Discover the secrets of Budapest’s famous healing baths

Skin care was the last thing Margaret de Heinrich de Omorovicza thought of when she moved to Budapest in 2001. “I came to Hungary because I was an American diplomat; I was chief of staff at the US Embassy and also in charge of health care awareness. It was just a really busy time. But when her then-boyfriend (and heir to the baths of the noble Omorovicza family) introduced her to the culture of the city’s thermal water spas, she was intrigued.

“I’ve had horrible skin since I was 13, when I was taken to a dermatologist and put on Accutane,” she says, referring to the drug used to treat acne. ‘But I noticed such a difference, such a transformation [when I went to the baths] that it kept me coming back again and again and interested me in learning more about this healing culture. ‘

The Rudas bath in Budapest

A few years later, Margaret and her husband, Stephen de Heinrich de Omorovicza, created the respected skincare brand Omorovicza and opened the Omorovicza Institute in Budapest, where students can learn age-old methods from local spas and visitors. can experiment with a range of treatments.

A history of Budapest spas

“What makes these baths so unique is that Budapest is a geological curiosity. The earth’s crust is thinner in the Carpathian Basin than anywhere else in the world, which means that Budapest has more thermal water spots than any city. It is for this reason that it is called the “city of spas”. And the word “spa” is actually an acronym from Latin sanitas by aquam, which means health through water, ”says Margaret.

Széchenyi thermal baths in Budapest built in 1913

“And I remember when I first moved to Budapest and after Steve and I met, he, being Hungarian, really took it upon himself to light up all the elements of the city which he said, were truly the local treasures. At the top of its list, and at the top of most Hungarian lists, are these baths.

“We went to what is probably the most special bath in Hungary. It’s called the Rác, where you enter huge copper doors and the first thing that greets you is a veil of vapor. Once your eyes get used to it the first thing you see are these marble frescoes, beautiful designs on the base of the pool, 50ft high open cupolas for steam to come out.

“We walk in and Steven starts telling me the story. How they were discovered 2,000 years ago by the Romans under Marcus Aurelius, who noticed as he walked across the country that any of his wounded soldiers would heal very quickly if they waded through these bubbling springs.

The oldest bathhouse in Rác, dating from the 16th century

“It really started the culture of baths, then in the Middle Ages, the Templars came to build hospices on the site of these sources to treat leprosy. Then you brought in the pashas from Budapest during the Ottoman occupation and brought in the hammam culture, which is still there.

“Then the Habsburgs came in and then it turned out you had the Omorovicza family, which is one of those old European families; they were politicians, philanthropists, industrialists. And they believed so much in the healing benefits of these baths that they built [a spa] above an ancient spring that had existed since the 1400s. They had water-powered clocks, water-powered music, and they had these big brass discs that sucked up the water and handed it to you according to your needs, ”says Margaret.

Spas today

“When I started going to the baths, I started to learn more and more about [Budapest’s] curative culture. On the one hand, I knew that the Hungarian government subsidized health care, and [doctors] would write prescriptions for certain people to go to certain baths.

“They believe so much in the healing elements of these baths that if you’ve had rosacea, eczema, psoriasis or rheumatism, for example, they prescribe you to go to the baths first and then you will spend less. time in intensive care or doctor’s offices.

“So the idea with these baths is that you go into the waters and then immediately go to a treatment room. And that’s really the other pillar [of this curative culture] – education. The education of people in these treatment rooms goes through three years of training. The early years of which are spent understanding the science behind the skin – the effects of hormones, the effects of diet, the effects of weather and drugs, all of those things. There is a real rigor for beauty which is fundamental in culture, ”continues Margaret.

Omorovicza skin care

‘When we were talking to chemists [to develop the skincare line], they explained to us the reason why [restorative elements of the baths] have not been captured in skin care is that while it is believed that minerals are great for us, they are large compounds and they are too large to be absorbed by the skin.

“When you are in the thermal baths and you are warm, the minerals are absorbed and the benefits manifest, but when you go out, the water evaporates naturally and the minerals remain crystallized on the skin’s surface.

Inside the Omorovicza Institute

“So what we patented was a method to transform minerals so that they could be delivered to the deeper layers of the skin, and these benefits, of increased elasticity and firmness of the skin, can be achieved.

“And our other way of capturing the magic of the thermal baths is through our institute, where we develop our education program for our clients, our prescriptions and our rituals. This is how we capture education, or the philosophical arm of healing culture. And it’s not only inspiring, I find it extremely empowering. §

About Sally Dominguez

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