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food / travel

Ancient Thermal Springs All The Rage In Budapest Party Scene

Budapest's baths have suddenly become a party central...
Budapest's baths have suddenly become a party central...
Detlef Berg

BUDAPEST - Over 70 million liters of mineral-rich healing waters bubble out of Budapest’s 118 thermal springs every day. That’s a claim no other big city on the planet can make.

The baths are as old as the city itself. The Romans were well aware of the beneficial effects of the warm springs, and the Turkish invaders valued them too. Today the baths have become a place where hip youths come to party.

It all began with musician Laszlo Laki, who is a fan of black and white movies. "I was looking around for a movie theater to rent so I could show black and white films to some new music,” he recalls. "But finding the right place was really difficult, and at one point the idea came to me to show the movies in a Budapest bathhouse.”

The bathhouse’s management was skeptical at first, but finally agreed. One hundred and thirty people attended the premiere – and all of them gave the thumbs up to more bathhouse events.

Today – 16 years later – what have become the legendary “Cinetrip parties” draw young people from all over Europe to Budapest’s baths. In bikinis and bathing trunks, they dance to wild music emanating from loudspeakers, drawn in by the unique mixture of contemporary music, cinematic effects, and historic ambience. Tickets are much sought after and have to be booked well ahead.

Another popular formula is bath tours, which make it possible to attend several parties in one night, with a free shuttle bus providing transportation from one to the next.

The parties at Szechenyi Bath and Spa can contain up to 2,000 revelers. One of Europe’s largest bath complexes, Szechenyi Bath is located in City Park on the Pest side of the city. Opened in 1913, “in 1927, beach sites, as well as public bathing departments for gentlemen and ladies were added,” says its website.

Here you really do see guests playing chess surrounded by swirls of steaming mist. Bathhouse chess "is one of the most popular sights to take pictures of in Budapest," says the lady at the ticket booth. "After all, the baths aren’t only for partying."

[rebelmouse-image 27086623 alt="""" original_size="499x333" expand=1]

Chess in Budapest - Photo: Alex Proimos

"Just walk through the place, you’ll be amazed," she adds as she slides the 10-euro entry ticket over. She’s right – in the high ceilinged Neo-Baroque buildings, there are carry-overs from ancient Greek and Roman bath cultures, while the saunas, steam rooms and plunge pools are reminiscent of Finland.

Because the temperatures in the thermal baths vary between 27° and 38° Celsius, bathers also come in winter and either just soak in the water as the snow flurries down or play chess on floating chessboards.

Art Nouveau and chocolate body wraps

At Gellert Spa and Bath, bathers take the waters in an historical landmark with Art Nouveau architecture that makes this establishment the jewel of Budapest’s bathhouses. A must-see is the two-story bath hall with a loggia and glass cupola elaborately decorated with bright mosaics, columns, statues, and vases – all original and dating back to 1918 when this was a men’s bath.

Ceramics in various shades of turquoise, made by the famous Zsolnay Manufacture, ornament floors, walls and pools.

It’s also fun to bathe outside in the pool with a wave machine installed in 1927. Here, as in many of the other Budapest baths, a wide variety of wellness treatments are on offer – ranging from pumice stone massages and chocolate body wraps to mudpack therapy and carbonated baths.

The highlight at the Rudas Baths is bathing like a Turkish pasha. This establishment is down by the Danube River, not far from the famous Chain Bridge. Pasha Mustapha Sokoli had it built on the ruins of an older bathhouse and in many ways it is remarkably unchanged since it was built in 1566. A massive cupola supported by eight red marble columns covers the main bathing pool. In the space’s four corners are four pools with warm water of varying temperatures that smells vaguely of rotten eggs because of the minerals. This venue too is on the Cinetrip party round, invaded periodically by young people in swimwear and flip-flops.

"Here it’s a mixture of taking the waters and partying," says event organizer Laki. "Music and a laser show guarantee a great atmosphere, and people hang out in the water, splashing around, or making out, until four in the morning.”

That such a thing is possible is pretty sensational if one considers that, following Turkish tradition, women weren’t even admitted to the Rudas Baths until 2005.

The Palatinus Bath, situated in a well-manicured park on Margaret Island, was open to all members of the public from the start. The island’s natural springs feed a huge watery landscape – 12 pools, one of them with a wave machine, two pools for children, pools “with other fun elements” – as well as the spa of a wellness hotel located on the northern side of the island.

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Feminists Infiltrate The “Incelosphere” — Where Toxic Content Warps Modern Masculinity

An increasing number of male teens and young adults who've experienced feelings of rejection wind up in what's been dubbed the “incelosphere,” a place where they can find mutual understanding in a world they think is against them. Two women Polish journalists spent two years on the online servers these “beta males” are flocking to in ever greater numbers.

Illustration of a man wearing a hoodie looking at a laptop, with two women watching over his shoulder.

Watching over "beta males" and their online toxic masculinity

AI-generated illustration / Worldcrunch
Patrycja Wieczorkiewicz

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. This week, we feature an investigation by two women Polish journalists for daily Gazeta Wyborcza, who spent two years infiltrating the online “incelosphere” and its patriarchal gurus spreading toxic ideas about masculinity on young, impressionable young people. But first, the latest news…

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

TW: This content may address topics and include references to violence that some may find distressing

🌐 5 things to know right now

• LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in the UK: Suella Braverman, the UK home secretary, says that fearing discrimination for being LGBTQ+ or a woman should not be enough on its own to qualify for asylum. But advocates have pointed out that Braverman is criticizing a policy that doesn’t exist: under the current system, asylum seekers must prove that they face persecution. Braverman also claimed, without evidence, that some asylum seekers pretend to be LGBTQ+, a suggestion which advocates have dismissed as baseless and “cruel.”

• Allies drown out anti-LGBTQ+ protests in Canada: Thousands of counter-protesters turned out in Canada to oppose demonstrations by self-described “parental rights” groups who are upset about sex education and trans-inclusive policies in schools. The conservative protests are part of a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in Canada, inspired by similar movements in the U.S. and the UK. Pro-LGBTQ+ counter-protesters outnumbered conservative demonstrators in most Canadian cities – including in Toronto, where about 1,000 LGBTQ+ protesters and allies met just a few dozen anti-LGBTQ+ activists, reports Xtra.

• Turkish President confuses UN colors with pride colors: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan complained that he was uncomfortable with what he described as "LGBT colors" at the United Nations General Assembly – but the rainbow-colored decorations were actually intended to promote the Sustainable Development Goals.

• Romanian government may recognise same-sex marriage: Under a draft law proposed by the Romanian government, same-sex marriages in other European Union states would be recognised as legal in Romania. The decision comes five years after the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered Romania to allow same-sex spouses of Romanian citizens to live in the country. The law still has to be approved by the Romanian parliament.

• Malaysian PM doubles down on anti-LGBTQ+ views: In an interview with CNN, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that his government “will never recognize LGBT rights.” In August, his government banned Swatch watches and other products with pride colors, threatening up to three years in prison for people caught with the products.

Feminists Infiltrate The “Incelosphere” — Where Toxic Content Warps Modern Masculinity

In her book For The Love Of Men: From Toxic To A More Mindful Masculinity, Canadian feminist writer Liz Plank explained that the struggle of women can never be one without confronting the crisis of manhood.

Plank is part of the forward-thinking feminist researchers and authors who've dedicated a significant amount of their work to the problems of men and masculinity, always sure to arouse suspicion. In reality, from a young age, we are forced into one of two oppressive patterns – masculinity and femininity – which in turn shape our behavior and our choices.

Thanks to the feminist movement, women now enter roles once reserved for men more frequently and eagerly than ever before, and teach their daughters that they can be whoever they want to be.

What has not changed nearly as much is our perception of masculinity.

The dominant image is still that of the strong, resourceful, male who pushes forward, takes risks and copes with adversities on his own. But today, they also must be sensitive, attentive, and empathetic as well (just not too much). Parents are still afraid of raising “weak” sons.

These are the roots of the so-called “masculinity crisis”. Usually, this phenomenon is reduced to some version of "men cannot keep up with emancipated women”. In reality, however, we as a society are the ones who cannot keep up with the need of dismantling toxic patterns of masculinity and creating new, healthy ones.

Instead, we leave young, lost adolescent boys at the mercy of patriarchal gurus who are preaching online.

Without anyone to talk to about their fears and uncertainties, and unable to count on their loved ones for understanding, these boys join internet communities, where they are taught that the “order” of certain men being naturally superior to them is natural, that it has been shaped by evolution, and that it cannot be changed.

In other words, they’ve already lost, so it’s better to get used to it and admit to their failures.

In March 2021, I was an exemplary feminist. I had several years of activist and journalistic work on behalf of victims of sexual violence under my belt, and my book about rape in Poland had just been published. Every day, I spoke to women who experienced sexual violence. With every story I heard, my aversion to men only grew stronger.

Only a few months later, I found myself in a closed internet server with a few dozen incels, exchanging messages and sharing observations from my experiences on a daily basis. My being there divided the feminist community.I received a lot of support, but I also read that I had “betrayed” the feminist movement, that I was a “guardian of the patriarchy”, that I was spending time with rapists, and that I wanted to force women to “bow down” to these men, or to sexually gratify misogynists.

Who are incels? In simple terms, they are men, typically young, living in what they call “involuntary celibacy”. They would like to have sex, but in their view they have no one to do it with. They blame women for their lack of luck in this area, believing that women do not view them as attractive enough. They also blame the society that they believe despises “beta males”, as they call themselves. Some of them blame their parents, who gave them “defective genes”. Oftentimes, they also blame themselves.

Online and in the news, incels are first and foremost associated with the misogyny on incel forums on the internet, and the terror attacks that several have been involved in, notably in the U.S., where self-described incels have opened fire on their peers and even strangers.

The harmfulness of the “incel mentality” should not be underestimated, especially since it regularly attacks specific people, usually women. Some people organize campaigns to expose girls on Tinder and create profiles of extremely attractive men, who they call “Chads”. When they match with women, they arrange dates and then randomly unmatch them, or tell the girls that they are ugly and should lower their standards when it comes to the appearance of a potential partner. I myself saw glorification of rapes and mass executions from the U.S. online, and was personally threatened two or three times.

Together with Aleksandra Herzyk, the co-author of the Polish book "Przegryw. Mężczyźni w pułapce gniewu i samotności" (Loser: Men In The Trap Of Shame And Loneliness), I spent an intense two years in the “incelosphere”. We began by setting up an account on Wykop, a portal where self-described incels and “losers” gather online. We did not intend to hide who we were, though it was obvious that, as feminists, we were unlikely to receive a warm welcome.

We wrote a post in which we assured those within the portal that we were sincerely interested in the difficulties faced by people posting with the #loser tag. Within a few hours, it managed to gain over 400 likes and about as many comments. One comment compared us to pedophiles luring children with candies or kittens. Some people called us names, like one comment that read "get the fuck out of the tag, p0lki”, while others were plainly sceptical. One commenter wrote, “this cannot work out”. The vast majority of commenters doubted our good intentions, believing that we wanted to build trust within the community in order to destroy it from the inside.

We were afraid of reading our private messages, which within the first day — over 70 on the first day itself. You can imagine our surprise that — apart from a few haters — the men actually wanted to speak with us. The majority's motivations boiled down to the fact that no one else was willing to listen to them, so feminists could do it for lack of anything else.

Read the full story here, translated in English by Worldcrunch.

— Patrycja Wieczorkiewicz/Gazeta Wyborcza

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