When I moved to Budapest I knew I would have at the least just shy of a year and was really exited by that fact. The thought of experiencing all of the seasons, knowing that here they have more extreme seasonal distinctions appealed to my constant desires for experience and variety. Since then, I have learned how it feels to live through some of these seasons.
I arrived in autumn to a pleasant surprise. It was warm, as warm as an English summer, in fact, and I basked in it. Yes I had to do boring admin like queuing for hours at the immigration office, finding a banker who spoke English to get a bank account open, and apartment hunting, but it was an enjoyable weather welcome to my new home and it helped me to appreciate that I had made the right decision in coming here.
Winter was cold. I think in a solid month long period in January/February the temperature remained permanently below zero. Bundling up was a necessity. My thick winter coat was a blessing. Yet I did not feel so terribly cold to the bone as I usually do in an English winter. The lack of a constant wind made a difference. Also the damp in the air, I am told. On stripping off outer layers after being outside, it does not take a further five hours to really feel warm again like I have on occasion at home.
Which brings me more to the now. It is early June. The beginning of March was still on the chilly wintery side of the seasons. In early April when I returned after a break spring and summer had definitely merged as far as I am concerned. For the last two months or so now, bar the odd few days here or there where it gets stormy and the temperature drops to the mid 20s, it has been steadily in the high twenties or low thirties – and we are talking degrees Celsius here – all day every day. I wake up and get ready for work in 27 degrees. I scurry around at lunchtime trying to run errands or hide in the shade from 32 degrees. I go to sleep at night in 27 degrees. In short, it is very hot. If this is spring, I confess I am quite scared about going into full summer. Wish me luck.
I have always loved the sun, and even described myself as a sun worshipper on occasion. Cut to my first weekend in Budapest when I moved here, sunbathing on Margaret Island (Margitsziget). Cut to last summer, England, we had a several week run of very pleasant weather in the 25 degree region. My lunchtime routine became a short walk to the local university campus for a 99 with a flake and a sunbathe before returning to the office. In fact it was the only thing getting me through the work day back then. At the end of the summer I quit the Birmingham property industry, hence my almost-year in Budapest.
As I sit here in my apartment, 9am Sunday, the early morning sun beams through the windows and makes the waters of the Danube gleam invitingly. If I could go and jump in it, I would, but I have been highly discouraged from doing so! Instead I am planning a mini holiday to Lake Balaton, Hungary’s beaches on the lake region, and of course there are always the thermal baths close by when you feel that need to plunge into cool water. Which I do, on around a three-hourly basis. It can be an expensive habit.
For someone who thought she was a sun worshipper, living in sun of this strength, for continuous periods like this, is hard work. Sticky, sun-cream laden skin is now the norm, rather than the sign of a holiday. No freezer compartment is big enough for the number of ice cubes I need in my day. Sweating and continuously rehydrating have become my life. My brain is functioning at around 70% performance.
Even my wardrobe needed a total overhaul, as I quickly learned. Any piece of clothing that is not at least 90% pure cotton, modal, other natural, breathable fibre has been banished back to the UK or at least hurled back into my suitcase in disgust ready for the next journey home. Polyester is a pest. Viscose is an absolute no-no. It is a horrible sensation trying to interview candidates for job openings or lead a training session when you feel over-heated and 100% uncomfortable in your outfit. Never have I fidgeted so much during my working day.
I have now been in Budapest for eight months and like a typical English girl, the weather still very much dictates how I spend my time. If it is going to be a real scorcher, as it often is, I may opt for a cool museum or art gallery trip coupled with a sunshine stroll around Buda Castle, City Park (Városliget) or the island where shade and thermal baths are on offer. If we are in for storms – and my goodness have I seen some phenomenal lightning storms since I moved here – then a welcome day at the keyboard it is. And for the rest, it involves a lot of water, a well prepared picnc, decent walking shoes, a hat, a helluva lot of high factor sun cream, and early morning energy to catch the bus/tram/train to the selected destination for a day of exploration.
I do still love the sun. That fundamental desire in me to feel its rays on my face and see it glinting off rooftops and water has not changed. But my desire to always be in it, feeling it against my skin, has. As someone before who would always have chosen to sit in the sun, now I make a beeline for shade. As someone who enjoys being outside, walking around new places, exploring, finding peace and being left to my thoughts, regularly sitting, dripping with sweat and exhaustion, on busy public transport, going here or there under fierce heat has become really hard work. It has got to the stage where it is almost a chore forcing myself to make a plan to go out and do something with my weekends and getting up early enough to go and do it before the sun hits its peak.
I always say, in life, that I would only ever want to regret things that I had done, and not things that I had not done. So I need to stick to that philosophy and force myself myself to fill my last months in Hungary with soaking up as much of its country and culture as possible before the chance to do so ends. Soon enough I will be back in England, onto the next chapter of my life, and I would hate to return knowing that I did not live this chapter as fully as I wanted to.
Then again, at least, if nothing else, I have learned that viscose is not my friend, and I have found that hiding from the sun does wonders for ones word count.