As a Trips Officer leading a group of 23 other students, the night of the Széchenyi Bath Party (or ‘Sparty’) was the one I was most nervous about. 37 degree thermal pools + alcohol + strangers = trouble to me, and my fellow committee members felt the same. Of course that did not mean we’d give it a miss, no no no – we made sure everyone had plenty of warning about what they were getting themselves into before booking their tickets and left their safety in their own hands. Approximately half of the group opted out in favour of a quiet night in, whilst the rest of donned our bikinis and board shorts prepared for a night of MAYHEM.
The Sparty troopers and myself opted to ditch the pre-drink bar crawl and decided to top ourselves up back at the hostel instead, in so that our other half could join in on the fun before we went on our march. Several rounds of ‘Fines’ and some cheeky revelations later we headed out for the [sort of] long walk from the hostel to the Baths, located within the city park, around the corner from the Zoo. Having already purchased tickets like good boys and girls, the wait to get our wrist bands was only momentary. The real challenge was the finding a spare locker; once found, a nice lady wrote our locker numbers on our arms with a sharpie, and we headed out to the bar to purchase drinks with our nifty waterproof cash cards. Each of us was feeling a tad more bare than we were used to being around each other, but our first impression of the Sparty was something along the lines of “THIS IS AWESOME”. Having visited the smaller, more local, Lukas Baths some days earlier, the “wedding cake” architecture, and vibrant yellow walls contrasted with white Corinthian columns of the Széchenyi was a sight for sore eyes. Although my responsibility hat was on (of course), upon arrival I was less worried about everyone’s safety so long as we stuck together. We swiftly hopped into the colder of the two open pools and boogied to some generic club instrumental jams with vodka Red Bulls in hand.
After a short while, bored of splashing around in the cooler pool, another trooper and I went on an adventure to other, far hotter side. It was on this venture that I got to encounter the reality of the Sparty: as I was making my way out to tell the others to come join us, a complete stranger hooked his arm around and whispered “You’re coming home with me tonight” into my ear. I promptly told him where to stick it and yelled out for my friend who had managed to swim a metre or so ahead of me. Yeah, not great. The male tourists of Budapest, it appeared, were looking for one thing and one thing only, and showed absolutely no ‘tact’ with the manners that they employed to be successful. Luckily with a group of 11 with me it didn’t impact my night too much as I felt safe in the company of my friends, but it was intimidating and pretty darn grimm. I didn’t let it ruin the night; we continued to drink and rave to our heart’s content. I’m not sure whether it was the steam, vodka, or a mixture of both, but I honestly had a phenomenal time that evening. Several members of the group had their own, personal dramas to deal with, but I remained merry and detached from the Classical Society Soap Opera Premier that eve and danced the night away instead.
At 3am it was time to head home. Half of us decided to jump in taxis, and the other half opted for the free walk, but boy did they miss out! We were picked up (albeit after about 30 minutes sat in the cold) by a mini van blasting out ‘Happy’ by Pharrell. This is definitely one of those “you had to be there” kind of tales, but I (and others will back me up) would say that the taxi ride made that evening. Maybe we were drunk, or maybe, just maybe those thermal pools really are healing – either way were were all very much high on life, with grins stretching from ear to ear as if we’d won the jackpot or something equally substantial. The taxi driver turned his music up full blast and we just went absolutely bonkers in the back seats, and what was probably only 10 minutes felt like well, maybe 30 minutes of hardcore elation. I feel a bit foolish even writing about it, but seriously it flipping amazing. #besttaxiever
Of course, as this is a review I’ve got to tell you the downside. Apart from leery men, there were other unwelcome encounters. Luckily for me I didn’t get to witness it myself, but I believe in the cool pool someone had soiled themselves at some point and left a floater for all to admire and laugh at. Other bodily fluids that lurked within the waters would almost certainly have been urine, and (believe it or not) semen. I had been warned of people getting up to no good, but that didn’t prepare me for the live porn shows available for freeview. I was making my out of the cool pool and couldn’t help but noticed a spread legged lady getting down and dirty on the steps, and once you saw one you couldn’t help but notice them all. I’m no prude, but it was quite astounding! You just had to kind of walk past it and act like nothing had happened, unless of course they decided to take a tour of the pool riding a man like a cow girl… Yeah, that was hard to miss…
Moving swiftly on: another issue some of us encountered was the music; I personally was not hugely bothered, but it was just generic instrumental club music and it did get mundane at times. Then again I am a fan of the cheese and if some 80s, 90s, and 00s pop-music GOLD isn’t playing then I am not impressed. It did the job, but a little more variety would have been better. Oh, and it wasn’t the cheapest night out, coming to approximately £31 (12,000 HUF) which included the deposit for your cash card with 4500 HUF already topped on. The money on your card and the deposit was refundable at the end if you didn’t spend it, so it actually came to £18 entry. This appeared expensive once you got used to life living off the forint, but not if you consider how much they might charge if they were to host something similar in the UK.
So would I recommend? Hell yeah! Indeed there were several gross bits, but it y’know if you think about what goes on at any music festival ever it wasn’t that bad, and it only ruined your night if you let it get to you. The only people who didn’t enjoy it were those who brought emotional baggage from home (or had to deal with other’s). I think it was worth the money, just go with a large group, stick together, keep an open mind, and you’ll have a blast!
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Videos courtesy of MrAchillesSparta Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKf0kLLE3uMLz7RVs9bzw0w