Several weeks ago, Krista, the team lead, pinged me on Skype. “Would you like to go to these baths while we’re in Granada?” Um, yeah.

And today we went. Ahhhhhhhh. A tall, slender, dark-haired Spanish woman showed us each room: cold, hot, steam, and medium (not hot, not cold). And the most important thing, “Silencio!”

We slipped into the medium pool first. She was correct, it wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold. It was perfect for leaning back, lounging, and completely forgetting all cares in the world. After many minutes, I left the medium pool and entered the hot pool. After a few minutes, the heat was too intense, so I exited and poured myself a cup of mint tea, relaxing on a marble slab and sipping the sweet, minty liquid in the tiny plastic cup. I braved the cold pool for a matter of seconds, then headed back to the medium pool.

As I laid there, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I stared at the ceiling, rounded, with cutouts of stars shining down on me. I listened to the choruses of Arabic music softly coming through the speakers, taking me back to the time I spent in the Middle East, so many years ago. A faint spice smell filled the air – cinnamon? anise? – I never could place it. I stared at the columns rising from the pool of water, elegant rows of alabaster rising to the ceiling, reflections spread across the tranquil pool. I wished that cameras were allowed in the tranquil spot; I wanted to capture this serene image forever. Alas, they were not. Archways met my eye, cascading from the pool room where I was, to the showers, to the massage rooms.

A man massaged my back with rose oil and strong hands and arms, then escorted me back to the baths. I entered the steam room, breathing the damp steam in, relaxing on the marble benches. The steam was so thick, you couldn’t see anyone else in the room, you could only hear muffled whispers. It added to the mystique. Hearing, yet not seeing.

This routine continued – steam room, warm water, hot water, cold, repeat – for an hour an a half before the attendant rang the bell, informing us our session was done. We dressed and went outside into the chilly afternoon. No words were necessary to describe how relaxed and happy we were. We simply looked at each other, smiled, and said, “Ahhhhhhhhh” in unison.

Baths of Joy

What would a trip to Hungary be without experiencing the baths?

After negotiating the awkward “Oh, men and women are in the same area to change into their swimsuits” with my work colleagues (in separate small “cabins”, but still a surprise since we entered through separate entrances) we made our way through the maze of baths. We wended our way through small baths, medium baths, mineral baths, warm baths, cold baths, exercise baths. And then. Oh, my. And then we stepped outside into the chilly air. Where we were met by three palatial pools, misty steam rising from the surface.

As my toes broke the surface of the water, I let out a long “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” And slipped down further into the hot steamy water. I enjoyed delightful conversations with my co-workers as I floated, stood, and sat in the pool. Another group told us about the pool on the far side of the courtyard, exclaiming excitedly about currents. Hesitantly, we arose from the hot water, walked for a few minutes, then re-entered the other pool. The highlight was a circular area in the center of the pool, where bathers seemed to be frolicking in a water-based conga line. I joined, and was told to stay close to the edge. There the jets were more powerful and propelled us around and around, somewhat forcibly. It was virtually impossible not to laugh as we were tumbled about, bumping into others and laughing, “Sorry!” in multiple languages. It was impossible not to feel happiness, not to exude joy as you were pushed around. Eventually, the jets turned off, and we returned to the soothing hotness of the original pool. Another great day in Budapest.