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May 13, 2002
Breathe, My Pasty Friend, Breathe!

By El Conde
from the boris and natasha dept.
BUDAPEST (JNS) _ Looking at what appeared to be a 2-foot by 2-foot apron with three strings coming from it, I thought ''I am not putting this on.''
''G-Money, '' I yelled to Gibran in the next changing booth at the hot baths, ''I'm going to ask theguy how to do this.''

I walked up to the attendant at the Hotel Gellert with a perplexed look on my face, and he said ''Shorts,.... OK."

"Koesenem," - ''Thank you" _ I said and we walked down to the termal furdő, or hot baths, where men of all shapes and sizes walked around with the aprons on and their butts exposed.

First, we into the 36-degree (celsius) pool, and quickly switched over to the 38-degree water, checking on the tiled walls and arched ceilings, and skylights. Looking at the burly, all male attendants I said to Gibran ''I am not getting a massage here," thinking the conversation would sound something like the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

"Breathe,my pasty friend, breathe in the healthy vapors," I imagined Boris would say as he broke every bone in my body, and then told my family at the hospital. "He is so weak, I hardly touched him."

After switching back and forth between the hot pool, which a tile sign said had 10 percent of something in the water, and cold showers and an even colder third pool, we decided to check out the swimming pool, called something like the Uszsoda furdő, which we were told was another 500 forints each. The pool was spectacular with huge stone columns on each side and an arched roof with a skylight that rolls opens on sunny days.

After a lap or two, I went into another heated pool just behind the large pool, where a number of Italians were also enjoying the waters. After about an hour, Gibran and Idecided we should leave before we become so relaxed we fall asleep and drown.

So, we dressed and went back to our apartment, to rest from the long day.

We started the day with an excellent breakfast spread in a comfortable wood-paneled salon in the bed-and-breakfast. Bread, yogurt, a mild blue cheese, fresh tomatoes, orange juice and a chilled cherry soup.

After commenting on the size of the dining room, and the house in general, one of our breakfast companions, Reni, said the house had been owned by a single family at one time.

''A century ago. Once the communists took over it was divided into apartments," she said.

A friend of hers recently bought a 90-square meter apartment nearby for 100,000 dollars, she said.

''Expensive,"I said.

''Yes, a little. Because it is soquiet and so close to the city center," she said.

Fortified by breakfast, we headed off toconquer the Citadella again, this time touring the inside, where we viewed the Soviet-era anti-aircraft artillery. We also learned about Kelt Kor, the age of the Celts, who were the first to settle the hilltop (which was called something like Oppidium at the time. They were followed by the Romans, but the strongest impression was made bz Szent Istvan, Saint Stephen, who converted the country to Christianity, and Saint Gellert, the son of wealthy Venetians, who dedicated his life to God after he fell ill, or something like that. Gellert taught Stephen's son, and the rest is history.

After leaving "a citadella," we walked across the next bridge, Erzebet Hid, Elizabeth's bridge, bought a bottle of wine _ a bottle of Villanyi chardonnay, slightly tart and avuncular, not at all villainous like its name implies _ and headed to the market to buy items for lunch at our apartment before an afternoon swim.

At the market, on the Pest side of the Szabadsag hid (across from the Hotel Gellert), I discovered you can get very far by saying szaz (pronounced sahz) and gram _ 100 grams _and pointing at various cheeses and sausages. We choose a fresh feta flaked with parsley (2 dollars for a half pound), and some paprika sausages similar to Spanish chorizo (a dollar).

The biggest problem was finding bread _ I had to trout out "hol van a kenyer" _ "where is(going?) the bread."

We were pointed to the bread and on the way passed the lady who sells pickled items, and bought 100 grams of sweet gherkins, a red pepper stuffed with slightly sweet sauerkrat and what appeared to be the pickled hearts of onions.

Posted by Alex at May 13, 2002 12:03 PM
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