The weather forecast for today is a high of 38’c (100’f) and a low of 23’c (73’f). This is indicative of the weather we have been experiencing for weeks now. Although it is not humid, the heat is exhausting, and there is no breeze to provide relief.
We are due to switch hotels today. We do not need to checkout until midday, and we are enjoying the air conditioning so much, that we cannot find the motivation to get out and about. We treat ourselves to a breakfast that is so late that it becomes brunch. I have a complimentary glass of sparkling wine to go with it. I feel slightly guilty that we have come all this way to Europe, and we are doing something we could do perfectly well at home – but touring can be hard work, and the occasional pamper is called for.
Nevertheless, after we switch over to our new hotel and find the room is not ready, we shake ourselves up enough to go for a walk beside the Danube River, and use a free voucher for a hop-on hop-off boat.
The cruise passes the spectacular buildings of the Castle District, Parliament House and various churches. There is a stop on the Buda side of the river from where we can stroll up to the castle. We have heard that the view from there is a ‘must see’. For the moment though we decide to stay on board and go on to Margaret Island, a large land mass in the middle of the river. We think it will be mostly parkland, and are surprised to find instead a busy recreational area. There are two hotels, two swimming pools, a small zoo, various fountains and statues, a rose garden, bars and so on. Visitors can hire pedal cars or small electric carts to get around the whole island. We ignore those and set off for a stroll, but the heat gets the better of us. We only manage to cover about a quarter of the island.
I could imagine that Margaret Island would be a popular family destination for the local population when the weather is milder. Today, the fountains were very popular with those hardy souls who have ventured out in the heat. Although the signs read “no swimming”, people were sitting around the edges dangling their feet in the water. We saw this again later on our way back to the hotel. Budapest is sizzling, and people are trying to get relief any way they can.
For us, that meant a pleasant splash in the indoor pool at the Sofitel Hotel. (This is the hotel we have moved to – but only because we had prepaid it from Australia when it was on a super duper sale). The attendant told us the temperature was set at 26’c, and Bill almost turned his nose up at that. In the end though, he welcomed a dip. As for me, it is heaven. I can jump straight in with no hesitation.
Jay and Waddy came in late afternoon from a full day trip, hot and bothered. We wandered to a nearby outdoor market stall area for a “fast food” style dinner. The talk turned several times to the weather, and how extremely hot this particular day had been. All four of us seemed to do it tougher than any other day so far. “Over 40, I heard,” said Waddy.
I go to buy a drink from one of the stalls, and the woman and I have a mimed conversation about the weather……She pulls out her iPhone and shows me the temperature inside her open walled hut – 48’c or 118’f. I wonder what the actual temperature in the street reached today? We seem to have been particularly sluggish. This is the weather I expected in Abu Dhabi, not Hungary.
Still, we manage a walk around the city streets after dinner. It is busy, but not so crazy busy as Prague. The heat will be keeping people indoors. All the same, I marvel at all the nightlife one can find on the streets in Europe. There is always something going on, and most of the time it looks as if people are enjoying themselves without getting too wasted and annoying others. At least at the times we are out on the streets.
We watch a man tuning a set of drinking glasses, two rows set at different heights, around ten glasses in each row. He is getting ready to busk for the passers by. It is a serious business, filling each one with just the right amount of water so that it makes the perfect note when struck with a mini drumstick. I am no musician, but I can appreciate he has a good ear. When he starts to play we are impressed with his speed and skill. He tops them up with a squirt of water every so often (to keep them in tune). Perhaps the water is evaporating in this heat.
And now I am sitting at the picture window of our room in the Sofitel Hotel, looking out on the Chain Bridge and castle, all gloriously lit, and I can still hear the tinkling of his playing, even though we are three floors up. Trams ply up and down the track running along the river. The river is rippling as if there must be a breeze, but the tops of the trees are still. Perhaps it is just the amount of river traffic. People are strolling around the area below in two’s and threes. Small flying insects are batting at the window glass. No doubt they are attracted by the light in the room. I am sitting up late, trying to catch up on many days worth of writing.
Sitting at a picture window in a classy hotel in Budapest, admiring the unique view. I can think of many worse places to be writing. How lucky am I?
Thursday 8th August 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Budapest Hungary