An entire town is getting pickled in a warm stew of ass and ball sweat at 31 degrees Celsius
I was born in Petroșani – a rocky and quiet small town that is sort of the Romanian Silent Hill – so when I moved to the city of Oradea in the Nothwest, I was ecstatic. What I particularly loved about Oradea was the Băile Felix thermal spa resort, which was situated a few miles out of town. That place was the world to me, but at that time I also enjoyed sticking pickled cucumbers to walls and eating bugs.
Then I grew up and realised that those water parks were essentially Soviet trenches filled with meat. The smell of rancid sun oil, the image of parents cleaning the lice off their childrens' heads in the pools and the almost transparent donuts that were basically the only food on offer are some of the memories I came to associate with Romanian spa tourism.
A recent 3 million Euro investment however promised to turn Băile Felix from the post-apocalyptic wasteland of my youth into a park just filled with tourists who think that romping around in the water can cure liver disease.
I visited this new capitalist face of the most communist of playgrounds to see if the local fauna has changed at all.
Capitalism - Communism = 1 - 0: The shops at the entrance of the park were laden with the best that the petrochemical industry of China has to offer. At first, I thought that the cardboard cut-out stacked behind the suntan lotions was a mirror, but then I realised I was wearing clothes and didn’t have double D cups.
There was also a food court, where sellers relied heavily on their sexuality. From the Adonis in blue on the left, to the girl in the ad suggestively gnawing on that corn, it felt like the innocense of my communist childhood was forever gone.
Once inside, I sat on a lounge chair and stared irritatingly at the people who had come to Băile Felix to satisfy their intellectual libido. About 50 percent of them were reading 50 Shades of Grey, while the rest sat admiring their knock-off Disney and Looney Toons towels. The lady in the photograph above did both alternatively.
Speedo-wearing men call this position 'The Lighthouse'. It usually occurs once the male starts spewing pheromones from the sex glands under his boobs, and it can cause spontaneous orgasms to female passerby. One of the ladies in the picture had to sit down to catch her breath, trying to remember what her life was like before that incident.
In the four hours it took me to almost get beaten up for taking pictures of nearly naked people, the lady in the image read tiny comic strips off the back of a bag of Cheetos.
Poolside tattoo viewing is basically a walk through people´s rawest parts of the brain. This man's lion-eagle is a prevalent symbol of Romanian nationalism. There were also a lot of Maltese crosses in view, as well as some tattoos of slogans urging for half of Romania to be annexed by Hungary.
Above is a list of temporary tattoos which are not related to Nazism. And you can get one while eating some tripe stew at the local food court, too.
If Westerners use witty shirts to express their likes and dislikes, Romanians use crappy beach towels. Dinamo is a popular soccer team that has in the past earned these guys some smiles. A lot of other bathers spit on these towels when passing by, because football fans are the same everywhere.
You could tell that the spa has become cool now, because it has a fruit bar – basically the height of Western food imperialism. The owners had even put some nifty models in place to help us peasants get acquainted with the concept of fruit – like the giant banana on the wall.
The main clients of any public pool are obviously children, so Baile Felix has made sure to offer them an abandoned corner filled with mechanical monsters who stare into the dark recess of your soul. "Your mother never wanted you,” you can almost hear that weird duck say.
It´s no wonder that there were no kids in the animal pen, because they were all peeling their little behinds on this anticlimactic water slide. If only you could see the disappointed faces, every time they fell on their noses.
All in all, touring a pimped up version of my childhood memories was interesting. Capitalism, even in its Balkan form, has turned my kiddie pool into a pretty awesome place. After all what is not to love about a regime that offers you endless variations of chocolate?
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