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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Visiting the bathhouses of Budapest, Hungary

Mermaid or not, I am happiest surrounded by water. When I travel, I chase waterfalls and hop along rivers and bathe wherever I am allowed (even sometimes where it is not). This is why I wanted to visit the East European city of Budapest in Hungary.

I came all the way to Hungary from California on a 9 hour flight with a day long layover in Sweden- plus all the expectedly unexpected hassels of transit -to visit some the many ancient Turkish bathhouses. 

It took only four full days of bathing for me to begin seeking out, then passing by, the yet unexplored bathhouses merely as an observer because I was all bathed out!

The most elaborate bathhouses are now extentions of two hotels.  Gellért Thermal Bath & Széchenyi Thermal Bath both offer full Spa services and are riddled with bus loads of tourists. While I architectural romance alone makes me want to visit again and again, you can expect to be at the mercy of a lot of noise in a very social atmosphere. 

As a solo traveler without a group to interact within, I found this atmosphere to be quite mundane. For the most part, people were not interested in meeting a stranger and males always interpreted my friendliness as much more.

The pinacle of my bathing experience in Budapest was a small local thermal pool on the Buda side of the Danube river. Known as Király fürdő, it was built in the second half of the sixteenth century during Ottoman rule over this region.

Király thermal bath hasn't been restored to the extent of other more touristed bath houses, possibly because it is still somewhat a secret and located off the beaten path. I imagine the multitudes of visitors must make extreme demands upon the old architectural beauty.

Beyond my romantic notions of how the cultures of time's past would enjoy these places is my fascination of the architectural engineering which has withstood thousands of years of use. Every bathhouse had creatively integrated ventilation into its design as well as overflow filtering. 

The simple cleanliness practice of puddles outside the pools to gracefully rinse everyone's feet as they walked in and out is brilliant. 

Alongs the outsides of every pool is a small canal which channels the water that spills out through a fountain like system keeping everything contained. 

The sauna's have a series of doors which open into hotter and drier climates to choose your space of desired heat. This always serves as a sound barrier for different visiting social groups. 

Many times I felt as though I was wandering among labyrinthian mazes as each room opened into another bathing house complete with steam & dry sauna, hot and cold thermal pools as well as lounging space.

 This is testament to the importance bathing held in cultures of our ancient past. The benefits of it are well known to myself. So if you desire to find your own personal fountain of youth consider learning from some.of the World's oldest cultures. But please, also consider the benefits of this practice in contemplative silence. In my personal opinion that is an optimun ingredient to rest, rejuvenation and relaxation!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Bohemian travels, Budapest Hungary 2019

I won't pretend to know what I'm talking about when I say, "Bohemian traveler." However, I do lay claim to a certain romantic ideal I beleive this term can stand upon. It is precisely defined by the recent excursion I made into Eastern Europe as a traveler from the Northern Sierra Mountains on California. 

You see, I beleive my unqiue bohemian experience is directly related to my Western heritage and all the experiences which have made me what I am today. 

Sitting upon my bed in an early twentieth century apartment building in Budapest, Hungary surrounded by stained glass and tall single pane windows casting high views of the architectural magnificent cityscape all around me is an epitome of what 'Bohemian' means to me.

Throughout my week-long stay in Budapest, I not only enjoyed my elegant apartment on the edge of district VIII but also the local life in a plentitude of cafes, pubs, bistros and Vintage Antiques!

This little antiquarian surprised late one night when I was wandering back to my airbnb in the rain. I had just dashed out of a downpour (the third of the day so I was bit exhausted of howling into the storm and then laboring to dry out) into a little restaurant that is not on google maps. 

It is located in a little square and sandwhiched between a few other pubs with shared outdoor seating.

Now, one of the things I will probably never get used to in Europe is that whenever I sit outside to dine in the fresh air I am always going to be tormented by smoking neighbors whilst I try to enjoy the fragrances of my flavourful foreign fare and eat.

At this particular place, I enjoyed the most rewarding quail egg chicken soup nourishment with the solitary red ale on tap I have thus far found in Budapest. Then on a full tummy, with lazy goodbyes to a breif friendship with a Canadian couple who commiserated with me our finding of the lack of open kindness to travelers in Hungary, I departed into the night towards 'home.'

That is is when I saw a little black fedora. Yes. I already own a couple at home, which I was reluctant to leave behind for my journey (but wished I had left home for my windy excursion in Iceland 2018). 

When I returned the next day with smaller bills, the fellow who owned the rummage shop told me I was a young Audrey Hepburn and that made my day.

This very morning I set out into my lical district to discover coffee and wander about, being as I'm a bit tired of bathing (see my recent post  on Turkish bath houses). 

I found a lovely little vintage shop with a loft so stuffy I didn't even take pictures but I was ready to buy up most their inventory if I'd had any room in my carry-on luggage.

Breakfast following a delicious corner stand coffee latte was at Lumen which was a very hip atrium style restaurant with a variety of foliage, shade and a menu. 

I was so pleased with my traditional Hungarian breakfast of salad greens, Prosciutto ham, sausage, hard boiled egg, toast and finely sliced red onions with a tomato. It took me all morning to enjoy this with a variety of lovely non-alcoholic drinks.

One of the most pleasing aspects of this little mico-region I am staying in Hungary is the environmental conviction similar to my native culture in Nor-Cal. The friendly sinage in the bathroom asks you to think of the trees if you use a towel and take only what you need.

To me, bohemian isn't only a catch phrase to tag a certain fashion sense. It is a way of life which not only treasures artistic heritage and beauty, but values mindfulness as a way of preserving cultural treasures.

How have you made sure your cultural footprint cannot significatly change what is timeless?