Post-Post Psychological Apocalypse
After finishing my last blog post around 5 AM, I am AMPED. I start to drift off at 8 AM, even though I have big plans of spending all day at the baths. I toy around with the idea of not sleeping and heading over there super early with the hardcore bathing locals, but my self-care self decides against it. Instead, I set an alarm for 12:30 PM.
Shockingly, I am pretty energized when my alarm goes off. I throw on my swimsuit, collect my bath-going supplies, and set out over the bridge to Rudas.
Rudas is my favorite. Less touristy, more ancient-feeling, AND they have a Blade-Runner-style rooftop bath where you can overlook downtown and watch the sunset. Which I do.
Overheard/seen in the rooftop bathing pod:
Guy and girl are displaying all sorts of PDA.
Laughing, pawing, and smooching ensues.
Guy and girl float over to my side of the pod, and engage in a heated convo.
Guy is trying to explain to girl why he wants to get married someday.
Girl is horrified. “I can spend a lifetime without marriage. That way, I can leave a person whenever I want. Marriage is just about passing along a genetic seed, anyway.”
Guy stumbles over his words.
Girlfriend: “You can't even explain why you want to get married.”
Guy continues to stumble.
It turns into a fight, and they both get out of the pool flustered and uncertain of their own reasoning behind their beliefs.
Side note: I used ZERO online dating apps while abroad. In London, I was all over them, in fear that I would meet no humans in person. This time, I made a conscious effort not to spend time looking at my phone, swiping the day away. And I think I’m officially done with the dating app scene. I can do it. I can talk to a real human in real time. My Argentinian gentleman helped awaken the possibility of authentic connection, which had grown a garden of spider webs over the years.
I spend almost 6 hours at the baths, and it was THE perfect way to enjoy my next-to-last full day in Budapest. And I TOLD you, bathing is exhausting. I manage to pass out at 1 AM-ish that night. My intention is to take a boat tour up to the Danube Bend in the morning, and visit an adorable castle town called Visegrad. But I’m torn, cause part of me wants to spend my last day wandering around Budapest, savoring all the final moments of our deeply personal affair. I set my alarm early so I can decide what to do when I wake up.
Alarm startles me at 8:45 AM in the midst of palpably vivid dreams, which I'm too disoriented to remember to remember. After 3 snoozes, I lurch myself out of bed and sprint to the bathroom, thinking at least adrenaline can get me through: I'm going to Visegrad, baby!
One of the beauties of aging: I don't give a SHIZZ what I look like right now, so I'm ready in less than 10 minutes, and that INCLUDES my daily oil pulling routine. Mandy the Multi-Tasker.
I speed-walk to the ticket station, realizing I could've purchased a ticket online to save 15%. BUT, Spirit wasn't ready for me to buy it last night, I reassure myself.
On the way, I snap this pic. My friend Shelli and I visited Budapest almost exactly 10 years ago, and we snapped an almost identical pic, which is the 2nd image. This is meaningful because if you turn around with your back to the water and you walk down one block and make a left, I am staying in an Airbnb RIGHT THERE. Totally unplanned (and totally unremembered that we took this pic 10 years ago.) How crazy are life’s synchronicities?!?!?!
My original goal was to arrive at the station at 9:30 AM, as the clerk advised when I stopped by the other evening to inquire about the ticket-purchasing process. I arrive at 9:39, and I find my speed impressive considering I left my house at 9:27, and Google Maps said ... Oh, it said it would take 12 minutes. Ok, well at least I didn't eff that up.
I reach the window, and the cashier and I engage in a fun game of what-the-fuck-are-you-saying, until we finally get each other, and she tells me NO MORE TICKETS.
I plead. Maybe I can wait to see if someone doesn't show?
Vigorous head shake.
Are you sure? I mean, is it possible I can squeeze in somewhere?
THE BOAT IS FULL, she reconfirms.
I sink into the bench outside the ticket office, and re-plan my day. Ok, well, I guess I was meant to spend more time in the city. I could go to Godollo Castle, or I could go back home and do laundry and pack and maybe go to a different ruin bar tonight. I guess Spirit didn’t want me on that River today.
A few minutes later, I hear the ticket-taker's voice, and she has a big smile on her face.
YOU CAN BUY TICKET!!!
AHHHHHHH. You were faking me out, Spirit!!! You are such a trickster!!!
And 5 minutes later … I’m on a BOAT, mofos!!!
I settle into a seat by the window, and I cannot contain my excitement. I’m smiling so hard my face hurts.
Boat starts up around 10:00 am, and leisurely motors along so we can grab all the touristy shots of Buda Castle and the Parliament.
Once we pass those structures, we start going FAST. It's like a speedboat on steroids. I stick my head out the side door, and I feel like a dog with her head out the car window, stupid grin on her face, jowls flapping, drool flying. I even have to close my eyes cause I'm afraid the wind will blow the contacts right off of my eyeballs. THAT FAST. I am in heaven.
This is awesome. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. (I literally think to myself.)
The weather is beyond perfect, and we see so many cute towns, ridiculous cloud formations, and unique buildings.
And, we see this bridge! It’s an A … for Amazing. A for adventure. A for--obvi--Amanda. "Siiiiiiiign, siiiiign, everywhere a sign ...". I am headed in the right direction. Thanks, Spirit.
I am, however, starting to feel a little tickle in my throat, and very low energy due to day 3 of not enough sleep. Popping the OnGuard lozenges like whoa.
After about an hour of boating bliss, we arrive at Visegrad. I feel like a kid at the McDonald’s jungle gym.
Quickly, I scarf a snack, and then make my way up to the castle, map from a local hotel in tow. It’s quite a steep climb, but I’m stocked with water and comfy shoes. Let’s DO this.
I trek up these stairs.
Then I turn up a cobble stone street. And I hear them. They are not far behind. And there’s a LOT of them. I’m most definitely outnumbered.
There’s a swarm of them after me.
I try to outrun them through the entrance and up the cobblestone street but they're gaining on me.
There’s nowhere to hide, only one road, and I can’t turn back now.
I’m speed-walking as best I can, but I slowly begin running out of breath.
I stop to recover.
It’s too late.
They’ve cornered me.
That last one looked vicious.
Suddenly, by the grace of a shiny medieval distraction, they change direction, and I escape unharmed.
Back on the trail.
I reach a fork in the road, and based on the illustrated map, it’s relatively clear that I go right. SO, I go right.
I’m walking along for about 10 minutes, and I start to feel like this might not be the right way. And there are no signs. Panic sets in, especially when I see THIS place, and recall what the Hungarian Airbnb lady said—to be careful since certain unsavory folks would absolutely love to cash in on me for ransom or worse.
Make no mistake, despite my battles with low self-esteem, I know without question that I am worth a LOT in this country.
Spirit, am I going the right way?
Yep, just keep on trucking.
Why do I have so much doubt?
Because you are too dependent on your own mind.
Alrighty, then. I'll keep on trucking.
10 minutes later, A SIGN!!!
Indicating that my desired destination is in the opposite direction.
Spirit, SHAME on you. You lied!
No, my dear, you are always going the right way.
Ahhhhh, time to get all spiritual, eh?
I make the trek back down, the Castle far, far away but in my view.
The street I should be on is right on the other side of these trees.
I could wade through the woods. I mean, it's probs only like a hundred steps in.
Nah, let's not do that, Mandy.
I retrace my steps until I see a hidden staircase that seems to be the one that leads up to the castle.
Maaaannnn, what the heck!!! You’d think there would have been be a sign at the beginning of the road, like, Castle! This Way!
Oh, wait. There was
I’ve been in this place for almost 2 hours already and still have not arrived. I guess Spirit isn't ready to deliver yet …
Up the forest path I go. Again, children. But smaller and less screamy.
Very soon, I sense I'm headed in the wrong direction again.
Ohhhhhh, OOOHHHHHH! Signs, Mandy. Look for the S.I.G.N.S.ZZZZZZZZ.
Dang, it is steep on this trail!!!
How in the heck did those little kids hike up here?!?!?!
I think to myself in a grandma voice, “well, Shirley, my heart just ain't workin’ like it use TA!’
Speaking of hearts.
The place I’m headed to for lunch is surrounded by the Earth’s heart chakra. Here’s what the hotel website has to say about it:
"According to the work titled Gaia Theory published by NASA, the heart chakra of our Earth lays in the Carpathian Basin, in the Pilis Mountains. It is not a tiny place (compared to the size of the Earth) with a diameter of a few meters somewhere in Dobogókő, but it is the entire Pilis Mountains, moreover, many even say,the entire Carpathian Basin. While the Dalai Lama, upon his visit to Hungary, first rushes tothe Pilis Mountains, which he regards as the most important and most wonderful place of the world, the heart chakra of the Earth, and the ambassador of India regularly visits Dobogókő “to charge up”, the people living in Budapest, onlyhalf an hour drive from the Sacred Mountains, and the people living in Hungary, in general,still have no clue how valuable aplace they were born to. As according to the followers of ancient, pure religions, the heart of the Earth lays in the Carpathian Basin, more precisely in the Pilis Mountains. Our ancestors did not accidentally name the peak in the centre of the territory Dobogókő (beating stone). Once upon a time, with the help of the surrounding Danube,the Pilis region had a perfect heart shape itself, as it is also a fact that the peaks of the these mountainsreflect the positions of the main stars in the sky. To verify all this, it’s enough to just have a look at the map or to wander in the region. In 2005 Nepalese priests said that they had been praying for the Earth every day. Now “the Earth is in labour and giving birth to the future in the Carpathian Basin.”
During his stay in Hungary the Nepalese head of the Royal White Monastery of Nepal addressed the Hungarian people with the following words: "You Hungarians cannot even imagine how proud you may be of your nation, of your Hungarian nationality. We know for sure that the world’s mental, psychical and spiritual rebirth will commence in your country. The world’s heart chakra is in your country, in the Pilis Mountains.”
The hotel is surrounded by the sine curve of the heart chakra, the most important chakra of the Earth’s seven main energy chakras. The Danube as the river of Life draws with itsbig curve the motion graphic (jin-jang) characteristicof the two basic qualitiesin the Danube Bend. The centre of the female qualityis in the castle hill of Visegrád, and the centre of the masculine counterpart is in the Börzsöny Mountains. The most intense energy flow between the two poles can be measured on the Black Hill along the Visegrád-Nagymaros axle. This flow surrounds Silvanus Hotel."
Could this trip get any more perfect?!?!?!
After about 20 minutes of huffing and puffing up the forest pathway, I hear screaming children once again. The Mecca on high must be near.
Tricksters. I see the sign this time!
I reach the top, FINALLY.
I write a most crucial letter in my mind:
Dear Map Designers,
Could you be a wee bit clearer that the road up the hill is in fact a PATH THROUGH A DARK FOREST and not a clearly designated road?
Yeah, so, you can get here by bus. I've just reenacted the pivotal scene from M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.
Here I go up another set of stairs.
And at last, the moment I’ve been waiting for. Dunakanyar. Otherwise known as … The Danube Bend.
WOWOWEEEWAA is literally the only way to describe this place.
Y'all, I almost left on Tuesday and went to London. Could you imagine if I did that? (I've been saying that to myself a lot during this trip. Could you imagine if you missed that train? Could you imagine if Airbnb didn’t exist? Could you imagine if you never met the witch doctor? Could you imagine if you accidentally deleted this blog post after 2 hours of waiting for pictures to upload?!?!). I'm happy to report that Spirit is on my side and allows me to deliver these IN.SANE. photos to you. (I hope this makes you feel like we are not alone. We are together.)
After 3 hours of strenuous hiking, my hunger starts rising like a burning, churning steam engine. So I say my goodbyes to the Castle, and hunt for the Hotel Silvanus, which has food AND an infinity pool.
First, more vague navigation.
Which stairs would you take?
I magically find my way up to the fancy hotel. Lunch is unexpectedly delish, and cheap for a fancy hotel, and I hurriedly finish up so I can spend time at the Wellness Center. I only have 2 hours left due to my detour situation.
It’s flipping freezing outside, so I jump into the non-heated infinity pool, pretend I’m not screaming on the inside, snap these shots, and bolt inside to the jacuzzi.
By 5 PM, I realize I have only 50 minutes to get to the boat, and it’s a half hour walk to the opposite side of the town from the loading dock. It’s a small town, but still, I’m cutting it close. I sprint down the hillside, and it’s overwhelmingly exhilarating. I feel like I’m flying. I stop every now and again to capture images like these.
I descend so stealthily down the hill that I reach the boat with 10 minutes to spare. And the boat is virtually empty, so I have full reign of the boat land, popping in and out of windows to watch the river water kick up behind us and marvel at the beauty of the Earth.
I am supremely satisfied with my trip. You can absolutely do Visegrad in a day. But if I had a do-over, here’s my ideal itinerary so I wouldn’t be rushed and could bask in each of these most majestic of lands:
Day 1: Mahart Passnave Hydrofoil from Budapest to Estergom – stay overnight
Day 2: Catch the Hydrofoil from Estergom to Visegrad at 5:30 PM – stay overnight
Day 3: Catch the Hydrofoil at 5:30 PM from Visegrad to Szentendre – stay overnight
Day 4: Catch the HEV from Szentendre train station back to Budapest--last one is around 10:30 pm
By 6:58 PM, I am back in Budapest. I unload my bag at home, spend 30 minutes cleaning, and then walk over to the bridge to watch the sunset.
This is my last night here. I am beside myself with gratitude and sadness. What an incredible, unexpected growth experience. I truly feel like a changed woman. I say an impromptu thank-you prayer on the bridge, and contemplate the future. I’m so curious about the person I'll be when I see you again, BP.
Originally, I planned to wander through Raday Street and have dinner at one of the multitude of Etterems. However, I pull myself out of Mandyland, and clock that I have very little time to clean the rest of the house, pack and sleep. Instead, I check out the Sardinian wine bar that’s on the 1st floor of my building. I’ve passed by it every day for 30 days, but always felt too intimidated to enter. For whatever reason, it didn’t feel entirely welcoming. But, tonight, all of that changes.
I enter a virtually empty dark-wooded tavern. I snuggle into a bench near the bar, and allow the bartender to choose my adventure: Sardinian cheese, white wine, and a stew.
It’s cozy, and easy, and I’m so proud of myself that I chose the practical dinner location option. I’ll be home in 60 minutes, and in bed before midnight.
During dinner, the most fitting songs cycle though:
First, a song that repeats the lyrics, “the best thing to be, free as a bird.”
Then, “Do we need somebody just to feel like we’re alright. Is the only reason you're holding me tonight because we're scared to be lonely.”
THEN. They played Sad Song, and I lost it. Crying all over my Sardinian delicacies. I'm bawling, bending over in my seat pretending I'm looking for something I dropped on the floor but really I'm evacuating the snot in my nose and catching the overflowing tears from my eyes.
“So suddenly I’m in love with a stranger.”
Ok, so maybe I didn't fall in love with my Argentinian stranger but I do feel he ignited something within me that's been dormant for a long time. Since my last long-term commitment, which was roughly a year ago, I've been abstinent, only breaking from that once (perhaps a story for another blog post). I want that when I connect with someone, the experience has meaning (see, I'm creating meaning here! There is meaning in the world after all!), and I haven't felt the timing has been right. The Argentinian moved me—AND while remaining abstinent—and he has no idea what an impact he had (unless he’s reading this, then he knows). His sweetness, his honesty, his authenticity, his generosity of spirit--it restored my faith.
Also, I'm ovulating. So I love pretty much every man I see right about now.
ON CUE. The Caribbean island version of Sexual Healing plays. For realzzzzz.
T.H.E.N., the owner sits with me, two glasses of dessert wine in hand. I initially think he might be gay but then I realize he's just Italian. We engage in a 2-hour conversation, I share Peppermint oil with him and his head almost explodes, and he asks me what oils are good for blood flow and circulation (I wonder what for …) and we drink a bottle and a half of wine. He takes my business card, and then writes to me the next morning, requesting that I stay in touch and reach out if I’m ever in Budapest again. He cannot pinpoint why—sometimes it’s just magnetism, or maybe it’s those essential oils …
Can’t sleep despite 2 AM exhaustion. It just so happens to be the most powerful full moon of the year. When I think about the timing of this trip, it kinda blows my mind. I arrived in Budapest at the start of the retrograde, which is traditionally a time to relax, restore, rejuvenate, reflect—all the “re’s”, and then I leave on the morning after the full moon, when you’re meant to shed what no longer serves you, release painful emotions, and surrender to all that is. Just, wow.
And then, it ends. I awake at 6 AM, fired up on adrenaline, and shortly thereafter find myself on a FlixBus to Prague, and Budapest is a mere memory.
Even though I was alone--alone in Hungary, alone in the sense that one can never fully experience my experience since it is uniquely my own--I do not feel alone. The blogging was such a gift. To share my experience and connect with all of you throughout this journey. I felt like you were with me, and it made the trip all that more special. Thank you for reading and witnessing.
It ain’t over yet. I still have over a week before I’m back in LA. Stay tuned for my Czech Republic shenanigans.