Four small triangular pools flanked the central circular pool. Massive pillars between the small and large pools supported the high dome of stone that covered it all. The baths stood over a fault line in the earth along the Danube River. Hot water bubbled up from the deep and poured into the pools from mineral crusted spouts. The dome was built by the Ottoman Turks, but the plastic bracelet that got him through the turnstile was new.
Each pool had a carved marble sign indicating the temperature in celsius degrees: 28, 30, up to 42. From the coldest pool he watched the columns of light shoot down from the ventilation holes in the dome above and play on the misty air. It was dark, but not so dark that you might trip as you moved from pool to pool to control your body’s temperature. It was co-ed day and people of every description passed before him as he lay like an alligator belly down on the submerged stairs with just his eyes and ears raised above the surface.
He closed his eyes and realized that though peaceful, it was actually quite loud. The echoes clamored and the people all around him were talking to be heard above the noise of each other. But most of the sounds were unfamiliar Hungarian and the hard surfaces and high ceilings echoed everything into a pleasant bass rumble, with the babbling water providing a counterpoint.
In a marble arched side room, a bucket filled with hot water periodically dumped with a splash. This time a man screamed at the shock of the water. The noise of the room became even louder in response to this event, sounds of concern and also laughter, before the rumble returned to its original timbre and continued on.
It’s been wet in here for 500 years, he thought.