with too much food and beer. Can skin really stretch like that??  Thank god I'd been jogging — maybe it's time to consider sit-ups as well… But I'm ok with it. Besides I'm thinking my butt is kissin' stone that's be kissed by butts for centuries. Not sure if this is a good thing...

I clean my glasses for the 10th time in two minutes. When they go back on, I see this man emerge from the sauna room sportin' a designer Surgical mask while holding a plastic bag with his valuables. HIS VALUABLES?? Oh man... suddenly I'm struck with fear. I'm thinking about now three big Hungarian men are rifling thru my locker - splitting up the money, playing with my camera, fighting over the watch and laughing at my underwear... The thought of me walking back across the bridge wearing only my Surgical mask was a bit daunting. I figure — go back to the locker and bring the valuables with me. I head back and oh shit... the same guy as before — he looks at me — "Feeenished?" I'm busted. I smile while indicating I want to write postcards. The guy looks with disgust, crunches up his nose and shakes his head "no". I dunno what to do so I panic, leave everything there so to not to look like I mistrust him, which certainly did — lock the locker and leave toward the spa area again. As I leave — I look back and he's sticking his key into my locker! He can't wait 'till I turn the corner before he starts ripping me off?? Oh well... whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen — just go with it.

Once back in the water I hang and after the initial shock — I'm diggin' it... In one pool for a while then another... keep rotating, sorta feel like a piece of bread at a fondu party. I stay an hour then wander into the snooze room. A place where all these geezers sack out on padded tables and snooze the day away. I wasn't up for that or the massage so I head to the locker. I'm thinking please — no surprises... Actually, one surprise — my locker was double locked. That's what the guy was doing before, double lockin' my cage. Cool... all that fretting for nothing. I dress and leave thanking 'em all for a great time. Everyone smiles and waves as I head out — my new extended family. Talk about feeling great — totally relaxed for the first time on this trip.

On my way back across the bridge ? I figure it's a good time to read up on the place in my Budapest travel book. UH OH... the book says, "Don't confuse the Gelart Spa Hotel with the Rudas Spa Hotel. WHAT???? Gelart-Rudas, Rudas-Gelart, how many spas can there be just on the

other side of the Danube right by the bridge? Apparently several. One 100 yards UP and hidden by the hill is a first class place, state of the art spa set in a cathedral like hotel from the 1800's. The other — a local hang out for elder gay gents. Guess which one I was in? Still — it was a great adventure. I was totally into soakin' up the water and being in something built in the 1500's... and really, after 500 years — not much has changed.





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