The world of spas of the good old times

The ancestors of Hungarians were familiar with the positive effects of water, they paid great attention to personal hygiene, and – among others – tried to prevent certain epidemics by bathing. Our marauding ancestors used to put up special water tents, in which they bathed first in steam generated by pouring water on hot rock, followed by bathing in ice cold water. There were some who set up leather sacks with taps, so-called drippers.

A contemporary traveler Ibn Fâdhlan picturesquely describes the spa culture of those times. He writes: “Men and women go into water together naked without covering themselves with anything with the aim is to wash. Fornication is out of question, it never happens. Should anyone hurt this principle, let him be of any stand, he is tied to four poles driven into the ground, each hand and foot to one each, he is bisected with a hatchet from neck to groin. This also goes for the female offender. Both their bodies are then tied to a tree. I tried hard in vain to make women cover themselves while taking a bath …”

“I already took bath twice this year…”

During the Turkish conquest in the 16th and 17th centuries, baths were built in every Hungarian settlement with a significant civilian population. The reasons were religious: according to Muslim health care and thinking, health and beauty both is the fulfillment of Allah’s opus, and as such the protection of it is a religious obligation.

Prophet Muhammad himself believed that cleanness influences potency positively and since he wanted to increase the number of his followers, he ordered to have cleaning bath the so-called saint hamam on Fridays.

During these times the Hungarian barons competed amongst each other: who could bathe more rarely. Miklós Bethlen wrote in 1708: “I take a bath, especially bath in cold water rarely. ….  My head has not been washed for at least 25 years.”

István Wesselényi spoke similarly in his diary. He writes: “I went out to take a bath today, together with many honest fellow peers. This means I already took a bath twice this year. This will be my last bath ….”

Those spas of the good old days!

But by the times of the Austrian Hungarian Monarchy there were some eight hundred spas of different sizes. It was a must to spend a few weeks at a spa resort for proud families. To be a spa doctor was probably the most attractive professions in those days for a young doctor willing to marry (cleverly).

The therapeutic effects of different mineral waters were compiled in thick books by the second half of the 19th century, then, at the turn of the century spas were registered in encyclopedias, providing information on hundreds of pages on the effects of local waters, but also on the quality of lodgings. These publications made not only information on the above available for the readers but in addition one could read up on the frequency of medical check-ups of the local prostitutes and even the results of their examinations were published in a summarized table format. This may make us smile today, but the fact is that this proved to be a very modern and rational method.