Useful tips for your trip to Budapest 1: Extra Dry

When I, the Hungarian half of Street & River,  first moved to England, I faced domestic issues that were totally new to me. This was not because I was a young fresher who had to wear each and every bit of clothing at least six times before calling mum to ask how to wash them. I’ve always been good at house-keeping and by the time of my repatriation to the UK I had had decades of growny-uppy household experience under my belt, so I never thought I would be scratching my head over irresolvable cleaning conundrums and mysteries between writing up chapters of a PhD dissertation. Well, cleaning conundrums are exactly what happened. And all this because of the fact that Hungary is a landlocked country with extremely dry air and England has a distinctly maritime climate with constant humidity. It may seem trivial, but this subtle difference makes these two places literally like chalk and cheese.

Cheese Country (UK):

Blerg factors (in no particular order)

  1. Constant battle against rising damp and soggy plasterwork.
  2. The smell of damp, which in some homes is closely associated with the smell of scented candles from Poundland (also major blerg factor in itself).
  3. Landlords who advise you to keep your bedroom window open if you don’t want black mould in your closet. Also known as landlords who demand that you keep your bedroom window open, as part of your duty to maintain their property.
  4. Squishy orange gunk growing on bathroom grouting, which turns black if not scrubbed with harsh and menacing chemicals at least once a week.
  5. Slugs in your basement and mostly everywhere.
  6. Expensive and noisy DeLonghi machinery whirring all day to keep you sane.
  7. Drying clothes everywhere for days only to achieve the so-called Yorkshire Dry status, which means your freshly laundered T-shirt is perma-soggy around the armpits and smells like a wet dog.
  8. Bread turns into Really Gross Thing in three days. The fresher you buy, the grosser it gets.
  9. Having to listen to foreigners whinge about all of the above.

Yay factors:

  1. Man, it’s easy to stay hydrated! No need for expensive face creams, your skin is constantly pampered by moisture. No wonder the English Rose look is so hard to imitate overseas, besides the genetic side of things. No, it’s not No 7 by Boots. It’s good old H2O.
  2. Lush green foliage and lawns in fifty million shades. The Yorkshire Dales manage to look like the Yorkshire Dales even in the summer. The Yorkshire Dales should never EVER consider a holiday in Malta.
  3. You can just drink tea and ales all day and don’t have to fret too much about drinking water really.
  4. Gingernut biscuits go soft after a couple of days. Yes, that is a good thing.

Chalk Country (Hungary)

Blerg factors:

  1. You will look and feel like a prune in a day. Not like them lush organic prunes in Harvey Nicks, but those pre-war ones stuck in a jar at the back of Grandma’s highest pantry shelf.
  2. You’ll have to spend a fortune on products to keep your skin looking presentable over thirty: moisturisers, body butter, chapstick. Also prepare for dry eyes. Best to have some cooling eye mist in your handbag if your eyes are sensitive.
  3. You will want to carry a bottle of water in your bag. The Municipal Disaster Management Authority normally distributes drinking water in sealed plastic bags on very hot days in the summer to avoid dehydrated people falling down left, right and centre.
  4. Having to buy a humidifier, which invariably breaks and soaks the book you borrowed from your most anally retentive friend. First edition. Signed.
  5. If you don’t buy a humidifier, you will have to keep filling up little ceramic pots sitting on top of the heater, pretty much every hour. Then, you either scrape the limescale or get used to the rustic look.
  6. No mould. Just limescale on everything that gets in contact with water and its almost immediate evaporation into the atmosphere.
  7. Dust. You shed so much dead skin that if you don’t vacuum regularly, you can reconstitute another you out of dust puppies in about two weeks. Streets are dusty, plants are dusty, dust is dusty.
  8. A dry mucous membrane equals lots of sneezing and an acute awareness of every single pollen floating in the air right into your nostrils to make your life hell in tourist season.
  9. Vegetation gives up around half way into August. Parks are parched, trees are thirsty, gardens gag for water.

Yay factors:

  1. No mould. Most importantly: no mildew! A poorly built flat may have a mould problem (either insufficient ground insulation or if the wall/window insulation causes a condensation problem in heating season), but it’s not really a frequent complaint.
  2. Your clothes dry overnight. Bone dry!
  3. There’s a drinking fountain on every playground and a million and one types of bottled water (mineral, sparkling, flat, your choice) widely available in corner shops and cafes.
  4. When it’s hot, it’s just hot, not hot and humid. Whoever tried hot and humid, knows what difference it makes (ask the Houston half of Street & River).

I purposely made both lists 9:4 on the blerg-yay scale to make your lives difficult. Nevertheless, I do hope this little heads-up will make your stay comfier in Budapest. So if you’re coming from the UK or a similar climate, make sure to prepare for drier air, especially if you have sensitive skin or eyes.

Interestingly, this gets more important in the winter months, when both the cold, windy outdoors and the heated, dusty indoors (often way warmer than the English idea of a comfortable indoor temperature) add to the feeling of constant dehydration.  It also doesn’t help if you travel by air, because those three hours in the plane normally do a number on your water levels anyway. So whether it’s Norwegian Formula or Burt’s Bees, don’t forget to pack it – preferably in a see-through, sealable nylon bag to pass airport security without losses.

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