Tag: holiday

Abandoning the new life for Glory!

So, Friday in Budapest. The day I had come all this way for, though not yet the hour. It was another beautiful morning, so I went into town on the metro, and back out again, on a bus this time. I allowed plenty of leeway for mistakes, thus navigated flawlessly and ended up arriving an hour early. Had a nice chat with an American teacher, and a very small, horrendously strong coffee, though. Because being ferociously overcaffienated is the perfect mental state to go behave quietly underground.

Because I was at Palvolgyi cave! 40-million-year old fossil shells and sea urchins embedded in the walls! 20-million-year old crystal formations! Million-year-old carbon dioxide bubble holes the size of beach balls! ‘Baby’ stalactites, ‘only’ a hundred to a few thousand years old! Cute hibernating bats! Lovely tour guide (“This place was used as an air raid shelter in WWII but nothing happened and nobody died so don’t worry, there are no ghosts”).

That was worth the trip. I even walked all the way back (downhill) to the edge of town, where I got back on the train and went to see the Roman Ruins at Acquinum. Sadly, the museum was shut for refurbishments (until the day after I leave), but the ruins themselves were just sitting out along the side of the dual carriageway, so I got quite the gander at them for free.

A nap and a fair bit of quiet fretting later, and it was time to get ready to go see Gloryhammer. Again, the curly mum-cut from hell makes for massive personal paranoia! (Why don’t you just buy a wig? said one of my best friends. It was good advice. I did. I dared not put it on and have it slide off. I went with the mum-cut and kept my hood up.

Fun fact, my actual mum has also invested in wigs, recently, because she’s complaining her hair is too straight.)

I wasn’t just paranoid about the hair. I was paranoid about getting lost/ getting barred/ finding the e-ticket was for some reason invalid and getting shouted at in Hungarian and being unable to find any suitable phrases for reply in the phrasebook. I was paranoid about everybody staring at me. I was paranoid about everybody laughing at me when I got home, even though I firmly intended to spin whatever went wrong as a hilarious yarn, given enough time, because laughing with me is different, damn it, and if I make people laugh with me I can kid on they might not laugh at me afterwards.

While in the queue, this security guard shouted at me in Hungarian, only like right up close in my face, and with hindsight I realise he was probably only saying, Move your arse, doll, a car is trying to get through, but I was prepped for mortification and promptly went beetroot. And stayed beetroot. Thank god I never brought the wig, it and my face would have matched. Well, and it will be dark inside, right?

Nope, lights didn’t go down for another half hour. I hit the local cheapo beer, discovered it tasted like the local cheapo beer back home, discovered the Weissbier was pleasantly cheap as well (a move I was to regret, the next day) and necked that instead while thinking thoughts about ice-cubes, and penguins, and the Arctic and anything to try and make the blush of mortification go the feck away already. Which it didn’t. It never does, not while you’re still mortified, and you can’t not be mortified with it, and so round and round you go. Hopefully everyone just thought I was drunk.

Still, I was in.

Listening to Windrose, an Italian band, singing in Hungary, in the only language I speak, as well as addressing the crowd in it, was quite the revelation. What was even more fascinating was, although the singer was using the kinda standard rock lyric growl (hopefully somebody out there knows what I mean; the voice is made to fit the music. Like that time I went to the thrash extravaganza with the G Monster back in the day, at the ABC, and one band had this lovely wee teeny Aussie lead singer who alternated between a formidable, hellhound-esque bass that sounded like it was rising up from the Pit itself for the songs, and thanking us all in a very squeaky Aussie accent in between them).

This was not thrash-singing, just rock-singing, however, these notes I can only describe as Pavaroti-like just sort of sailed out of his throat every so often. I wondered if he had been classically trained. I wondered if maybe being Italian just made that happen to you, no matter who you were or what you were singing at the time. I wondered what effect that would have on the careers of Italian rappers. I wondered what the Scottish equivalent would be, like if you were making a serious speech and whenever you got even slightly passionate about it you were drowned out by mysterious bagpipes, ruining your presentation on interest rates. I wondered if maybe the Weissbier might be a bit strong and a bit of a mistake.

Up next, Nekrogoblikon. I tried, I just didn’t feel it. I am sure they are very good at what they do. Thrash metal really isn’t my thing (cue flummoxation from anyone reading this who is all, There are supposed to be differences in all this noise?) Also, I blame the Weissbier.

And then… the moment of truth.

Well hey, and was I not close enough to actually make out the people on the stage, this time?

Since my memories of that part of the night are an incoherent mess of pure delight, I will just say that according to my notes, that blew the Glasgow gig out of the water.

On my way home – my carefully planned, short as humanly possible, way home – disaster struck, because of course it did. You have to pay karma somehow, I suppose. Or, look where you’re going.

There were people crossing this large and empty road, so I decided it was safe to cross it too; while checking wildly that nothing was coming in either direction, because I was half deaf from the gig. All I saw was a lassie in immense stilettos running across the road in the other direction, extremely awkwardly. I assumed this was due to the stilettos. I did not realise it was due to the fact that this tram line (unlike every other tram line I had crossed in Budapest, and there have been a few), had these little flanges of tile sticking up on either side of the rails. The predictable happened, and I suddenly found myself smacked in the face by the tarmac. Wow, so much less awkward than the way she crossed the road, not.

I laughed loudly, because some other people had seen me go over, lurched to my feet and sprinted away in case something finished the job by driving over me. I staggered the remaining hundred feet or so to the hotel, ordered a drink at the bar as nonchalantly as I could, and took it up to my room. I discovered in the lift mirror that I was covered in blood and had scuff marks all down me like I’d been pawed by an allosaurus. Yeah, classy. No wonder the barman was trying not to piss himself laughing.

On the other hand, if I’d had the wig on, I’d probably have had to abandon it in the street, so there is that.

Still worth it, however.

Abandoning the new life for Budapest – part two

The hotel had a swimming pool. Budapest, too, is famous for all sorts of swimming pools and spas and all sorts of historical relaxing water-themed havens. I have fallen afoul of such places in the past, but I was determined to put that behind me, and had accordingly packed a bikini. Simple. Black. Possibly never before worn, but I had tried the bottoms on over me pants while packing and decided it would do.

Turned out, I own two simple black bikinis. I had brought the bottom half of both! I had brought the top half of neither!

So the hotel pool was out. Seriously, my lovely friends back home, due to the power of the internet, suggested I go in a bra and fake it, but there is a slight problem in that I have a) dropped a dress size since becoming single and b) not had the budget for a new wardrobe, so various things are in various degrees of peril of falling off as is, let alone in a situation where they’re the only thing I’m wearing.

Okay, there are nudist sessions though! Said encouraging, lovely people.

Yeah. Let us now recap all the other times I tried that.

Exhibit A: Prague. (I think it was Prague?) I had a polka dot bikini. I was 19. I was inter-railing. You could go topless, but there was no damn way I was. Though I think it might have been the first time I’d ever worn a two-piece, so I was feeling pretty damn self-conscious about my stomach anyway.

The damn bikini top somehow undid itself and I didn’t notice until my boyfriend, whose inter-railing I had paid for, screamed in horror and subsequently sulked the rest of the day on account of, I must have done it on purpose, for Attention. Traumatised for LIFE. (Me, that is; I don’t care about him). (Wait, he was the one who did the knot, if memory… ah screw it).

Exhibit B: Gothenberg. I was in my early thirties. I was more confident (I keep telling people I am way more confident now, nobody ever believes me). I was not wearing anything at all, as per the instructions the guidebook, flyers and several different websites had all screamed at me, because it was a traditional Alhambra-style spa on the end of a pier and No Clothing Was Allowed. They made it very clear if you tried it there would be a Scene and you would be forced to leave.

I dutifully got out of all my clothes and started trying to sneak unobtrusively right across the centre of a big, empty space to the showers. Everybody gasped in horror. I tried to be less British about it and unclench my shoulder-blades from being wrapped around my ears. Everybody gasped louder. I checked if I had forgotten to remove a sock or something. Nope, all good. The hell?

Then I realised that, while everybody else was also not wearing anything, they were all, without exception, wearing a gigantic towel from armpits to ankles (and a full face of make-up, bugger, got that one wrong as well). And they were all looking at me like I’d just squatted for a poo in the middle of the floor, while giving them the middle finger. Oh my God, a Scene, my greatest nemesis. Since I was travelling with hand luggage only, I did not have any sort of towel at all, let alone one that would suffice. I got dressed and ran away.

Exhibit C: Berlin. A hostel. Mid thirties. I went down to the showers early in the morning and found them to be reassuringly familiar looking, like the showers you see in a swimming pool, for instance. Then I realised this was because there were no curtains. So, you what, you shower naked in front of everyone? This is not going to be like sodding Gothenberg again, right?

I was only in Berlin for two days, I had not brought a swimsuit. But nobody else was about, so I had no idea what was expected here. I threw my clothes on a shelf and went to the last shower of the row, thinking at least everyone half my age would not want to be walking past me. Besides, if I showered really quick nobody would-

The door opened and everybody walked in. Everybody in the whole world, or at least all the women. They were indeed all half my age. They all showered with their T-shirts on. I had to walk, starkers, past every single one of them to get back to my clothes.

After mentally reviewing all that, I decided there was no way I was going anywhere near a spa. Well, anywhere inside a spa. There was a spa by the zoo, for instance, and not only right behind the Square of Heroes but right across from a castle, and an ice rink, I mean, everything in one place! and I had been planning to go to all of the above in turn (except the ice rink because I have never skated in my life), but not without sufficient protective equipment.

So I went to the zoo instead. This was great. There were free range iguanas, there were wolverines gallumphing about (I have been to many zoos which claim to have wolverines, but for all I know they got out immediately and the evidence is being concealed. This is the first time I have actually seen some. Plus, now I know they gallumph!) There were also two polar bears kissing with tongues. That was… weird. I thought only humans did that. They weren’t very good at it, or maybe they were by polar bear standards, who knows, but that was definitely an eye opener. There was also a tiger eating breakfast and a brown bear playing with a tyre, most of which were also things you never see, so yeah, hit the zoo the minute it opens, people. Actually, don’t, I’ll never get a look in.

I have now discovered that, like that apocrypha about rats in London, in Budapest you are never more than a stone’s throw from a gluhwein seller. Should you be in a wide open area, with no shops that could possibly sell gluhwein, not to worry, an enterprising grandmother with a kettle will have set up on the pavement for all your gluhwein needs.

I can also say about the place (digs out notes):

Do not dither about within two feet of the kerb, cars will stop for you and you will be forced to cross the road out of politeness. You may end up streets out of your way.

If you fall over, you will end up in either a seat or a bin. They are everywhere.

The public transport system is entirely idiot-proof. I am that proof. There is also a metro train once a minute.

I went back for another cruise on the river in the evening, because I fancied doing it in the dark as well, why not, and that’s one of the joys of holidaying on your own, there is nobody to be all, sake we did that already. This cruise was harder to locate than the other one, and all I can say is, all hail the bolshy Asian tourists who, once we had assembled by dribs and drabs at the the right dock, not only harangued the staff until they found out where the location had been changed to, but then told the whole crowd and led us to the right place. In English, no less.

Imagine if they hadn’t. I’d have been freezing my fingers off for an hour, watching the sun set over the Danube, the sky turn lilac and night steal over the city, for nothing.

(That was supposed to be a joke. Damn, out of, The city, by day, in sunlight, and, The city, by night, with the stars out, I pick the latter though).

According to my notes, the metro at night smells of hot, sugary donuts, which is unbearable when you’re starving.

And in conclusion, I did go on some water after all, and this time the gluhwein was free, and none of my clothes fell off and it was great.