Monday, November 29, 2010

Budapest. I'm cold.

I realized as I was touching down in Budapest that it was the first time I'd voluntarily flown somewhere colder than the place that I'd left. Minnesota almost always meets the qualification but I have to go there to see family and old friends, and if it weren't for them you can betcher ass I would be aiming somewhere more along the lines of sub-Saharan African desert. Boston's weather was crap too, but with that I had the whole University education thing I was trying for so again it was rather necessary. Budapest was cold and experiencing its first snowstorm of the winter when we arrived, and I had chosen it. The decision would prove to have drastic repercussions.

Saturday morning we
woke up early and set off for a bakery near Lauren's old apartment for "CAKE!" That's how she referred to it, both that day and in the weeks leading up to the mini-vacation. I had a traditional Hungarian apple tart while they had Black Forest, Raspberry Cream and a rum-soaked bowl of dessert-for-breakfast-madness that when I tried it reminded me strongly of pirate.

Saying goodbye and good luck with the vodka shots to Lauren, who was going to have lunch with an old friend and his mother, we set out for Castle Hill and what should have been Parliament, the Basilica, the Christmas market, and the Synagogue. I made it to Castle Hill and then four hours of Coffeeheaven waiting for my feet to thaw. Listen: Hungary is effing cooold. It's probably not colder than where I grew up, but if I'm in Minnesota between roughly October to May, I'm hibernating in my bedroom with a space heater, electric blanket, and a shot or two of vodka to warm me from the inside. I'm not about to go look at some damn castle.

Back to Castle Hill. We walked around, took pictures, went inside the Cathedral where I stood on the heat vent and cried inwardly. More walking around then I had to break it to Chelsi and Layla: I'm about to go sit in the Basilica for the next six hours. We took the bus back across the Danube River during which time I became slightly delirious and unreasonable and thought I could do the Christmas Market. I did, for about three stalls, then made good on my promise and walk/ran like a nutjob to the Basilica to get my prayer on and plead with the gods of Budapest to shine down on me with a heating lamp. While the other finished at the Market I shivered and rubbed my poor feet in a vain effort to restore circulation. Chelsi comes. We decide to dash to the coffee shop where I plant myself and she manages about half the time before running in and out for cinnamon food monstrosities and various Budapest travel experiences.

Saturday night was dinner with Lauren's friends night, so after transferring to Burger King for another couple hours of warmth Chelsi and I met up with her, tried the mulled wine, and transferred briefly to another bar before calling it a night. Turns out, however, the place we were staying is not the last stop on the bus line, afterall, so when we ended up way the hell who knows where with no one else on the bus except the Hungarian-speaking driver, we were rather lost. Several pointed fingers, confused gestures and a desperate phone call later he dropped us off a half hour from our house and gave us a honk signaling either good luck or his final farewell to the two American girls who were sure to be found dead in a snow bank sometime tomorrow.

Amazingly we did make it home, and it only took one extra phone call for an explanation of the keys before we figured out how to open the door. By then our host Bela had left to pick up our other host Magda when she got sick at the bar, meaning we had done all that misery and could have instead just waited a bit longer and gotten an easy ride home. No worries. The next day was the thermal baths and life and blood circulation was good again. Hungary has a bunch of really amazing natural hot springs - we saw one lake that was all steamy and spooky and cool - and the baths have been around forever for people to go and turn to raisins in peace. They have indoor and outdoor baths at varying temperatures, and would you believe it, I even tried the one outside. Snow is on the ground, and I am floating like a dead fish in an amazing toilet bowl of heat.

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