Tuesday 22 April 2008

Budapest's Szent Lukács gyógyfürdô & uszoda


The Szent Lukács gyógyfürdô

The Szent Lukács gyógyfürdô is the most beautiful medicinal thermal bath complex in Budapest.
The Széchenyi has history and all the chess-playing bácsis (crusty old uncles) for the tourists, the Gellért has fin-de-siecle glamour and that wave pool (keep away from the wandering hands of crusty old uncles here!) and the Király and Rudas have their daring, quasi homo-erotic, steamy sense of danger (after all, think of all those verrucas you could catch).
The frumpy old Lukács isn’t a tourist destination, it’s a place for locals to kick off their papucs (slippers), soak their creaking joints and have a right old gossip within the crumbling, yellowing Baroque walls of the most atmospheric spa facilities in Central Europe.
The medicinal thermal bath recently opened its doors to show off a brand new ivócsarnok - drinking hall, where visitors can buy a korsó (half-litre stein) of mineral and salt-rich water to refresh their palates and help them live longer.
The building resembles a Greek temple and in pride of place is a pink marble fountain, from where gushes forth water, strangely labelled ‘not drinking water’.
However, to the right is a dark grey marble basin and patrons can fill up jugs from a golden dragon tap.
For five forints you can drink a korsó, filled with the warm, slightly eggy-tasting water and go away feeling you have done something good for your system.
Half a litre is considered the optimum daily intake, needed for the minerals and salts to be effective.
‘Budapest is really the capital of spas, and we hope the Szent Lukács will be a symbol of better times’, said Budapest deputy mayor Pál Vajda at the opening.
Renovation started in November 1997, at a cost of Ft25 million, mainly financed by revenue from tourism.
Gábor Horváth, CEO of Budapest's Thermal Baths and Spas Rt said the drinking hall was originally opened in 1937 when the first conference of the International Bathing Association was held in Budapest, acknowledging the thermal bath potential of the Hungarian capital. ‘This was really a peak in Budapest thermal bath life’, said Horváth.
However, since the turn of the century, thermal water has been bottled in green glass bottles and distributed around the world.
By the time the drinking hall was opened, more that five million bottles per year were being produced and exported to many counties around the world. Szent Lukács water can be bought in Buenos Aires, Mexico, Hong Kong and Sydney.
The bath suffered severe damage during the Second World War and a lack of funds prevented refurbishment.
Now the hall has been reconstructed according to original plans, ‘and there will be more opportunities to drink the healthy water on the spot’, said Horváth.
The Lukács thermal water contains calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonate, a significant amount of fluoride and the eggy, sulphurous compounds.
Drinking the water is good for stomach and intestinal problems, gallbladder, kidney stones and lung airway disorders.
Bathing in the water, in one of the many facilities: mud baths, medicinal weight baths, underwater jet stream massage or just relaxing in the warm water is effective in the treatment of degenerative joint diseases, spinal problems or for rehabilitation treatment after an accident.
If you go further into the main courtyard of Szent Lukács, you are confronted with what must be the most beautiful courtyard in a city blessed with many stunning courtyards.
The crumbling, yellow Baroque walls surround a shaded place where tall century-old maples rise up through the tiles and succulent lilies create an oasis of cool calm health and relaxation.
On the walls, stone tablets thank the saint in many languages.
‘Stubborn lumbago tortured me for years, Saint Lukács cured me immediately’, wrote Benô Sághy in 1899.
There is a tablet in Serbian deciated by Militsza Jankovitseva in 1906, one from Viennese Carl Horak in 1902, and one offering thanks from a Romanian lawyer Petru Caliunariu.
The earliest appears to be from 1898.
When it opened in 1894, the Szent Lukács was the biggest at 1,800m2, and the most popular spa in Budapest.
Besides those coming for cures, the Szent Lukács was also a favourite wallowing hole for writers and artists and it still remains popular in literary circles.
It was an informal literary salon, more recently with a dissident flavor from the 1950’s to the mid-1980’s.
The stone sunbathing terrace on top of the building is particularly atmospheric.
During the Turkish occupation, the Lukács territory held a four-towered castle which had been adapted into a medieval gunpowder mill.
The Turks called it Barutháné and the Buda Pasha Arszlan redecorated the building in 1565-66.
West of the mill building, a warm spring rose up from the hillside and the resulting millpond water drove the wheels to grind powder.
The building was also used in the manufacture of felt material, the mill still operated in the winter, because the warm water did not freeze over.
In the 1686 struggle to regain territory the place was returned unharmed to the possession of the Emperor, although they still used it as a gunpowder mill for long after.
Given the Turks’ fondness for hot baths, the hot waters surrounding the millpond were used for the creation of a pool, and in the vicinity of Barutháné were several other hot baths.
In the 1850's the Lukács baths functioned in the courtyard of the Emperor Mill ‘in whose tubs agricultural workers from the country bath as a curative method’, read a periodical of the time.
In 1863 the baths’ territory was enlarged, and in 1884 Rezsô Palotay bought the baths from the state treasury. The Emperor mill was demolished, one of the towers was used to build a new pool.
In 1893 Palotay took over the running of services in the Szent Lukács and built mud baths, steam baths, a sanatorium and swimming pools.
The Szent Lukács medicinal and thermal pool opened its doors to the public in 1894.
In 1946, the Lukács united with the Császár Baths, which has also reopened its pools and excellent sun-bathing terraces recently on the banks of the Danube.
Water of a temperature of 17 -65 degrees comes from natural sources and drilled wells.
The calcareous, hydrogen sulfuric water is good for rheumatics, muscle and nerve illnesses and joint. problems.
The Lukács is one of the few thermal baths in Budapest which offers mud treatments.
Trained attendants will slap on revitalizing mud, rich in minerals, salts and massage away you aches and illnesses as you sit among Budapest¹s literary society, who come here to gossip and heal.

Saint Lukács gyógyfürdô & uszoda (thermal 'health' bath & pool)
District II. Budapest,
Frankel Leó utca 25-29.
Tel 326-1695
Open daily 06.00—19.00
Day ticket with locker (2006) Ft1,500 – leave within 2hrs you get Ft400 back, within 2-3hrs Ft200
Day ticket with changing cabin (2006) Ft1,700 – leave within 2hrs you get Ft400 back, within 2-3hrs Ft200.
Hang on to your tickets!

Facilities include
Steam baths
Pool (06.00—19.00)
Underwater jetstream massage
Doctor's massage
Mud and weight baths

Drinking fountain ivókút open 06.00—18.00 Mon-Fri, 06.00—12.00 Sat/Sun.
You can drink korsós of healthy water full of minerals on the spot.
Half a liter costs Ft5…..yum, yum