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Budapest is a Turkish bather's dream city

The Turks, who were stationed in Hungary for 150 years, could not have found a better place for developing their sophisticated bathing culture. The country they occupied had the hidden treasure they needed: thermal water – and not just any water, nor in just any amount. (According to the Islamic religion only spring water can be used for washing the body.)

Today, Hungary is one of the few places where you can still experience original Turkish baths. The Romans reaped the health benefits of hot springs here, but it was during the Turkish occupation that the bath culture was significantly developed. When the Turks occupied Buda from 1541 to 1686, pashas built luxurious steam baths and thermal pools. During Hungary’s cold winters unknown to them, they must have missed Turkey’s traditional domed complexes where curing, relaxing water flowed from the taps. The 17th-century Turkish traveler, Evilia Chebali, swore by the water's healing powers: ''It is beneficial for the French sickness and for seven other ills. The rule for the use of these baths is that when the body becomes quite red in it, one must leave the water and keep oneself warm.''
In their homeland in Central Asia, the Turks had steam baths which they called 'manchu'. Bringing their Asian tradition with them, they merged it with the Roman bath culture they found in Anatolia, and a new synthesis was born. With their traditions, associated beliefs, and philosophy of life, the Turkish bath became an institution, which spread all the way from Anatolia to Hungary in Europe. Turkish baths were not only places to cleanse the skin, but they also played an important role in social life. They were community baths, generally built as a part of a charitable foundation, with emphasis on the interior rather than the exterior looks.

Some say that at whatever point you drill in Hungary you’ll find thermal water. The country has the world’s fifth largest thermal water supply which, in the words of a 16th-century manuscript, “can be successfully utilized against many evil diseases”. Medicinal waters are absorbed by the skin, inhaled by the lungs and are perfect for drinking cures and mud treatment.

Királyfürdõ
Arslan pasha started the construction of this bath in 1565 in order to have a spa within the city walls, at a location that could be secured even if the city were under siege. The four pools, including the main one with a sky-lit dome, date from 1570. Királyfürdõ is a rare survival of Turkish times and today, as a protected building, it represents an early Ottoman baths palace in its original grandeur. Its current name was given by the Konig family who owned the building from 1796. Thermal water here contains sodium and calcium-magnesium-hydrocarbonates and sulphates, with significant fluoride contents to cure degenerative disorders of joints and the spine (deformity, disorders of the vertebral disks, lumboischialgia, Bechterew-disease), chronic arthritis in inactive stages, neuralgic pains, bone loss and post traumatic treatments.

Rudas Fürdõ
This bath is believed to have been built in the 1550s and enlarged by Pasha Sokol Mustafa in 1566. The octagonal pool and the hemispherical dome supported by eight columns make the building one of the most beautiful Turkish bathhouses still standing. The swimming pool and the steam bath are additions from the 20th century. The hot spring feeding the thermal bath is rich in calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulfate and sodium. The waters are recommended to cure degenerative illnesses of joints, chronic and semi-acute arthritis, and calcium deficiency of the bone system. The baths were used as a location in the 1988 action movie ‘Red Heat’, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi.

Császár fürdõ
The Császár Bath has a rich history. References to healing waters at this location date back to Roman times. The Turkish bathhouse, originally named Veli Bey, was built in the 16th century. Commissioned by Pasha Sokullu Mustafa, Császár was one of the most beautiful baths of the time. The original stone building survived the varied history of the ensuing centuries. The bath was later given to the Order of Hospitallers, who used it for healing the sick. Throughout the years, several extensions were added to the core building. The Classicist-style main building, which is still in use today, was designed in the 19th century by architect Jozsef Hild. Today, this building houses a hotel and faces the Komjádi Sport Swimming Pool, another one of the additions to the original complex. The historic Turkish bathhouse, which was closed to the general public for decades, regained its original splendor with the recent renovations and is opening later this year.

Turkish bath in Eger
The only Turkish Bath in Hungary outside Budapest was built between 1610 and 1617 by Arnaut Pasha. Today, the original, golden-vault Turkish pool is part of a grand bath complex, which after a full-scale reconstruction, re-opened in 2009, complemented with five pools (ilias), 4 types of sauna, steam baths and a traditional Turkish steam bath.
Rácz Hotel and Thermal Bath The Turks built the original bath with its domed pool in the 16th century. Additional pools were added during the Imperial Habsburg Era. The bath was rebuilt and expanded in 1896 according to the plans of the renowned architecture Miklós Ybl. The historical facilities listed under the UNESCO World Heritage have been restored and blended into a modern luxury Thermal and Day Spa of 8,000 sqm.

Budapest is a city built on thermal springs, where traditional bath houses mix with modern spas. Given the quality and quantity of its thermal waters, the city received its designation as a ‘City of Baths’ in the 1930s. The immense natural resource lies under 90 percent of the national territory. Budapest alone has 123 thermal springs with water temperatures in the range of 21–78°C, producing 70 million liters of liquid gold a day.

Réka Alíz Francisck

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