Thursday, April 12, 2007

Be Heppy Mossage: finding Jesus at Kiraly baths

Heroes' Square

Budapest has an excellent public transport system, with an underground Metro linking to surface trams and trolley-buses. This morning I took Bondi on one of the trolley-buses to the large City Park where lies a number of the country's most important public spaces and well-known buildings.

Alighting at the intersection with Andrassy Ave, the first big sight is Heroes' Square, lined with statues of the founders of Hungary over 1100 years ago.

Heroes' Square

Bondi posed for some photos for me, and then for a cluster of tourists, lying down to lick his balls so he'd look nice and clean for everyone.

Szechenyi Baths

From there we walked to the Széchenyi Baths, the largest medicinal bath complex in Europe. I poked my head into the main entrance to check the range and cost of facilities, but was told this was ladies' day and that there was no list of items/costs in English. (I was a bit confused by this as I was sure this was a dual-usage pool, and Marton called them later to confirm, so either the attendant is deluded or has very poor English.)

Sunbaking by the pond, without any of that glare from the water; Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle was originally a cardboard pastiche of a Transylvanian castle, built for Hungary's millennial celebrations in 1896, but proved so popular that it was rebuilt in papier-maché plasticine stone. The castle courtyard is variously said to be worth seeking out, and overrated. I would opt for the latter at the present time, noting from my visits to parks and other open spaces around Budapest, that landscaping is not a well-developed art here. That's not meant as an aspersion on the city, which has a beauty frequently scarred by the vicissitudes of the 20th century, but indicates a hope that the ongoing face-lifts will make it shine more and more.

Statue of Anonymus, little known contemporary of Trad the Plagiarizer; Museum of Fine Arts

We lingered a while on the grass under a cherry tree with cascading pink and white blossoms ( a graft?) and then turned down Andrassy Ave and onto a tram back to the apartment.

The day was really warming up, so it was a good time to leave Bondi to sleep indoors and for me to try one of the bath complexes. I didn't really feel like going back out to the City Park directly (and facing the "Ladies Day" attendant again) so, on the advice of my friend Jonnie, opted for the Kiraly Baths, a short walk over the Danube into Buda.

I had been warned that these baths, which do have alternate men's and women's days, can be rather confronting on the men's days, particularly due to the confronting behaviour of some of the older gents there. However these are the very oldest extant Turkish Baths in Budapest, being nearly 450 years old, with a central pool under an octagonal cupola. You can't take pictures inside these pools, so look here.

When I was looking for some background information prior to my visit, I found this eccentrically amusing blog post about a young American who braved the Kiraly. It's worth reading before continuing here. His Dear MFA post is another to read (strong language and adult concepts to be found in each).

I was somewhat luckier than Little Hedonist, in that I only had 1 or 2 geriatrics stalking me from pool to pool, and being at least 20 years younger than most of the regulars there that day, a little faster on my feet. After about 30 minutes of this, studiously avoiding stares, and very assiduously avoiding noticing any unrepentant ball scratchers, I figured that I'd had my antiquities lesson for the day and headed back to the change rooms.

While scouting around upstairs for any interesting facilities I may have missed, and checking for any wardrobe escape routes to Narnia, in case any of the professors downstairs wanted to play hide and seek, I wandered in a large sunning room where a solitary staff member flicked through a magazine. From an ante-room, a largish man, reminiscent of a younger Meat Loaf, leapt up from his massage table, and beckoned towards me: "Komm, .... komm."
"Um... (do I really...?) ... How much?"
"30 minutes, 3400 Florint" [that's about 14€]
"Oh ...O..K.."

The time and money were an excellent investment. This guy really knew what he was doing, with probably the best remedial massage I'd had since I'd been to my regular "blokes like us need a panel-beating every few weeks" physiotherapist in Sydney a decade earlier. He twisted me in directions, that even Gumby wouldn't stretch to, and would occasionally mutter "Jesus" when he found a particularly horrible point on my back and I thought he would massage me "to the pain". I would hold my breath as if I were playing my way through 2pp of Chopin's Berceuse, leaving Randy, my piano teacher gasping in empathic suffocation.

However, he was skilful enough that he could move on to less sensitive areas for a time, and I could muster energy for the next bit. After nearly tickling me - "this is be heppy mossage" - I was nearly done. "You have nothing really wrong with you except beck" so he worked on that and found some more "Jesus" and I found a "MA-DON-NA" that had eluded me in all my massage experience. Then we were done "OK Boy".

So it was done. He got a very good tip "for helping me find Jesus."

I picked up Bondi and we went back to Liszt Ference Ter for lunch, with some nice Malay/Thai mango chicken at Karma. I must note that at every cafe we went to, the staff brought out water for Bondi almost immediately.

Figures holding up breves; the god of hemidemisemiquavers.

Later we walked past the Budapest Music Academy founded by - as Victor Borge put it, Fliszt.

Vangelis at the spa?; Planetarium at Nepliget

Early in the evening I went to a 50 minute laser-show at the Budapest Planetarium, featuring the music of Vangelis. The music was mainly drawn from his early albums such as China. The laser images were suitably abstract but at some point wandered off into strange realms with medieval faces coupled with what I thought was a floating brain. Toward the end, there were some disturbing and totally unnecessary images of children being lined up in a telescopic gunsight. I couldn't figure out what this had to do with the music, or indeed why the laser artists felt compelled to trot these out.

WB: West Balkans nightclub up the road
Completing the day, I went to a party, mostly comprised of Marton's student friends, all disturbingly young. I was treated to a few special Hungarian shots of spiced liqueurs to be downed in one go (particularly potent when you tip your head back and hit a door) and then mulled in quiet consternation.

1 comment:

  1. I just love the pictures of Bondi!! He is so handsome!!