Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary

I hopped off of the train in Vienna, walked to the sightseeing spots, took pictures, ate wiener schnitzel and apple strudel, bought a souvenir and hopped back on the train headed to Budapest. That’s all the time I gave to Vienna.
 I have been using this answer since I was in my early 20’s when asked if I would move to another city for a man, “I could live anywhere if I was in love. I’d move to Budapest for the right guy”. I never really knew where Budapest was or even what country it was in. I just knew it sounded far away and very foreign. And far away and very foreign it is.
It’s a beautiful city, but it took me a few days of searching for its beauty to find it. The daytime and nighttime are just that….day and night. In the day, the sky is grey and smoggy. There is construction literally on every corner. Scaffoldings everywhere, cranes, bulldozers and detours through walking paths. The buildings look as if they need a good power washing to rid itself of years of filth and graffiti. But at night the city it able to mask the grime with soft lighting and take your eyes away from the construction with the reflections of lights on the Danube River.

The first day I arrived I had a cough that wouldn’t stop. I thought maybe it was from the air quality being so bad and the debris from the construction. I had heard about the Hungarian baths and that they were supposed to be healing, so I ventured out to find one and take a swim. Maybe it would rid me of this cough. It was interesting to say the least. It was basically a spa, but a little rough around the edges. Certainly, not like the spas I’m used to at the Four Seasons or William Burke. The workers are rough Hungarians. They don’t seem like very happy people. No smiles. No sweet reception girl willing to hold your hand as she slowly walks you to your massage room and smiles as she tells you where to hang your clothes. No soft music to gently carry away all of your stress. They were rough, tough and not interested in helping you out in any way. 

When it was time for my massage that another American had talked me into getting with a male masseur instead of a female, the “receptionist” didn’t say a word to me. She just kept pulling apart pistachios with her teeth and said, “Vour minuts. You wait.”

I stepped into the massage room where my 6’4 Hungarian masseuse was preparing the table. He laid a thin white sheet on the table and said sternly.” You undress.” I said, “Everything?” He said “Everything but bottoms”. He walked out briefly and pulled a thin curtain for my protection. I laid faced down on the table not knowing if I should be on top of the sheet or underneath. Well in the US, we lay underneath the sheet so it only seemed appropriate since I was practically naked. He came back into the room ripped the sheet off (I guess I was wrong), lathered up his hands and proceeded to give me the strangest and most unrelaxing of massages. At times, he was only using one hand. I envisioned him checking his watch with the other hand. He was literally just going through the motions. There was no soft music, no dim lights, no relaxation techniques and no real technique at all. He proceeded for 20 minutes and when finished said “Thanks” and walked out the room. Just left me there to fend for myself. No instructions on where to go next. No small glass of water served to me to rid me of any dehydration I may have.
I went back into the thermal baths to relax a bit longer. It was relaxing, so much so I returned the next day to try it again. And I did notice that night, my cough was completely gone and did not return!
I walked around Budapest the next day, took a walking tour of the castle, hit the spa and decided to stop at the Marriott on the way home for a bite to eat. As I sat, I was cordially invited to join another solo traveler getting ready to break bread. Coincidentally, my new friend, Chris, was from Cleveland, now living in St. Louis. Two solo travelers all the way from Ohio sharing a meal in Budapest. We exchanged stories of our trip and shared our knowledge of the local Hungarian liqueurs, Palinka and Unicum. We exchanged a taste and went our separate ways.
Next stop, Venice. Finally, I can eat.

Typical Hungarian meal. Meat or chicken with a paprika sauce.

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