Tuesday, February 20, 2017
“Budafess!” texted Chuck last night, and I was pleased because “fess”, of course, is the French-Canadian way of saying “buttocks! eh?” (if you’re mimicking French-Canadians in a stereotypical way that includes always saying “eh”… which is something I haven’t actually heard from them as much as, for example, “nice fesses, there” which brings me back to my point.)
Budafess pleased me because today was the day I was going to the naked baths! And these baths- let me explain:
So apparently for over a thousand years, thermal springs have busted up all over Hungary with their healing mineral waters. Budapest is Spa City, and they even have these crazy raves called “sparties” during which the mixed-sex crowd downs drinks in giant, pool-sized natural hot tubs while DJs spin and light shows dazzle. Though I no longer own a bathing suit with sequins, I was totally up for this experience until I found out they only happen on weekends and we’re leaving Friday morning. More’s the pity.
Anyway though, Naomi and I checked a local place out last night and it was GREAT! After, that is, we got over the shock of the coed locker rooms. It worked out fine what with the initially-hidden changing closets, but my first glance of the goings-on- with the people in all their dripping wet skivvies- reminded me that not all cultures are as wickedly Puritan as ours.
That’s where naked bathing came in, too. Turns out Tuesdays are women-only, so you can romp around romper-less with n’er the hairy eyeball casting judgments. I was sort of terrified of this but had talked myself into doing it in the name of life experience, and also in the name of liquid courage, which- and more on this later- is exceedingly easy to come by in Hungary.
(SIDE NOTE: in these baths, there’s an outdoor dome that looks over the Danube on one side and into cliffs on the other. It’s a fantastic place to hear about the story of St. Gerard, who tried to convert all the locals to Christianity in 1100 AD or some other such nonsensical year. This went over VERY not well so he got packed into a spiked barrel and shot down said cliffs instead. Spiked things and shots- and more on this later- are exceedingly easy to come by in Hungary.)
But before all the naked fesses: breakfast.
Breakfast is not as easy to come by here as you might think. After two miles of passing bistros that wouldn’t open until 11, we finally docked at a vegan place at which Naomi was immediately at home. This worked for a bit as I worked on a water, but tofu and I haven’t always been besties so I figured I’d hang ’til the next stop. Sadly, the next stop was Shanghai microwave center, where I’m almost positive an Austro-Hungarian prepared my meal at the height of their empire and put it patiently aside for me in 2017. It took three minutes of nuking and a lot of good humor to get a portion of that in my gullet. Luckily next door there was hot breakfast to-go wine.
We only went in for a coffee, but “is coffee common here?” asked Naomi. She’s been having trouble getting anything not espresso-based.
“No,” replied the woman.
“Okay, so, um… what is?” Naomi followed, and,
“Palinko,” she said.
That’s booze. Booze! At breakfast. Plus we were offered three shots at lunch. No wonder the spas offer hangover packages.
No spas for us yet, though, since Parliament was right across the river and looking like this:
There was also an expressive whiny statue and the Hungarian History Museum, where I didn’t learn anything because I don’t speak Hungarian. Cool sabres, though.
Then we walked around some more looking at things like the Ronald Reagan statue, which why? WHY? Bronzed Gipper in Budapest: why? Okay, I’ll tell you, because for us nerd types it’s actually fascinating and immediately after I wrote that question I looked it up.
Turns out there’s a big monument in that square to the Soviet occupation, which is at least temporarily over but still commemorated because of some long-standing bilateral treaty and the fact that when Estonia took down a Soviet monument ten years ago, stupid Putin applied sanctions. So these hardy and left-leaning Hungarian artists (persist, ye mighty!) erected this other cool sculpture of a man standing on a bridge with his back to the Soviet symbolism and his eyes toward the Parliament building, a deliberately democratic (magnificently and purposefully built to face down the palace across the river) piece of work. (Side note: before I knew this tidbit I thought the guy looked like Colonel Sanders rather than a famous anti-Soviet resistance hero and I climbed what I thought was a real bridge and posed with him, an act of which I am currently ashamed. You will not, if my druthers are had, ever lay eyes on that photograph. And to the gods of humanity, I apologize.)
Anyway, Ronald Reagan is apparently also a recent sort of protest addition, and he’s looking at and walking toward the Russian thing like he’s going to blast right through it or throw jelly beans at it or something. But without historical context, it’s just weird. At the time, I snapped a photo and ambled toward the other weird statue in the vicinity, which unbeknownst to me would make me cry.
Hungary, like the Philippines and lots of Europe and some other countries we know, has been fighting a bit of a hateful nationalist virus lately. It’s depressing and I don’t want to go too much into that side of it, but the tears were actually for the heart shown by people determined to put truth and the goodness of humanity at the front of things- same way I feel when I’m stateside. And when Budapest’s right-wingers tried to commemorate Nazi occupation (and with it, the swift complicity of their own government’s role in the Holocaust) the people came out and said noooooooope. They put this up, in every imaginable language:
And that’s when I cried a little.
When all was said and done, I didn’t get to do the Budafesses today.
Still feels like I got some naked truth, though.