On our way to the Gellért and Széchenyi baths in Budapest, we visited the Hungarian House of Photography to see an exhibition shot by one of their lifeguards more than 80 years ago.
During the 1930’s in Hungary, a lifeguard wasn’t the bored person dressed in white at the side of the pool – a lifeguard was a personality. They were responsible for the comfort of the guests and considered the most important person in a bath. Between 1930 and 1939, Hungarian lifeguard Sándor Pusztai didn’t just welcome his guests and keep them safe – he photographed them. In the interwar years he captured an influential segment of aristocrats, politicians and artists through a series of voyeuristic-style photographs.
What I liked most about Pusztai’s images, was how ill-fitting onesies have a way of making even the most intimidating and powerful person look vulnerable. From the Commander of the National Army to one of the country’s most celebrated authors, it took a lifeguard to show these people as only people.
The Contiki trip we were on usually starts in Berlin then heads to Prague and Vienna, finishing up in Budapest. We were on a tight schedule so we went the other way around and skipped Berlin. If you’ve been inspired to visit the thermal baths in Budapest, check out Contiki Berlin to Budapest. We’ll definitely be coming back for more bath time.