Monday, 22 September 2008

Bath Time in Hungary

It's hard to put your finger on the appeal of swimming in water that smells like it's just been used to poach two dozen eggs. There's the alleged healing qualities of the mineral-rich springs bubbling up from subterranean Hungary - does wonders for your rheumatism, I'm told. The novelty of doing the breast-stroke in an outdoor pool, kept comfortably warm by natural aqua thermals, while surrounded by pink and purple water lilies, must count for something. It's also kind of soothing to watch so many of the geriatrically challenged (I'm trying to be politically correct about the huge numbers of wrinklies and crumblies - oh, damn, sorry) bobbing about in their swimming caps and rubber rings.

Whatever the reason, Theo and I certainly enjoyed ourselves taking the waters at the world famous Heviz crater in Hungary, close to the largest European freshwater lake outside Scandinavia, Lake Balaton. The wooden-built bath house can be reached through a number of walkways jutting into the centre of the thermal pool. From the outside, the spa complex looks turn of the century. Inside, parts of it are so bang up to date, the lockers are managed by an electronic system where each bather is given a watch-type device which, when scanned in the changing room, allocates a vacant locker. Henleaze Swimming Lake it is not!

Theo and I spent an hour or so in the water, first swimming outdoors, then floating around and underneath the struts holding up the bath house and jostling for position close to the warmest part of the pool, where the thermal spring bubbles up at an initial temperature of 37 degrees C. By the time you get into the open air, the water has cooled to around 27 degrees, but is still very pleasant for swimming. Probably about the same temperature as the Adriatic when we swam in it near Rimini back in June, but not as murky.

I'm not sure if our sojourn in the thermal waters cured us of any bodily ailments, but they did have one dramatic result. The hydrogen sulphide (or whatever it was) giving the water its distinctive eggy smell reacted with the solid silver of our wedding rings turning them both an oily black. And despite both of us taking showers after our dip, it wasn't until the next day that we managed to wash away the subtle whiff of eau de scrambled oeuf.

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