Fri 16th August.
The second day in Budapest.
My host Noemi was in her late thirties who lived in a little flat in the suburbs. She had a ginger cat, which she liked a bit too much and worked as a school teacher. She told me a few things about the city, namely that it used to be two cities, Buda and Pest and they decided to unite the two, making it Budapest (the pest said with a ‘sh’. Budapesht, although it sounds weird).
Although she was born here and always lived in Hungary, she had a very strong American accent. I quizzed here on it after meeting her and she seemed very surprised that I thought she sounded American and took it as a compliment. It was so convincing, I thought she was American and had been living here a few years, but she insisted she was Hungarian. She’d been there a few times and had American friends, so she put it down to that. She also told me about the Turkish occupation of the city which is why there are so many Turkish baths. The Turkish baths dated back to 16th century and were well-preserved. I’d made my mind up to go to the Rudas Baths, by the river for the day and as long as I did that, I would be happy.
I made my way into the city and had agreed to meet Noemi later in the day for a drink at a new bar on the river. I went via a bike shop and picked up some inner tubes and puncture repair kit, as I was becoming dangerously low on both things. I tried to go to a nice design place I’d been told about called print, but it didn’t open until 11am. Good business plan.
I went for a really good coffee at a place round the corner and they let me put my bike in the shop while I stayed there. I was surprised how universal these unique coffee shops were becoming. In a narrow-minded way, I thought it was just London who was pining after these boutique style, run-down/distressed looks in its coffee shops in and bars, but somehow this had become a new universal style and was all-over Europe, Australia, America and South Africa. I think the internet has helped to aid this global style in many respects. Not that I don’t like it. I just didn’t expect to see so much of it around. Now I was ready for the bath.
The Baths were amazing. They were beautifully preserved and were just what I needed, to relax in tubs of hot spring water. I had heard a few years ago about Turkish baths and to go for one if I ever had the chance, jumping from hot to cold tubs, allegedly doing your body some good in the process. There was a main bath here in the centre and then four more in the corners of the room, going from 15ºC to around 40ºC. There were also saunas, showers and massage rooms. I stayed there a few hours, but boredom started to get the better of me. I’d my fix and left.
I met Noemi were we agreed and she had met a friend there, so we all sat around talking and having drinks. The told me about the bridge we were next to. It was funded by a nobleman hundreds of years ago, who dedicated a lot of his money to good causes and to help other people. She told me about a film she had of the bridges creation, she said we should watch it when we got back.
We left soon after as it was getting dark. The two ladies took my on a bit of a cycle tour on the way back, showing me the Opera house, the museum of terror and a few other pieces the city is famed for. On the way back we tried to have a look at the main open-air bath and Noemi, fell off her bike in the park. I helped her up and we got back to hers.
When we got there, she realised she had lost her lock, probably from falling over. I offered to go back and get it, but she insisted on coming, which was a pain as she was incredibly slow, it was getting cold and I was getting tired and wanting to get down. It took us about 12 minutes to get back and I found it in the bush. another twelve minutes back and on the way we found a little hedgehog in the road. I’d seen so many flattened on the roads on my travels and now I realised why. He seemed to have no awareness of his surroundings and didn’t seem alert whatsoever. We tried to get him out of the road, but it was very hard to pick him up due to his spikes. A guy came out of the house nearby and said he had an eye on him and was going to take care of him for a bit. I had a big shovel and I carefully helped the hedgehog on, still struggling as it was so prickly.
When we got back it was about 10pm I was getting ready for bed and a big day tomorrow, when Noemi mentioned putting the film on. To polite to refuse and thinking it wouldn’t be that long–being a documentary–I agreed to watch it. To my horror, it was a documentary but a low-budget, awfully acted dramatisation of the events, with some of the worst CGI I’ve ever seen. It lasted over two hours, with me trying to stay a awake throughout. She got up and left before the end to shower and when it was over and I could finally get the sleep I craved, she declared that she hadn’t packed a thing for her trip, which she was leaving for tomorrow. I went to bed in the living room while she ran around packing her things. Ideal.