Thursday, February 12, 2009


The Bear and I sit in silence in the kitchen of our apartment in Budapest as we breakfast, shovelling down slices of bread coated in cheeses, meats and jam between thirstily slurping down cups of tea. Our reasons for not speaking are, perhaps, twofold. First and foremost, there is a stale smell of beer and spirits in the air, the source being the pores of our skin which are being employed in a desperate attempt to remove the poison from within. We had hit the bar Fwengebola had recommended to us fairly wholeheartedly, and then, just as we were leaving, thought “what the hell” and hit it again for a further few hours. The second potential reason is that, for the previous two days, I have been constantly subjecting The Bear to my Russian-accented commentary on all that occurs, and perhaps he is wisely not giving me any encouragement.

"Is good pig meat," I mumble to him, or myself.

I am just glad that it wasn’t my turn to undergo the travails of a trip to Spar with a hangover and a grasp of the language that would probably see me marched to the nearest police station even if I merely tried pointing at things. They didn’t give me any bags at the checkout the previous morning. I hadn’t ever had reason previously to think how hard it is to mime needing a bag when you already have your hands full.

In bright sunshine, still mostly silent, we cross the Erzsébet Bridge, and head to the Rudas Bath. The neo-baroque Széchenyi baths are a delight, and the splendour of the baths at the Gellert Hotel are breathtaking, but the atmosphere at the Rudas – the echoes, the constant sound of dripping water, the darkness – marks it out as by far my favourite.

"It’s like hell," I say, as I encounter The Bear floating past in the main octagonal pool. "Except with the fire turned off."

I sleep in one of the pools for a while, and feel my hangover drifting up and away to the dome above. By the time we slink out, I feel great.

We hire bikes, and, after a mere cursory glance, adventurously decide to cycle to Memento Park, where many of Budapest’s communist statues have found themselves moved to, out of sight. Budapest swiftly becomes less beautiful as we head south, the housing much less Parisian and much more Soviet. Soon though, it makes way to fields, and we leave the city, and find ourselves in Hungary-proper.

It dawns on us that perhaps we have been a touch foolish, expecting to magically find our way to Memento Park. It also dawns on us that Memento Park might just be the exact sort of place that wouldn’t be sign-posted. As we cycle along, we notice a elderly man sat on a deck chair by some sort of gate.
"He’s bound to know," I say.

"He didn’t know," I say, as we cycle off on our way again.
"No, he seemed thoroughly confused," agrees The Bear. "Foreign people appearing and making incomprehensible demands probably doesn’t happen too often to him out here."
"He probably hates Lenin," I muse. "Lenin probably terrorised his parents."
"He probably didn’t appreciate us arriving on bikes and repeatedly shouting ‘Lenin’ at him," supposes The Bear.

We ride for a few more miles, before getting thoroughly cross about the whole situation, and the fact it is getting progressively more hilly. We head back towards the distant Soviet housing blocks. Stupid Lenin.


fwengebola said...

Argh! I missed this! Szimpla. Was it Szimpla? God, I miss Budapest.

Huw said...

Yes, it was. Very eager to go back myself, but it's not an ideal destination with a male companion.