Though I woke up hungry, tired, and a bit hungover after my long night at Trafó Club, I felt like a million bucks.
And this time I mean real tanktop weather – not just a short break in the clouds, but visible blue skies in every direction and soft, warm breezes. Oh man how different my visit would’ve been if it’d felt like this throughout the entire stay.
By the time I made it downtown to Blaha Lujza Tér to catch the hour-long tram into the suburbs (for a second try at finding my great grandfather’s grave) I almost didn’t want to leave. The city was out in full force, and for the first time since my arrival felt truly alive. But after grabbing a quick ice cream at a nearby szupermarket, my first of ice cream the trip, I hopped on and headed out anyway.
(Note: I tend to eat a fair amount of ice cream while I travel; it’s quick, refreshing, and I figure that since I’m usually spending 10+ hours a day on my feet anyway the unhealthiness somewhat offsets itself :P)
However, just one stop down the tram line I had a change of heart, realizing that with this kind of sunshine I’d better go to the Széchenyi thermal baths now – just in case things were to change by the time I returned to the city. So I flipped around and headed to the park instead.
Oh my God, Széchenyi baths are SO much nicer than Gellert! Although Gellert maybe more ornate (and famous), take it from me, if you’ve got time for just one then Széchenyi is the way to go. It has loads of different indoor pools of every temperature, versus Gellert’s two or three. Some of its baths smell like sulfur and others smell like Herb Tea. There are half a dozen steam rooms, mud treatments, and more massage rooms than I can count.
And let’s not forget the outer courtyard, the real gem (for me at least): Two massive pools, one cool and one warm, with a small circulating lazy lagoon, spa-style jets shooting right up from the bottom, and loads of people of all ages (as compared to Gellert’s age group of 60-80). I enjoyed myself so much that no matter how many times I checked the clock I just couldn’t bring myself to leave – until I absolutely had to.
It was somewhere around 2:30pm when I finally jumped back on that tram, made my way back through all those abandoned communist-era factories, and to the gates of the Izraelita Temeto. I actually didn’t mind the repeated ride because this time I could hang out the window breathing in the warm springtime air the whole way there; it had to be at least 15 degrees hotter than just one day earlier. And thankfully this time the cemetery was opened.
The office was not! And the place was gigantic. And nobody there had any idea where I could find the grave in question. After spending a good 15 minutes with the man at the gate and a local woman who even pulled out her cellphone and called an English-speaking friend, it became clear that I’d never find my great grandfather without access to the cemetery’s records…which would remain locked in the office until Monday.
So as an absolutely last-ditch effort I decided to start walking around and scanning for WiFi. My hope was that I could Skype-call my aunt back in America who could in turn call my great aunt who just might know the section number where he was buried. It was a long shot, but the only thing I could think of; there’d simply be no way I could wait until Monday.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t find wifi anywhere. I guess old abandoned factories and graveyards aren’t quite at the forefront of Internet technology.
While I was walking around scanning, it suddenly started to pour. Good thing I went to the pool before the graveyard.
The rain was as intense as I’d seen, so I did the only thing I could: sprinted for the nearest phone booth where I sat and waited for a break in the downpour. Eventually one came and I hurried back onto the tram towards the city, stopping off just a kilometer or so down the line at a McDonald’s I’d spotted on the way out. I booted up Skype and got through to my aunt on the first try. She immediately started calling everyone in the family to try and find out as much additional info as she could, while I waited and hoped for some good news.
Good news came: I might’ve been at the wrong cemetery all along, the one next door to where I should’ve been! The problem was that nobody knew the exact name of the cemetery, just vague descriptions from their visits many years earlier – but after hearing a few more detailed recounts I determined that the one next door was far more likely to be the right one.
Back on the tram in the other direction. Fingers crossed.
Although the other cemetery was indeed still opened, its office was also closed – and with more than 4 sq miles and 3 million graves, I’d have no chance of finding him without that register. The sad thing is that the office had actually been opened when I arrived just a few hours earlier, and I’d even been inside the office the first time I came – to ask for directions to the other cemetery where I thought he was buried.
This time a group of groundskeepers and a local man whose motorcycle had broken down (and who spoke fluent English) spent a fair amount of time trying to help me figure out a solution, but in the end it was all for naught. It was nearly 7pm, the sun was setting, and my aunt had contacted everyone she could think of. The only solution would be to get those records, which wouldn’t be available until Tuesday.
Sorry Great Grandpa Abris. I tried. I really did. If I ever make it back to Budapest, this time I know exactly how to find you…