So many interesting things can be learned about the Baths just by looking around at ordinary things—the columns, the floors. Looking at the columns, you can tell that the Baths were expanded by the different sections that are present. You can tell where the water level was in the past from the copper color on the walls. In addition, the floors around the Baths are quite uneven and worn (I almost tripped a few times). This is because the Baths were so popular that thousands of Roman shoes and footsteps wore down the stone.
Speaking of shoes, the Romans wore shoes in the Baths because in some rooms, the floors were heated and so hot your feet would be burned if you didn’t wear shoes. Look at the picture to the right. Do you see those strange columns of stone? In the Roman days, a floor rested on those columns. Hot air would flow through the columns under the floor, and rise to heat the floor above.
There were pools of all different temperatures in the Baths. Some pools were warm, some hot, and one pool was cold. The Romans would start out in warm pools, make their way to the hot pools, then if they were brave, end with a dip in the cold pool.
Yeah, no thanks. I prefer to stay nice and toasty.
Sometimes Romans of both sexes would bathe together; however, in other times, bathing with members of the opposite sex was forbidden. It depended on who the emperor was at the time. It’s believed that this is the reason for both the East and West Baths, which are virtually identical to each other—one for each gender.
I mentioned before that the Baths weren’t just for bathing purposes. The waters of the hot springs were believed to be healing, so people who were paralyzed or sick would come here to rest in the water, hoping they would be cured of their ailments.
The Baths also served religious purposes. To the left is a picture of the sacred spring, which was a pool that nobody bathed in. If you look very closely in the picture, you can see a brown colored square under the water, along the right hand side of the pool (you might need to expand the picture to see it). In the Roman times, statues of gods and goddesses rested on these platforms. When you would walk past this pool at night, with the mist rising from the water, it would appear to you that the gods and goddesses were walking on the water.
So cool. So, so cool.
When leaving the Baths, you walk through the Pump Room. Here they have a fountain with water from the springs that you can drink.
I tried it, though I was a little apprehensive.
First of all, I wasn’t expecting the water to be warm. It makes sense since it comes from a hot spring, but it took me by surprise. I’m not entirely opposed to drinking warm water, but drinking water that’s the temperature of a bath is a little nasty.
Then there was the taste. You know when you drink tap water that has a lot of dissolved stuff (ions, etc.) in it, and it just has that funny tap water taste? Yeah, that’s what it tasted like and it was a little nasty.
So, taste + temperature = not water I would pay to drink.
They said that the water is supposed to heal you if you drink it though, so I braced myself and downed another cup.
Best to kill those nasty algae off if I had happened to ingest any of them.
After I exited the Baths I wandered back over to a lovely little park and Pulteney Bridge, then I walked up to the Royal Crescent and through another park. By this point were promising revenge if I continued to walk around, so with regret I parted from the beautiful buildings and headed back to the hostel.
So ended one of the best days of my trip, in the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. If you’re ever in England, I would highly, highly recommend going to the city of Bath (you can get there from London by train), and going to see the Roman Baths. You won’t regret it.