Ever since Rome, public bath houses have been a popular means of promoting public health. While public bath houses haven’t caught on everywhere, they are certainly a unique form of cultural expression for a city. Nowadays, they can be found all over the world, especially near the Mediterranean and eastern China.
The city of Budapest is making full use of public houses, and for good reason – Budapest has more geothermal springs (80 in all) than any other large city in the world. Failing to utilizing such prime geothermal real estate would be a spectacular waste.
Of the various public baths dotting the city of Budapest, the Gellert Baths and Spa is perhaps the most extravagant and lavish. The décor is absolutely spectacular, featuring original pieces of Art Nouveau architecture, stained glass windows, and of course enough sculptures to make any ancient Roman bather feel right at home.
Not every feature of the spa is focused on making things feel classic and old fashioned. Gellert Baths roughly translates into “Disco Bath,” and the spa attempts to live up to that flashy title. It features thermal pools, artificial wave generators, massage, mud packing, and full spa services. I have yet to spot a disco ball in any of the pictures, though.
Whether the style is classic or modern, the actual bathing experience is what matters the most, and that is sure not to disappoint. The natural spring water filling the pools contains magnesium, calcium, sulphate-chloride, hydrogen-carbonate , fluoride ions, and sodium. The owners of the bath house claim that these chemicals help to cure a number of ailments, including arthritis and blood circulation problems.
Overall, the Gellert Bath is very different from a typical American swimming pool. It provides a dramatically different experience. It’s truly unfortunate that these types of bath houses never caught on in America.