After a day or two in Bratislava, we took a train to Vienna where a very angry Uber driver yelled at us in several languages we could not identify before dumping us out onto the street in front an airbnb apartment we had booked.
Skylar, who decided to come late to the party flew into Vienna later that night, just in time to force us to go to a symphony that was so boring that if you took my pulse at any point during the performance you would have discovered that I actually had a negative heartbeat, which means that the symphony was not just taking time out of my present. It was somehow taking life away that I had already lived.
I posted about this on Instagram and somebody excitedly asked what the orchestra played, to which I responded "EXACTLY." This person is a conductor or music chief or whatever the hell the person is called so I probably now have one less Instagram friend.
Vienna was lovely and without much drama, until the last night when we decided it was time to try to book an airbnb for our next city, Budapest.
I travel in a way that probably gives some of you hives. I like to know where I'm starting, where I'm ending, general dates for those two events, and then I just figure out the rest when I get there. While this type of flexibility often allows for the most interesting stories, it does sometimes mean that I'm homeless in Bulgaria or detained by Jordanian police.
These international crises are all fine and good when my own peace and happiness are the only thing on the line. But when I suddenly feel responsible for other adults, whom I have assured over the last two months that we "really don't need to plan anything because it always just works out!" especially not even 48 hours after getting detained by Slovakian police on a bus, making sure that things do, in fact, "work out" is a much more stressful experience.
And so, attempting to find accommodations in Budapest for the next night, a panic rushed over me as I discovered that there were no places to stay.
I know you think I'm exaggerating. I'm actually not. I was even texting my sister Krishelle during this crisis for some help from someone who also travels like Amelia Bedelia on crack. She can vouch for me. There was no room in the inn.
A few very strange places popped up on Airbnb, but they had zero reviews, and it took only a few seconds to identify that these were scam postings.
I looked for hotels on every hotel site I have ever used. Budapest for the next night turned up "zero results" on nearly all of these. The only exception was orbitz.com, which listed two hostels with availability for shared spaces at, and I'm not kidding you about this, $800 per night.
I scoured the Internet for an explanation for why the entire population of Earth was going to be in Budapest that weekend. I found zero answers for this.
I frantically messaged every human I could find on the internet who has ever even heard the word "Budapest." Nobody could help.
Eventually, and I swear this is true, I booked a yurt that I found nestled in the mountains 45 minutes away from Budapest.
It was the description that pulled me in:
"Welcome our heppy yurt! we for love to all in this place. There will be an entired conception for gravitation and you will spirit with all and all with it. Please to not in smoking but only for companion. To find, you drive for metro to bus 75 in hills and then to leave bus only 3 kilometrs walking and you see yurt! Scream for name! We have food."
When I told the others about where we would be staying, I only read the last sentence to them, since it was the most promising one.
The next morning Emily checked all eleventy million hotel sites again and happened to find that one apartment had opened up for that night only. She booked it, and suggested that we consider forfeiting the nine nonrefundable dollars I had paid the yurt people.
We rolled into Budapest with a place to stay that night (Friday), but we needed one for the next night as well, since Anna and Emily had a flight out of Budapest on Sunday morning.
If it was difficult to find accommodations for Friday night, Saturday was impossible.
That is, until Skylar, the being of wonder and light that he is, swooped in and saved the day.
If you've ever read Stranger before, you know that Skylar is a ridiculous human being. But what you might not know about him is that he lives in hotels, and because he lives in hotels, he basically owns Marriott.
I'm not kidding about this.
Skylar travels for work all week, every single week, for several years now. He sleeps in hotels at least four nights out of every week. Sometimes more. When you add all of that up and carry the one, that amounts to 1,200 nights per year.
This is a miserable way to live. They should have 5Ks for people like Skylar. We should be legally required to keep him in our prayers.
BUT, there's one big perk. Because Skylar lives in hotels, Skylar has some kind of Marriott status that I didn't even know existed. I don't even know if there's a name for it. He refers to it as "the holy Virgin Mary Celestial Kingdom" status.
And you might think that's an exaggerated name, but that's just because you've never walked into a hotel lobby with Skylar.
When I walk into a Marriott, the person at the front desk basically screams at me before taking all of my money, punching me in the face, and then shoving me into a toilet.
That is not the experience Skylar has.
Skylar is treated differently than you and me.
He walks in and the people immediately start called him "Mr. Westerdahl" in hushed voices. And they hand him things. And he snobbishly says things like, "my room better be exactly 68 degrees or I'm going to be veeeeeerrrrry disappointed."
Ok, he doesn't actually say that. But he COULD, and that's the point.
But I truly believed that Skylar's magical powers could not possibly overcome Budapest's determination to make us get murdered sleep in a yurt.
I was wrong.
Skylar called a number and someone answered it without it even ringing, calling him by name, and offering him twelve million dollars before he even said anything.
Skylar told the person on the phone that he needed a hotel, that everything in the city was booked that night, and that he was hoping the magician on the phone could build a new hotel for him that day.
The person on the phone confirmed that some big event was taking place in Budapest on Sunday and this is why everything was full.
Then the phone person kicked a Saudi prince out of a suite at the Ritz Carlton and put us there instead, offering basically the same price as one would pay in a standard Marriott, and apologizing that Skylar has ever been uncomfortable in his entire life.
[I need to note right now, because I've been asked to, that Skylar keeps interrupting my writing of this post because he's reading an article on "toilet poop shelves" and it is disgusting and he wants me to know about it and when I asked him to please wait until I'm done writing he mockingly said, "oh, I'm sorry. I forgot that you can't be bothered while doing your 'art.'" And he finger-quoted "art" like I'm acting like I think I'm Michelangelo and he's interrupting the Pieta. He also insists that I share the article. So, here.]
So, in case you're keeping score, I had offered my friends a stay at a yurt that cost less money that a value meal at McDonald's and Skylar had booked a full suite at the Ritz Carlton, a place that I, Eli Whittlebottom McCann, have no business being in any circumstances.
In large part thanks to the fact that we were living in a way that makes me feel guilt because of poverty and starving people in wherever, etc. etc., we had a very lovely time in Budapest.
Until we took a bath in the world's largest toilet with every single person who lives in Europe.
People had told us we "just had to" experience a thermal bath while in Budapest.
These people made it sound like a romantic dip into a pristine mosaic-tiled body of water, erupting from the Earth's subsurface fountain of youth.
This is not what happened.
We were ushered into a long hallway, supposedly segregated by gender. I say "supposedly," because an entire family of very loud Portuguese woman encircled us in our part of the locker room, refusing to leave when Skylar repeatedly tried to lead them to an exit, telling the young girls in attendance that if they saw him naked they would "never feel like a real man," like he was that uncle from Home Alone.
This place was beyond disgusting. The entire thing smelled like the dirtiest gas station bathroom you have ever visited.
The floors were covered in one inch of brown water.
And the entire building was swarming with naked people.
We thought it might be better if we just got out of the locker room and found the baths.
The four of us floated around in Hungarian toilet water, trying desperately not to touch any of the 384 thousand people that were floating within inches of us, like we were playing the world's grossest game of human Operation.
Every square meter of the baths contained upwards of 5 obese middle-aged men in saggy whitey tighties.
After staying in this water for approximately 4 minutes, which water I swear to you smelled like actual human feces, we exited the pool and bee lined it for the locker rooms.
On the way out we saw a sign that said, "Because human body breed many bacterias which thrives in waters of 40 degree celcius, it is advised to bathe in strong soaps for to stop disease."
So at least nobody was lying to us.
We bid farewell to the ladies this morning and boarded a train to a nice town in the north east spelled something like "Gyor" but which is pronounced using at least 14 sounds the English-speaking mouth is physically incapable of making.
More to come.
|Blue Church, Bratislava.|
|The gorgeous concert hall where the (ok I'll admit it) really impressive symphony took place. |
|Parliament building, Budapest, by night.|
|Budapest by night.|
|Skylar always takes the most lovely pictures of me.|