Originally, we had planned to take a day trip to Hortobagy to explore the Hortobagy National Park ( which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) and to observe some Pentecost events. But due to unforeseeable weather conditions that made Hortobagy a nice large mud puddle, we stayed back in Budapest for one whole day.
This day was the first complete free day we had on the trip, and it was an opportunity for us to kick back and enjoy the city at our own pace. We wanted to make it as relaxing and enjoyable as possible, so many of us decided to make a trip to the Gellrt Thermal Baths in the morning to take a nice long soak to rejuvenate our bodies and minds.
We had heard about the Gellrt baths from our city guide earlier, and he had pointed it out as one of his favorite baths in Budapest. The instant that the baths came into view as we crossed the Liberty Bridge we saw why. With its elegant and enormous art-nouveau facade, it drew a nice big smile across my face, since it confirmed that all of us were in for a real treat.
As we wandered about the immense lobby, it took us a few minutes to figure out which passageway was the right one into the baths. We followed a subterranean passageway that weaved about and passed underwater windows of the effervescent swimming pool. After a bit of apprehensive exploring, we finally reached the changing rooms. After a quick swap for some swimming trunks, we headed out for the baths. The baths were immense enough that we were separated from the other group that we had came with. We spent at least a half hour trying to figure out which pools were where, and trying to find the other group. But we eventually just gave up, and ended up soaking in a nice outdoor mineral thermal pool. Eventually we ran into other groups of Flinns that had come to the baths earlier than we had. They showed us the real treasure of the baths, the thermal baths.
We spent hours in those beautiful thermal baths. Words cant describe how amazing those baths were. Tile mosaics filled the floor and walls; artful fountains continuously splashed fresh spring water. My personal favorite was the steam room, in which I spent much too long of a time relaxing and unwinding, feeling every pore of my body being cleansed and invigorated by minty herbal steam.
We were eventually forced to leave the baths because of our increasing hunger, and thus sought out some local food. After a quick lunch and some nice gelato, we headed towards the Pentecost Festival, which was taking place at Hero’s Square. Calling it a festival doesn’t portray how crowded and jubilant the atmosphere was. It wouldn’t have surprised us a bit if it turned out that most of Budapest was at that festival. There were horse races and parades, food stands, and a long line of booths that represented all the different cultural cities and regions in Hungary.
We ended up walking a little bit further off from the festival, and taking respite upon the grass, taking in the sound of the crowd and enjoying the gentle summer sun upon our bodies. Soon it was time for us to stroll back to the Radio Inn to head off to our next destination, Debrecen. That day we didn’t attend lectures, visit any museums, or visit historical monuments. But what we did do was experience the culture of Budapest in a much more personal way. We took in a little taste of life in the capital of Hungary.