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by Pam Hobbs

Budapest: I was not a pretty sight. My terry robe provided by the hotel was made for someone half my size, the flip-flop sandas so large I had to imitate a moon-walker to keep them on my feet. Waiting for the elevator on this my first trip to the spa, I decided on a nonchalent approach and undid the restricting robe. It didn't work. A swimsuit borrowed from the pool mistresses' limited supply drooped almost to my knees, and did nothing for my confidence when I emerged to what I thought would be the baths and was in fact the elegant hotel lobby where Budapest's beautiful people were gathered for lunch.

Next time out I wore my poacher's style raincoat, and didn't put the plastic bag on my head til I sighted steam ahead. Still I suggest you bring your own gear, if you want to feel really at home among the satin-robed and slippered regulars familiar with Budapest's spa scene.

Hungary has more than 500 springs gushing scalding water through the ground, the best of them directed into spa facilities. If you are here for more than rest and rejuvenation, a study of medicinal properties contained in the different springs is advised, as well as consultation with your doctor before leaving home.