The Road Ahead : October 2014
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB MAIN IMAGE: SOUTH GATE OF FISHERMAN'S BASTION IN BUDAPEST. CLOCKWISE: INTERIOR OF THE FAMOUS GELLERT BATHS; THE CITY OF BUDAPEST IS DIVIDED BY THE DANUBE RIVER; FISHERMAN'S BASTION; A STATUE FEATURED ON ONE OF THE 15 BRIDGES (THINKSTOCK). 29 DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL | TRAVEL OCT/NOV 2014 THE ROAD AHEAD ON OFFER IS A CAPTIVATING MIX OF DOWN-TO-EARTH AND SOPHISTICATION "TAKE CLOTHES OFF," the rather burly woman commanded. I was hesitant. "Off!" she insisted. Alrighty, she was a formidable woman, so I didn't dare argue. Quite how formidable she was I only truly realised when she pummelled me into utter submission, stripped bare, with the door of my little treatment room wide open. When the so-called 'massage' finished, I felt like a piece of tenderised meat, bright pink, and rather weak in the knees. At the Gellert Baths in Budapest you won't get whale music, soothing voices, friendly small talk or any faffing around with discretely placed soft towels. There, it's down to business. You want a massage? Strip and submit. You want to swim? Jump into the freezing but stunning indoor pool. Want to play chess on a floating board? See if the men in the warmer outdoor pool will let you join in. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a spa city thanks to some 120 thermal springs, which have attracted those in need of some relief for their sore joints since Roman times. But it was the Ottomans who started building impressive bath houses back in the 13th century, with the Gellert Bath a newer example of stunning early 1900s architecture. Just like the rest of Budapest, it is two-faced, in the nicest possible way: there is the no-nonsense approach of the staff and regulars, who happily strip off in the showers and spa rooms, yet come here to stay all day to really relax. Pop outside into the city and you'll find this attitude of down-to- earth-meets-sophistication spilling over to the food, where your hearty meat stews liberally sprinkled with paprika go hand in hand with sumptuous cakes and pastries served in chic coffeehouses. Maybe it has something to do with Budapest being two cities rolled into one: Buda and Pest, divided by the majestic Danube River. The hilly Buda offers leafy residential streets and parks dotted with sturdy fortifications reminiscent of Prague. Pest, on the other side is flat, busy, modern, with some ugly concrete blocks replacing the historic buildings flattened during WW2. Interestingly enough, people born and living in Budapest call themselves 'Pesters' or 'Pestiek', rather than 'Budapesters', or maybe 'Budists' (despite Buda being slightly older than Pest). Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a spa city thanks to some 120 thermal springs.