When I first arrived at Budapest, stepping from the metro into Deak Ter, a square close in to the centre on the Pest side of the river, men and women stood standing silently, in ones, very much alone like statues. They were waiting for someone, someone special, romantic ones presumably as they all looked a little excitably tense. I, the newly arrived hobo, slightly harassed and needing a wash slumped down on the steps of the church to wait for Zoltan, my host for my first 4 days in the city, sitting as opposed to eagerly standing.
And so he came, in between these twitching figures and plucked me from their midst to his little flat in a practically silent early 20th complex, pseudo-art deco in design. With a trim goatee, his narrow face resembled in part the Turkish roots he had. Staying too was Damian, another stray, whom Zoltan had found dropping his water bottle from his touring bike and, serendipity throwing its dice into the equation, he suggested he stayed here too. He had travelled a similar distance, but not on the back of other peoples lifts but on his own pedal power!
Together the two of us saw the Memento Park the next day, a curious collection of rather stridently physically enhanced soviet statues, long removed from their city homesteads to stud way out at the edge of the city. One had both fists clenched, his eyes blank but his face physically committed in nerve and sinew, raw passion running around every feature, and his 20 foot high frame was running down towards the awed visitor in a fit of communist fervour. Their too a museum to the "Young Pests", Budapests famous youth who stood upto the socialist regime in 1956 and were killed off in their thousands in their attempt to lay siege to the radio, and were nevertheless an inspiration to resistance across the soviet controlled east. A comical KGB videotape for training recruits in how to track, interview suspects or make new recruits, accompanied by incidental jazz music and some hammy acting, added a rather lighthearted, and so therefore a sinister, complement to the history. Well worth seeing if you go.
Another day, and I doze, stretch, lie, eat, drink, eat and finally after a wander outside, come back again for an early night. Am tired. Another day and I take a lift with zoltan out to the east where he drops me at a thermal bath, and relying on its flotation properties, i dangle my whole body there in its mineral rich waters and reconnect my mind with my body again and once again, a day of rest and I hitchhike home, really easy with just 3 lifts.
In one lift, with Ferenc, we were at crosspurposes in our conversation. Sitting there, I was observing out of the corner of my eye women standing by the side of the road, one every kilometre or so, and women they all of them were! Hmmm, i thought. Meanwhile, he was mentioning the speed cameras and that he was having to travel slowly at certain points. I, my mind wondering to the site of boobies at 90km/hour, point to the side of the road and go "sex?". Ferenc, it appears, hasn't heard me, but continuing on his story he writes on the dashbaord the numbers 60000. Now this is in florints, which is 200 pounds sterling, a lot of money. And in his words... "Hot Money!".
Eh? Yup, his face is lit up in quite exquisite expression; does he mean that's what one must pay for sex? Well, as it turns out this was for a road fine, but as i am sure you will appreciate, this is no less extraordinary by english standards anyhow and it certainly foxed me, his choice of "hot" as an adjective with his look of strained enthusiasm. So watch your speed in Hungary, but dont drive too slow or you will be stopped for curbcrawling. Maintain a balance.
IT was the next day that I went to Budapests favourite feature, the bath house. The most beautiful of these, the name escapes me, is a vast yellow and white building, a cross between a hotal and a mansion, upon entering and oaying you enter a reassuringly luxurious changing block with wodden changing rooms, their doors like cupboards, and some rather severe looking attendants in all white uniforms. A quick change and a prompt exposure of glistening white flesh, I escorted myself through to the bathing area and upon entering found myself in a maze of quite decadent proportions. To describe it, it can only be described as like a dream, room after room of nipple-tweaklingly hot baths, head-noddingly hot saunas and throat-throttling cold plunge pools opening up to you one after the other, and when you get so far in it is hard to remember where you are as the rooms all seem to look the same. Watch Last Year in Marienbad and you will see the fully clothed version of this, except in a luxury hotel and not a bath house and in these rooms each one packed with beautiful and bizzarre bodies, walking sitting or reclining and not stiff society people in black tie and evening dresses. To the artist, or the downright pervert, this was heaven and I, being an artist of course, had a good look/ Again, I let my body relax and let time run its course, and so it did and quickly too, and after nearly 4 hours of skinwrinkling fun I wandered over the river to the east side, to Pest, where Dodo was awaiting me with a tent for the night. As it turned out he was late home, so it was not practical to set up the tent, so i had the floor in his room, and before bed chatting with the 4 other guests and drinking beer,and then he and two spanish girls and I went for a walk to see Pest from a nearby hilltop. Lovely! So to bed and to dream. The next day again was a day of chillaxing, a little nap in his garden by an ant infested lizard, some exercises, a wander to the supermarket and then in the evening some vegetables, lots of them in fact, and then after a fiery thunderstorm and meeting Dodos lovely partner Andrea, to bed again. Another simple day, and much needed. Especially as for the next 3 nights i wound have no sleep at all!