Armchair Travel Blog

Adventures from Paris onwards circa 2012

Month: August, 2012

Quick Updates

Because I am beat, and beause law school is a lot more draining then I had even imagined it to be, let me succinctly surmise the last month.

I went to London. I went to the Olympics. I was at the Olympics Stadium. I saw Jessica Ennis. I saw Mexico defeat Senegal in an INTENSE match that would take them to gold. I swam two more times in the Hapstead ponds. And I liked it the third time.

R came down again into Budapest. We went to the Sziget festival. It was INCREDIBLE two days of music and party. It was followed by the Gellert baths. R had never been and so it was a nice way to work out the stress from the festival.

We took a 2 day trip in Vienna. It was wonderfully beautiful.

I went to a tea-house. I drank real weird but oh so tasty tea.

Then my RyanAir flight got delayed. 6 hours. We woke up at 3 am only to be told our flight couldnt arrive until 12:30.  Anger anger and no food.

I had one of the best Sundays of my life. Picnics, ponds, music, frizbee. I did puzzles and had Indian food. It was exactly everything I want my future Sundays to bring.

I came back to the USA. I had to bid R a ‘ciao bella’ until Christmas.

Law school began. And I am knackered.

I know at one point I will want to pen more of this trip to this blog, and I may start on it this weekend simply so that I will never forget it.

That and all our photos help too.

Baltonfüred

In the days following both the Baths and the Circus, we thought it would be high time to find ourselves on the shores of Lake Balaton.

The weather was warm and sunny and seeing as every Hungarian worth their salt takes a trip into one of the many cities dotting the shoreline. Siófok is by far the most popular tourist destination, but where the tourists go, so too does the grass get worn threadbare and the hotel rooms skyrocket. At the suggestion of a family friend who is a true Hungarian himself, he thought it prudent that instead of going to the one that everyone knows about, why don’t we try Baltonfüred instead. Pronounced “Baah-laah-tonne-fuu-red”, it is one of the smaller and cuter towns, and I could not be more grateful that he have us this as a place to be. Because ultimately lakeshore is lakeshore is lakeshore and what makes one better than the other when it’s the same lake, is really beyond me.

And so waking up at 6am to my siblings grumblings and hatred, we hopped the train from the Deli station to travel the roughly 2.5 hrs it would take to get to the lake. I hadn’t reserved a hotel in advance, thinking that for a Sunday evening there would be plenty of space, and I was not disappointed at all.

We found a hotel perhaps not ten minutes walking in a direction of our choice, going simply because there seemed to be people there, even if most of them were headed in the opposite direction. We wandered only by our whims (and the occasional tourist information sign) and were soon rewarded by coming to a big cross street. A little ways down where you could see the outline of the blue lake there was a hand painted yellow sign that said ROOMS FOR RENT.

Walking in simply because we were greeted by an elderly gentleman who spoke no English but I’m proud to say that my Hungarian was enough to book a room for three – and at a reduced rate! Turns out the man lives right down the street, from where we currently reside. He knew Budapest well and spent the majority of his days walking the same streets as us. Maybe it was that I spoke Hungarian and my siblings didn’t, maybe it was our earnest-ness, or simply because he liked us, but he gave us a beautiful room with a view and spacious accommodations for far less than I had anticipated.

Clearly we ended up spending all three nights there.

And the best part was that it was just over a kilometer walking on a pedestrian path on a beautiful strand to get to the beach.

Baths, Circus, Olympics

Regardless of the somewhat bumpy start in the road last week, we have finally arrived at the weekend, and that the last few days have been absolutely wonderful.

Thursday we went to one of Hungary’s most famous thermal baths, the Szechenyi bathhouse. Located right in the heart of city park Szechenyi Baths are some of the most famous Hungarian baths as well as having some of the hottest temperature waters at a scalding 76 degrees when it reaches the surface. Although by the time that it actually makes it to us bathers its at a quite toasty max 38 degrees. All of this is celcius of course, in case that hadn’t been made abundantly clear. I tihnk I’ve forgotten really what Farenheight is, and my sister always asks what 29 degrees means and I just say that it’s warm and really nice to walk about in.

So the baths and the circus day were a little swapped as when we went to the baths it was grey and drizzly, and the circus was warm and hot. However sitting in those hot waters outside and the best spin cycle invention when its drizzling is probably some of the most fun I’ve had on this trip. The hot tub kept us warm and the stress of the week eased out and away and I think it was good for the other two who perhaps aren’t as stressed as I am feeling but stressed nonetheless.

The start to the week was a little bit rough, and because the weather can be quite fickle, we had decided that the circus was going to be rescheduled for Friday instead of the Thursday. This was largely in part due to the fact that the circus was a small one ring circus as well as the fact that when we arrived 20 minutes before showtime on Wednesday (they are closed on Monday and Tuesday), there was a 45 minute queue. We had massively underestimated the popularity of this circus and while again I was perhaps the oldest one there without a small child of my own (I’ve two grown children instead) the only semi front row seats available to us for Friday’s admission were all of about 9 places total. However, because this circus is not a Ring-A-Ling brothers affair, even our last row of the closest seats were quite close to the action. This circus is a nearly year-round affair, and quite bigger than the small travelling one I found in Paris, however both had their charms and were quite unique and spectacular.

My sister was impressed with how close we were seated, and when I told her how close I was to the circus in Paris, she nearly couldn’t believe it.

The circus almost always has the same fare, right? the lions and tiger (panthers in this case) the tightrope walkers, and unlike the Parisian circus, had flying acrobats that make your heart jump into your throat when they release the bar. The cats weren’t as obedient as the Parisian ones, but can you blame them? They are cats, after all. Still they were beautiful with their coats and standing on two legs, jumping over one another.

The tightrope walkers did a swing music piece to their dancing on a wire, and the juggler nearly-successfully juggled 10 balls in one go. (I can barely juggle 3), but he was young and 10 really is a feat, so I wasn’t going to criticise him. They had huskies come out and slide down slides, as well as a flying acrobatic duo with a man who held on tight as the woman clambered over and around him a good 4 meters in the air, free of any harness. There was a contortionist who bended her body in what seemed unbelievable ways, and the clowns who would make chaos around the poor ring master. There were horses and the tumblers who would bring a springboard and send them flying onto the shoulders of another, with complete trust.

I feel that it may be impossible to come out of a circus feeling unsatisfied, as everyone wanted an encore with the last act of the clowns. My siblings were particularly taken with the circus, and I was pleased to have come and seen another circus. Unfortunately this time there was no hanging out backstage, and so we couldn’t admire the animals, but I would say that the overall level of production for this circus far exceed that of the traveling one. Although the traveling one, is in some sense of the word what a real circus should be about.

But because I can not do things in chronological order, let me speak briefly about the Szechenyi baths. One of the biggest and most famous thermal bath houses in Budapest, when we went it was a mostly cloudy day but it was still warm enough (and between you and me, I think it a little odd to want to go to a THERMAL bath when it’s above 30 degrees)

We spent most of the afternoon out of doors, and even when it started to rain lightly on us, I was reluctant to go in. The water is so warm that even swimming half a stroke is an exercise in and of itself because your muscles in the warm water turn a little to jelly and all you want to do is lounge and watch people watch people. But there is a nice cold(er) water pool right next to the hot one, and so we spent the majority of the time hopping between the two as we either got too hot, or too cold.

The cold water bath also had the best invention of all time. It was something like a Jacuzzi tub in the middle of the pool, but in the outside ring there were jet streams that would push the water along at a fairly fast speed with regular intervals and the people would go spinning spinning spinning around and around having a blast either sticking to the edges to go faster or towards the inside to go a little bit slower.

I feel that that was exactly what I needed because even though the secret was soon let out and as the water pressure built it was more and more people accidentally bumping into one another, it was just all of the stress seeping out of the bones. Eventually however, you have to get out because spinning and spinning and spinning one gets rather dizzy and woozy. However, it is not for too long because then the jets inadvertently will start up again and it’s impossible to resist it for too long.

A funny thing that happened was that my siblings had not realised that the thermal baths would have a…unique smell to them, one other than the standard chlorine fare. So when we first stepped into them, warm as they were, they were a bit confused as to why the water had a funny smell to it, something similar to sulphur. I’m not sure what exactly it is that makes the smell, but the Szechenyi baths have some of the hottest temperatures to it, and in places the water reaches the surface at 37 degrees Celsius. That is quite hot, like body temperature hot.

The whole decoration of the place is likened to a “wedding cake” look, and even though the baths are old and in need of some repair, the entrance was not much more than a movie ticket. (I would know, as we’ve done both in the last weeks) I guess growing up it loses some of its splendour, but it was still very rich and you could easily see that they prided themselves on the cleanliness of the water. (Although the changing room was an entirely different animal altogether) I think with a small bit of effort they could easily repair the faded and chipped corners, and bring it to the fame that it is slowly building. The water is hot and good for any aches, pains, and joint arthritis.

I felt the worries of my law school hanging over my head start to disappear.

That night I slept soundly, and heavily as the water completely knackers a person after about 4 hours in there.

I would love to go visit the other thermal baths, and it seems that there will be enough time for one more afternoon, although I think that next time we will go to the Gellert, with its wave pool and being likened to swimming inside of a cathedral.

It was also in this week that London 2012 Olympics started and while it’s always going to be the top 5 countries in the medal race, the USA included, I was thrilled to see that Hungary won men’s individual sabre gold medal. The 22 year old beat out the favourite Italian going to far as to single light many points. It was a wonderful match. And wonderful for Hungary because they haven’t won a medal like that in years! And Mexico men’s football team advanced Saturday to the semi-final. So while the USA and China battle it out for the medal count, at least in some places other countries (my countries) are winning some things. And if we can mention that Phelps finishes his Olympic career with 18 gold medals and just lost the 200M men’s butterfly by a whisker to the cutest South African kid that even showered with his gold medal. If Phelps isn’t one of the greatest Olympics athletes ever, if not THE greatest, then I don’t know. And it makes me all the happier because he started out in Baltimore!

Go MARYLAND!!

Coming right up, a post on our trip to the lake house.