Széchenyi Baths entrance, Budapest; the site of Kati and Jan’s first kiss in Budapest Romance
Budapest Romance: a “thoughtful romance.”—Publishers Weekly
Budapest Romance: A “tasty smorgasbord of love and faith.”—AudioFile Magazine
Chapter Six of Budapest Romance is all about taking the plunge. As in plunge bath. As in an experience you will never forget and should repeat whenever the opportunity presents itself. Why? You will prolong your life span. Your skin will sparkle and glow. Your state of mind will too. What’s it all about?
Contrast. Rather like the city of Budapest. Let’s not get into the hows and whys, as Hungary always manages to find itself historically in hot water. We will confine this discussion to the warm thermal waters of Budapest’s leading bath spas, the Széchenyi baths, Gellért Baths, and Rudyas Turkish Baths. Much more fun to dip into mineral-laden hot baths than into geopolitics …
Excerpt from Budapest Romance
Have you ever taken a plunge bath?” Jan asked at the entrance to the Gellért Baths.
Kati shook her head.
Rudyas Turkish Baths, Budapest
“Then you’re taking the plunge today.”
“What is it?” She loved the fact that Jan was so full of surprises.
“This will be my turn to find out if I can trust you. The plunge baths are located in the men’s and women’s locker rooms. I can’t go in yours with you, but I’ll know if you did it or not when you come out.”
“How will you know?” she asked, baffled.
“Let’s just say, I’ll hear about it one way or another.”
“What does it do for you?” she probed.
Gellért Baths, Budapest
“It revs up your circulation and makes every cell in your body come alive. You can’t do anything better for your skin or circulation.” His eyes danced. “Well, maybe you can do one thing that would have the same benefit, but in your case, this is a way to experience heaven and maintain your virtue at the same time.”
“Hmmm,” she hesitated. “How long will it take?”
“A matter of seconds. No one stays in a plunge pool for longer than the time it takes a rocket to shoot off a launch pad.”
“What if I don’t want to do it?” she asked, her curiosity piqued.
“I want you to do it, so you know what it feels like. And I want to know if you’re brave enough to do it. Your skin will tingle and glow for hours afterwards. I promise you.”
“All right,” she said, more than ready. “Where do I go, and where do I meet you afterwards?”
“There’s the entrance to the women’s locker room. Tell the attendant you want to use the plunge bath. She speaks English; she’ll show you what to do. It’ll all be over in less than five minutes, then I’ll meet you right over there in the Jacuzzi pool. You’ll need some Jacuzzi jets to take the edge off once you’re done.”
“And my reward for this?” She gave him a saucy look.
“You’ll find out when you’re done.” His eyes narrowed, but gleamed. “And don’t cheat. I’ll know if you didn’t go in.”
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest
She got out of the main pool and sauntered over to the women’s locker room, tossing an impish grin back at him. She wasn’t sure of what was going to happen, but after the night before, she was ready to trust him. Her time in Budapest was turning out to be the adventure of a lifetime.
As she entered the women’s locker room, an attendant in a white coat greeted her in English.
“Could you tell me where the plunge bath is?” Kati nervously asked.
Gellért Hotel spa pool, Budapest
“Have you taken a plunge bath before?” the woman asked, pointing toward an inner room.
Kati shook her head.
The attendant smile broadly and handed her a large towel. “First, take off everything and go into the steam room for a few minutes. When you’ve had enough, come out and I’ll take you into the plunge room.”
Kati undid her bikini and wrapped herself in the plush towel. Once inside the steam room, she reclined on the upper ledge and laid on her back with her feet up against the wall. In moments the steam began to open her pores, bathing her in hot moisture. She anticipated the plunge bath to be some similarly agreeable sensation.
Eager to report back to Jan, she hurried out of the steam room, where the attendant led her through another door into a small room. She was the only one there. In front of her was a circular opening in the tile floor with a ladder leading down to a small body of water.
“What do I do now?” Kati asked the attendant.
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest
“That depends on how brave you are,” the attendant replied. “If you are very brave, you jump into the water. If you are not so brave, use the ladder, but in either case, go all the way in and make sure you put your head underwater. Otherwise, you won’t get the full benefit.”
“How long should I stay in?” Kati asked.
“Your body will let you know. But remember to go all the way in. Immersing your head is an important part of the treatment.”
What an odd ritual. She desperately wanted to run back into the locker room, pull on her bikini and go find Jan. But he had made it clear he would know if she hadn’t taken the plunge. She couldn’t lie to him; even if she could, she didn’t want to.
Eyeballing the ladder, she moved slowly toward it. If she eased herself into the cylinder of water, she would have time to back out. She didn’t want to chicken out; jumping in was the only alternative.
Night time thermal baths party, Budapest
“I’ll jump. Just tell me one thing. Has anyone ever died from jumping into this tank?” Of course she sounded ridiculous, but she had no idea what she was getting into.
“No, darling,” the attendant chuckled. “No one has died. Many have screamed, but no one has died. Go ahead, you’ll feel wonderful afterwards.”
Kati liked the way Hungarians called each other “darling.” It suited their warm, interactive culture. Encouraged by the attendant, she shuffled to the edge of the tank, crossed herself, tightly closed her eyes, and jumped.
It was as if she’d leapt into the Antarctic Ocean. Shooting up to the surface, she screamed loudly as she scrambled up the ladder out of the tank. Her entire body felt as if it were being stabbed by tiny ice shards.
“Aarghh!” she screamed again.
Alpentherme: hot thermal bath
©Josef Polleross/ Anzenberger
“You are brave, Madame.” The attendant beamed approvingly. “Not many jump. You will feel the reward for the rest of the day.” The woman opened the door to the locker room, where some of the female guests looked at Kati and smiled or laughed. Apparently, the walls of the plunge room weren’t soundproof.
Kati wanted to kill Jan. Putting on her bikini in what seemed like less than half a second, she marched out the women’s locker room exit. She felt as if she had just been plugged into a wall socket and was glowing like a lamp.
In the Jacuzzi pool, lounging, Jan looked up at her, his expression wry. “I had no idea you could scream so loudly.” He chuckled.
Her face flamed. Wading into the Jacuzzi pool, she paddled over to him and splashed a large wave of water straight into his face.
“How dare you do that to me?” she hissed at him.
Other bathers looked on amusedly. The plunge bath was an exciting introduction to spa therapy for many foreigners who visited the Gellért Spa Baths.
Still chuckling, Jan grabbed her arms. Smart move or she would have surely slapped him.
Széchenyi Baths, Budapest
“Do you have any idea how good that was for your skin?” he asked her.
“Do you have any idea what I’m going to do to you later in revenge for this?” she fumed.
“Do you have any idea how beautiful you are right now?”
“Shut up. I’ll never listen to another one of your ideas again. Someone get me a fire extinguisher.”
The contrast of the icy cold plunge bath of a moment before and the warm Jacuzzi jets on her muscles right now was having its effect. Like silly putty, her body went limp in Jan’s arms. It wasn’t a bad way to feel. Instead of slapping him, she gave him as vicious a pinch as she could manage on one of his cheeks. She could kill him, but she was starting to feel like a million dollars.
“A little pain, a lot of gain…” he philosophized.
She sighed. Life was good.
To read more, find Budapest Romance here in paperback, eBook, or audio book editions.