Doing What the Locals Do

I will totally own it.  I’ve said it.  I say it, in fact, every time we travel.  “Let’s do what the locals do!”

I mean, locals go to the Dubai Mall, right?  That counts.  And Angkor Wat.  Those are totally local things.

We're local here. Seriously. The Angkor Wat complex is local, and we're visiting it. It's local.
We’re local here. Seriously. The Angkor Wat complex is local, and we’re visiting it. It’s local.

 

I do get there are way more tourists at the Petronas Towers than there are locals, so we try to stretch it a bit more.  Sometimes this is a brilliant idea – like eating at the local restaurant across the street from our Nea Smirni HomeAway rental in Athens, where the food was plentiful and we ended up with four courses for five people for under 35 euro.

Sometimes this ends badly, like the time we planned on using public transportation in Zurich and got to the train station after everyone went home and no one was there to help us with the train ticket machine that wasn’t working. Keepin’ the travel real, that really was dispiriting – especially when we decided to get some Burger King comfort food and try to figure the situation out and ended up paying nearly $55 US for three meals and five drinks.

Sometimes, like the time we decided to go to the baths in Budapest, the experience is exactly that – an experience, with side helpings of good and bad.

Budapest was my amazing, steampunk, delicious foodie, wonderful coffee, romantic walks along the Danube River favorite city in Europe. Hands down.
Budapest was my amazing, steampunk, delicious foodie, wonderful coffee, romantic walks along the Danube River favorite city in Europe. Hands down.

It wasn’t easy to convince my husband to go to the baths in Budapest. For starters, a bath house in America doesn’t have the same connotation as bath house in Hungary.  It was something I had heard amazing things about, though, and really wanted to do.  I managed to convince the husband by promising that we’d go family-friendly and upscale at the Gellert Baths.

The stately edifice of the Hotel Gellert, a short tram ride and walk from our accomodations.
The stately edifice of the Hotel Gellert, a short tram ride and walk from our accomodations.

Once I got him to agree to attend the baths with me, I braced myself for the next, much more difficult struggle.  My husband was going to have to change his bathing suit style.

These are definitely not the board shorts you are looking for.
These are definitely not the board shorts you are looking for.

When I broke the fait accompli (I had already purchased an appropriate swimsuit for his visit to the baths) to my husband, he very nearly refused to go to Budapest at all.  This is a man who, for years, would wear a t-shirt under his t-shirts.  He doesn’t even like to wear shorts unless we are standing directly on the sun.  All of his swimwear falls into the board shorts category.  The idea of wearing a  skimpy piece of fabric smaller than his underwear caused a rebellion the likes of which the universe hasn’t seen since the destruction of the Death Star.

“But you’ll be *such* an obvious tourist!” I pleaded.

“I *AM* a tourist!” he countered.

In the end we compromised.

Not board shorts, not a speedo - something horribly, horribly in between.
Not board shorts, not a speedo – something horribly, horribly in between.

I informed my husband that I had done my research, and that he was lucky that our particular spa of choice did not require nudity.  He responded that he had just made the executive decision never to visit Finland.

He was also very skeptical of my assertions that when we washed up before entering the spa, we needed to make a big deal of how vigorously we were cleaning ourselves.  “It’s a SHOWER,” he said.  “You are OBVIOUSLY getting clean.  Everyone knows that!”

Our arrival at the Gellert Spa was amazing.  The architecture and decor are breathtaking and smoothed over the fact that there was no one around at our particular visit time that spoke English.  We did finally figure out how to pay and how to enter the spa, but we immediately got lost in the maze of rooms and corridors that make up the baths.  We finally found an attendant who spoke Russian (multiple languages are a bonus when traveling, right?) and were able to get to our changing cabin, then head up to the showers.

It was when the husband and I met up after the showers that he admitted my internet research had, indeed, been correct.  Husband pulled into a shower area next to a rather elderly, and quite hirsute, gentleman.  Husband got his soap out and proceeded to take a quick and efficient Army shower when he noticed that the gentleman next to him was on his third rotation of soaping up his armpit hair.  As the gentleman soaped, he also cleared his throat.  When he put his body under the shower head to rinse off, he gave a hearty and long grunt, the sort of thing you usually only hear when a group of Russian men are 3/4 of the way through their allocation of post-wedding vodka.  The man would then stamp his feet, turn around, and soap another part of his anatomy.

All told, husband’s quick Army shower turned into a 30 minute cleaning the likes of which would horrify any Californian following state water restrictions. Every time he felt clean, the hirsute gentleman would start yet another round of intense soaping.  Husband was trying to fit in, it was only right that he would soap up all over again as well.

In the end, he used the entire bar of hotel soap we took along for showering purposes. That man was *clean*.

By the time we reached Budapest, we had been traveling for two weeks on trains, planes, and two nights in an Ibis Budget hotel (which actually had a better bed than our Vienna apartment rental).  Travel is fantastic, but it is also exhausting and hard on your body.  I was counting our spa visit as medicinal.

As far as medicinal experiences, the spa definitely did not disappoint.  When we left, after going from pool to pool and hot to cold, every muscle in my body was completely relaxed.  My bad back, my regular aches and pains, everything had disappeared for the moment.  I even fell asleep without a single twinge that night, and I have chronic insomnia.

On the awkward side – some lady in the shower pointed out that I had a bug-bite of some sort just above my butt-crack.  I’m pretty sure that standard etiquette is that you are supposed to keep your eyes to yourself, which is why it is supposedly okay to soak around naked, but maybe she saw it as an opening to practice her English?  I don’t know.

I would totally do it again, though.